Teachers Unions

California Teachers Union Wins Appeal Over Often Student-Harming Job Protection Policies

Vergara victory overturned, more or less on grounds that crummy teaching probably harms most California students equally.


A couple of years back, Caifornia student-interest group Students Matter won a powerful victory in California Superior Court that would have rolled back various job protections and perks enjoyed by teachers that the group successfully argued caused grievous harm to California students.

Students Matter

The L.A. Times reports the bad news today about the lower court victory for students in Vergara v. California being overturned on appeal.

In lower court, as I reported at the time:

Judge Rolf M. Treu reasoned that the challenged teacher rules—regarding permanent employment status, dismissal procedures, and a "last in first out" rule for layoffs—do indeed damage California children's constitutional right (on the state level) to an education. He wrote that the challenged statutes "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."

"Evidence has been elicited in this trial," the Judge writes, "of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience." He was convinced by expert testimony that bad teachers 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. He estimate 2,750 to 8,250 inferior teachers active in California now.

"Plaintiffs have proven, by a preponderance of the evidence, that that Challenged Statutes impose a real and appreciable impact on students' fundamental right to equality of education and that they impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students."

California Teachers Assn. President Eric C. Heins said of Thursday's ruling to the Times that "The trial never made the connection between the harms they were alleging and the statutes they were challenging."

Today's reversal from California's 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals

The core of the new decision, which seems to this non-lawyer (and non teacher, and non student) to be saying that if the crummy policies are as near as we can tell causing equal harm to all California students rather than special harm to an identifiable group, then the Court feels powerless to overturn them:

Plaintiffs failed to establish that the challenged statutes violate equal protection, primarily because they did not show that the statutes inevitably cause a certain group of students to receive an education inferior to the education received by other students.

Although the statutes may lead to the hiring and retention of more ineffective teachers than a hypothetical alternative system would, the statutes do not address the assignment of teachers; instead, administrators—not the statutes—ultimately determine where teachers within a district are assigned to teach. Critically, plaintiffs failed to show that the statutes themselves make any certain group of students more likely to be taught by ineffective teachers than any other group of students. With no proper showing of a constitutional violation, the court is without power to strike down the challenged statutes…..

our review is limited to the particular constitutional challenge that plaintiffs decided to bring. Plaintiffs brought a facial equal protection challenge, meaning they challenged the statutes themselves, not how the statutes are implemented in particular school districts. Since plaintiffs did not demonstrate that the statutes violate equal protection on their face, the judgment cannot be affirmed.

My reporting from last year on the start of the Vergara appeals process.

Students Matter history of the case. The group announced in an emailed press release that the nine student plaintiffs will appeal to the California Supreme Court.

Reason TV on the Vergara case in happier times:

NEXT: Judge Rules That Pastafarianism Is Not a Proper Religion

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Teachers unions have shown time and again students are just pawns to their game.

    When push comes to shove pensions trump students.

    1. Come on, Rufus, do you have to bring up Trump in every thread?

      1. Trumpsumption!

        1. That’s a disease where one’s brain starts to consume itself in the presence of Trump stories.

  2. “As long as everyone is equally harmed, it’s A-OK!”

    :bangs gavel:

  3. The even more amazing thing that’s never mentioned in California is that teachers are less than 40% of public school employees. There are administrators, administrators and more administrators, who all start work late, take a long lunch, and leave early, while the poor teachers stay late grading papers and preparing lesson plans.

    I don’t like the teacher’s unions in the slightest, but did grow up as the kid of a middle-school English teacher, and I know firsthand how good individual teachers can be. It would be nice if the teacher’s unions not only supported students better, but actually supported teachers better — by providing better opportunity for advancement and rewards for the quality teachers, and a simplified disciplinary system to get rid of the bad teachers who give the profession a bad name. And maybe instead of fighting for pensions for crappy lifer teachers who don’t give a whit about the kids, fight for school funding to go for actual education rather than bloated middle-management positions that don’t do a damn thing (how many ‘assistant principals’ does an elementary school need, really? My kid’s had several.)

    But of course, that would come back to the union itself, which exists for the union first and teachers a distant second, and kids last (only slightly even considered, and then, just for photo ops and marketing purposes). And the union itself isn’t going to do anything that improves the system, because that would threaten its comfy cronyish existence.

  4. The core of the new decision, which seems to this non-lawyer (and non teacher, and non student) to be saying that if the crummy policies are as near as we can tell causing equal harm to all California students rather than special harm to an identifiable group, then the Court feels powerless to overturn them:

    Well, yes, that’s exactly the holding, and it’s because the plaintiffs brought a facial equal protection challenge to the law rather than an as-applied challenge. The courts aren’t in the business of making the parties’ arguments for them. To the extent there’s a failure here, it belongs to the plaintiffs’ (and their attorneys’) chosen strategy, not the decision of the appellate court.

    1. Why do liberals hate poor, minority children?

  5. While bad teachers may be spread out evenly, is the impact of a bad teacher the same on poor students as compared to even middle income families? I would expect well off families might have more time to give to their kids allowing them to lessen the blow of a bad teacher.

  6. Brilliant analysis for once. Thanks Brian Doherty. Let me fill you in a little bit more. This is the post-Constitutional USA. In the process of allowing federalization of everything, courts reclassify them as fitting within the federal government’s enumerated powers. (Article I, Section 8) Therefore, allowable. The technical problem with this distorted (and extremely dishonest) approach, is that nothing within the federal government’s enumerated powers relates to individual rights in any way other than equal treatment. Extending enumerated powers to include everything quite obviously destroys the whole purpose of enumerating powers; which early American progressives argued were illogical to begin with. (Why not pool state resources collectively and share for a more uniform outcome?) But more importantly, because so few people seem to have caught on: it nullifies the Bill of Rights and the Common Law basis of Western civilization. So – the actual outcome in this case is not the least bit surprising. It is very consistent with the past 30 years of rulings in which individual rights have not existed.

  7. NC teacher unions won a similar victory. Tenure reinstated for those teachers hired before the tenure abolition law was passed. Which is total and complete bullshit. No government employee has a lifetime right to a job. Lay off every one of them, rehire them under the new terms and if they don’t like it, well then they don’t need to reapply.

  8. Your webiste was very nice and interesting, I’ve seen your post and it was very informative and very helpful to me.obat,obat.. Thanks to all the articles that you serve. I must recommend your website to friends. Good Luck !!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.