Judge strikes down all 5 teacher protection laws in Vergara lawsuit

Source: Court View Network

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu reviews evidence during the Vergara trial in January.

In a resounding defeat for the state’s teachers unions, today a Superior Court judge in Los Angeles agreed with a lawsuit’s claim that teacher employment laws disproportionately hurt poor and minority children, who are saddled with the state’s worst-performing teachers. In his ruling, Judge Rolf Treu overturned five state statutes giving California teachers firing protections and rights to tenure and seniority.

The evidence of “the effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students,” Treu wrote, “is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

Treu’s tentative, 16-page page decision in Vergara v. California, which takes effect in 30 days, gives the first-round victory to Students Matter and its benefactor and founder, Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch. He sued the state on behalf of nine students in five school districts, including Beatriz Vergara, a high school student in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the first plaintiff named in the lawsuit. The case has been closely watched nationally as a bellwether that might prompt similar lawsuits in other states.

In a joint defense with the state Attorney General’s Office, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers had vigorously defended the workplace protections as critical to recruiting and retaining teachers. The unions charged Welch with scapegoating teachers rather than addressing the true source of the achievement gap: the impacts of poverty and neighborhood violence on the lives of poor children. They promised to appeal the verdict, a process that could take years before the state Supreme Court decides it.

“Like the Vergara lawsuit itself, today’s ruling is deeply flawed,” they said in a statement. “We will appeal on behalf of students and educators. Circumventing the legislative process to strip teachers of their professional rights hurts our students and our schools.”

Lawyers for the students in the Vergara lawsuit argued that the laws shield the lowest-performing teachers from layoffs and create costly, “Byzantine” dismissal procedures. They claimed the laws disproportionately harmed the students and violated their fundamental right under the state Constitution to an opportunity for an equal education.

Treu (pronounced Troy) agreed, and struck down all five laws as unconstitutional, leaving it to the Legislature to create an alternative. In a teleconference, Ted Boutrous, the lead attorney for Students Matter, called Treu’s ruling “powerful right down the line on every issue.”

“This decision will reverberate powerfully across California and the nation because teacher tenure and dismissal laws touch on the forefront of the debate on how to improve schools to help students learn,” Boutrous said. Welch has expressed an interest in challenging similar laws in other states.

Treu agreed to an injunction, keeping the laws in place during the appeals process. Boutrous said that if the ruling is upheld during the appeals process, school districts would have to renegotiate contracts to comply with Treu’s decision or at least not enforce provisions of the law ruled unconstitutional.

Voters or the Legislature could act sooner if they choose, and that is what Welch, Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy and Students Matter attorneys urged in the phone call.

“The need for change is now,” said the other lead attorney, Marcellus McRae. “We cannot waste another day, cannot waste another child.”

Without proposing specific alternatives, Welch said he would talk about the case with legislators and urge them to pass policies “based on common sense and research.” The verdict is a call to “seize the moment and move forward,” he said. Extending the probationary period, replacing layoffs by seniority with factors based on performance and rewriting dismissal laws all would require more effective ways to evaluate teachers. Until now, the Legislature and the Brown administration have avoided taking on that issue. 

The Legislature is poised to pass Assembly Bill 215, sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, which would make it easier to fire teachers accused of egregious misconduct, such as sexual acts against children. But the bill, which Gov. Jerry Brown said he would sign, would not substantially affect the dismissal process for teachers charged with poor performance, the focus of the Vergara lawsuit. An initiative proposed for the November ballot would substantially rewrite the state’s teacher evaluation laws, including the elimination of seniority rights. The sponsor, consultant Matt David, has not spoken publicly about the initiative and has until mid-July to obtain 505,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. (Update: David did not pursue signatures this year; the earliest his initiative could be on the ballot is now November 2016.)

