Legal blow to California teachers will spur reforms across the country

A California judge has delivered a haymaker to the teachers unions by finding that laws governing tenure and other job security laws are unconstitutional.

Perhaps more than the finding, it was the language used by the judge in his deicsion that was shocking.

Politico:

He ruled that such a system violates the state constitution’s guarantee that all children receive “basic equality of educational opportunity.” In a blunt, unsparing 16-page opinion, Treu compared his ruling to the seminal federal desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, decided 60 years ago last month. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience,” Treu wrote.

In adopting the language and legal framework of the civil rights movement, Treu gave a major boost to school reformers from both parties who have long argued that the current system dooms poor and minority students to inferior educations.

The key takeaway is that Judge Treu justified the ruling on the basis that minority childrend were harmed the most by bad teachers who were hard to fire. So-called, "disparate impact" justifications have been common for decades,

The plaintiffs went after five laws that require administrators to decide whether a rookie teacher deserves tenure after just 16 months in the classroom; require a lengthy and often costly process before a teacher can be fired; and protect veteran teachers from layoffs, even if they are less effective than their younger colleagues. They put on evidence that firing a teacher can take so long and cost so much, some districts decide instead to shuffle the worst or least experienced educators to low-income schools, in what’s known as “the dance of the lemons.”

“Have we not had enough in this country’s history of short-shafting poor people and minorities?” attorney Marcellus A. McRae asked in his closing statement. “This is an abomination. This is unconstitutional. This has to stop.”

The teachers' unions were befuddled but determined to fight back:

The California Federation of Teachers and the California Teachers Association plan to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Treu decided the disputed laws should remain in place pending that appeal. He will also take both sides’ comment under advisement before finalizing his ruling within the month.

Teachers unions, who have the money and the membership to exercise considerable clout in many state legislatures, defend tenure, seniority and other job protections as simply guaranteeing due process. They accuse reformers of spending big to demonize teachers and weaken unions instead of tackling other forces that affect academic achievement, such as poverty, crime and inadequate state funding.

“Let’s be clear,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. “This lawsuit was never about helping students, but is yet another attempt by millionaires and corporate special interests to undermine the teaching profession and push their own ideological agenda on public schools and students while working to privatize public education.”

Van Roekel added that the ruling will “make it harder to attract and retain quality teachers and ignores all research that shows experience is a key factor in effective teaching.”

It remains to be seen whether this ruling holds. Teachers unions across the country are powerful and well entrenched, and have most state legislatures in their pockets. But the winds of change are beginning to blow when even Democrats support some of these reforms

A California judge has delivered a haymaker to the teachers unions by finding that laws governing tenure and other job security laws are unconstitutional.

Perhaps more than the finding, it was the language used by the judge in his deicsion that was shocking.

Politico:

He ruled that such a system violates the state constitution’s guarantee that all children receive “basic equality of educational opportunity.” In a blunt, unsparing 16-page opinion, Treu compared his ruling to the seminal federal desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, decided 60 years ago last month. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience,” Treu wrote.

In adopting the language and legal framework of the civil rights movement, Treu gave a major boost to school reformers from both parties who have long argued that the current system dooms poor and minority students to inferior educations.

The key takeaway is that Judge Treu justified the ruling on the basis that minority childrend were harmed the most by bad teachers who were hard to fire. So-called, "disparate impact" justifications have been common for decades,

The plaintiffs went after five laws that require administrators to decide whether a rookie teacher deserves tenure after just 16 months in the classroom; require a lengthy and often costly process before a teacher can be fired; and protect veteran teachers from layoffs, even if they are less effective than their younger colleagues. They put on evidence that firing a teacher can take so long and cost so much, some districts decide instead to shuffle the worst or least experienced educators to low-income schools, in what’s known as “the dance of the lemons.”

“Have we not had enough in this country’s history of short-shafting poor people and minorities?” attorney Marcellus A. McRae asked in his closing statement. “This is an abomination. This is unconstitutional. This has to stop.”

The teachers' unions were befuddled but determined to fight back:

The California Federation of Teachers and the California Teachers Association plan to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Treu decided the disputed laws should remain in place pending that appeal. He will also take both sides’ comment under advisement before finalizing his ruling within the month.

Teachers unions, who have the money and the membership to exercise considerable clout in many state legislatures, defend tenure, seniority and other job protections as simply guaranteeing due process. They accuse reformers of spending big to demonize teachers and weaken unions instead of tackling other forces that affect academic achievement, such as poverty, crime and inadequate state funding.

“Let’s be clear,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. “This lawsuit was never about helping students, but is yet another attempt by millionaires and corporate special interests to undermine the teaching profession and push their own ideological agenda on public schools and students while working to privatize public education.”

Van Roekel added that the ruling will “make it harder to attract and retain quality teachers and ignores all research that shows experience is a key factor in effective teaching.”

It remains to be seen whether this ruling holds. Teachers unions across the country are powerful and well entrenched, and have most state legislatures in their pockets. But the winds of change are beginning to blow when even Democrats support some of these reforms