Teachers Unions

Courts vs. Teachers

Unconstitutional job security

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In June, a California court struck down policies that lock the state's public school teachers into their jobs, even if they aren't good at those jobs.

The plaintiffs in Vergara v. California included nine students who claimed that various job protection policies meant bad teachers kept teaching, and thus illegitimately damaged their right under the state constitution to a quality education. Their suit, which was sponsored by an activist group called Students Matter, argued that teachers enjoy what amounted to permanent employment status after less than two years on the job, that dismissal procedures are too complicated and expensive, and that a "last in, first out" rule for teacher layoffs exacerbates the problem.

State Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled that such policies do indeed "cause the potential and/or unreasonable exposure of grossly ineffective teachers to all California students," and "to minority and/or low income students in particular, in violation of the equal protection clause of the California constitution." The judge estimated that 2,750 to 8,250 inferior teachers are active in California now, and he wrote that they "can cause over a million in lifetime earning losses for students, and cost them 9 months of learning per year compared to students with even average teachers."

The decision has been stayed pending an appeal by the state.