The verdict follows a two-month trial this spring in which about 60 witnesses testified. Both sides agreed that there is a small percentage of awful teachers, and that they can have an outsized impact on students. The decision cited testimony by Thomas Kane, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, that a student taught by one of the worst 5 percent of teachers would fall behind a year in math and nearly a year in reading. Lawyers for the state and teachers unions argued that the fault lies not in the laws but in their implementation. In a battle on the witness stand between disagreeing superintendents, defense experts said well-run districts can effectively fire poor-performing teachers and filter out probationary teachers who won’t cut it. And they disputed the assumption that standardized test scores – under any current methodology – can accurately determine which teachers are ineffective.

The five laws include a permanent employment statute, informally known as tenure, giving teachers due-process rights after two years of probation; three statutes that outline complex procedures to dismiss teachers; and the layoff statute, known as LIFO for Last In, First Out, mandating layoffs by seniority with some exceptions for teachers with hard-to-find expertise.

The compounded impact of those laws disproportionately “affects the stability of the learning process to the detriment of high-poverty and minority students,” Treu concluded.

Here are some of the key issues in the lawsuit:

Tenure: California is one of a handful of states that grant probationary teachers tenure or permanent status, with due process protections, after two years on the job. Forty-one states require three or more years before granting tenure. Students Matter argued that decisions actually have to be made after only 16 months on job – not enough time to make a credible assessment of a teacher’s potential and prevent weak teachers from slipping through. Treu found that a longer probationary period would serve the interests of not only students but also teachers, since some districts are tenure-shy and dismiss probationary teachers, who, with more time, could prove to be fine teachers. There’s no rational reason for the current law, he wrote.

Dismissal: Students Matter said that the prohibitive cost of firing the worst teachers – between $50,000 and $450,000 because of the time and expense of litigation – discourages districts from pursuing dismissals. The defense witnesses countered that most poorly performing teachers are counseled out of the profession without the need for litigation; effective districts do this regularly. But the plaintiffs countered that too often, bad teachers are moved around (what Treu referred to as the “Dance of the Lemons”) to unsuspecting schools with minority students, perpetuating the problem. Treu questioned whether extra layers of legal protections are needed, since non-teacher employees of school systems aren’t entitled to them. “The Court finds that the current system … to be so complex, time consuming and expensive as to make an effective, efficient yet fair dismissal of a grossly ineffective teacher illusory,” Treu wrote.

LIFO: Treu called layoffs strictly based on length of service “a lose-lose situation,” in which ineffective veteran teachers stay on the job while effective, newer teachers are let go regardless of their performance. Defense attorneys said that LIFO prevents districts from laying off better-paid veteran teachers in order to cut costs. Treu didn’t buy it. Noting that 20 states consider seniority as just one factor in layoffs, and 19 let local districts set the criteria, Treu wrote that the defense of the status quo “is unfathomable and therefore constitutionally unsupportable.”

In a statement, Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, responded, “Rather than provide resources or working to create positive environments for students and teachers, this suit asserts that taking away rights from teachers will somehow help students.”

John Fensterwald covers education policy. Contact him and follow him on Twitter @jfenster. Sign up here for a no-cost online subscription to EdSource Today for reports from the largest education reporting team in California.


Filed under: High-Needs Students, Pay and Tenure, Teaching



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65 Responses to “Judge strikes down all 5 teacher protection laws in Vergara lawsuit”

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  1. Don on Jun 30, 2014 at 4:25 pm06/30/2014 4:25 pm

    • 000

    It is notable that pro and con commentary on Ed Source re: Vergara is more extreme than the stated positions of some of the principal advocates of each side at a panel discussion.

    Here is a brief description of the views of Weingarten and Deasy copied from the Students Matter website and you can watch the panel discussion from the link there.- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRVFgI55_K4#t=494

    “This weekend, Dr. John Deasy, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival about Vergara v. California. The discussion also featured American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. Video of the panel can be viewed here.

    During the panel, both Deasy and Weingarten agreed that it is too difficult to fire poorly performing teachers, and that teachers should have some employment protections. Where Weingarten and Deasy differ is on whether the Vergara trial was the right way to solve this issue or whether it should have been solved through the legislative process. An article in The Atlantic, however, points out that the California Teachers Association—one of the most powerful lobbying groups in California—has had years to fix this problem, but has declined to do so.

    When constitutional rights are at stake, however, the courts are the pathway forward. For far too long, California’s public education system has been beholden to an immovable legislature and to teachers’ unions who have failed to address existing policy, which is harmful to students and teachers alike. With the Vergara decision, we can now move forward on creating a system that serves the best interests of students and works to keep the best talent in our classrooms


    • navigio on Jun 30, 2014 at 5:57 pm06/30/2014 5:57 pm

      • 000

      You mean we haven’t been doing that up to now? Remind me why we have administrators at all.

    • el on Jun 30, 2014 at 6:07 pm06/30/2014 6:07 pm

      • 000

      Positions argued here are very much about context. I have said many times that I think that the process to dismiss teachers can be improved and should be more accessible even as I have argued that it is important that there be a process and that it be factually informed. What I have encountered is that many principals are able to manage their staff effectively, perhaps by using workarounds, and that the difficulty of the process varies considerably by district – ie that state law is not the determining factor.

      I am especially fascinated by navigio’s challenge to just pay 5% of the worst teachers to leave the classroom, if that truly is what was holding us back.

      When even LAUSD finally got serious about its personnel issues, things changed dramatically. It’s clear that a district with good management and that makes personnel a priority can get pretty far down the field. It’s also clear to me that a lot of administrators have used “it’s too hard” as an excuse to not follow through (though sometimes it has been their manager that was the problem).

      What I am against is using test scores to blindly remove teachers, or choosing to attack an arbitrary percentage of teachers every year. And that’s what seems to come with all of these external reform movements. None of them seem excited by the unsexy notion of making the hearings easier, faster, and less expensive to hold, or by increasing administrator time and oversight to support and evaluate teachers.

      • navigio on Jun 30, 2014 at 7:11 pm06/30/2014 7:11 pm

        • 000

        the funny thing is you could still pay them, give them benefits, have them pay union dues for that price. not surprisingly, i doubt you will see this happen on a broad scale for two reasons: its not really the problem (or at least not to the extent claimed) and they dont know how to identify effective teachers. 😛

        • Don on Jun 30, 2014 at 9:28 pm06/30/2014 9:28 pm

          • 000

          Using a metaphor, the teacher is the car, the red light is the statues and the camera is the administration. The
          teacher can run the red light and if the camera doesn’t work justice isn’t served and someone gets hurt. Whether the camera was not maintained, improperly designed or just generally dysfunctional functional does not change the fact that the teacher was not driving safely for one reason or another. Unfortunately, the five statutes represented by the red light don’t work either and teachers can run them with impunity.

          • TheMorrigan on Jun 30, 2014 at 10:04 pm06/30/2014 10:04 pm

            • 000

            All metaphors break down when we start to fully apply them or if we simply change the terministic screen. For instance, if the “vehicle” is the teacher, what are the students in this analogy? It is telling that you left students out, Don. StudentsFirst, right?

            Additionally, do cameras help drivers become better drivers? The job of an effective administrator is not only to play photographic gotcha with “bad teaching,” but it is also to assist in teaching the teacher how to improve his or her craft. While teachers–all people– certainly need to be reflective about what they do, teachers, just like students, need candid and effective motivation/feedback from authority figures. How does a teacher know he or she is ineffective if no one is there to point it out for that person? How do they know what to improve upon (from classroom management to grouping to direct instruction) if no one is there to point it out to them? Although “malfunctioning cameras” do not create bad drivers, they do absolutely NOTHING to create good ones.

            Metaphors are tricky things, Don.

  2. el on Jun 17, 2014 at 2:50 pm06/17/2014 2:50 pm

    • 000

    Interesting interview with one of the witnesses about an important statistic used by Judge Treu, that “1% of California teachers are grossly ineffective”:


    Politically, it also seemed liked a pretty awful indictment of the state government if officials knew for certain that so many useless teachers were lounging around California’s classrooms. But where did this number come from?

    Nowhere, it turns out. It’s made up. Or a “guesstimate,” as David Berliner, the expert witness Treu quoted, explained to me when I called him on Wednesday. It’s not based on any specific data, or any rigorous research about California schools in particular. “I pulled that out of the air,” says Berliner, an emeritus professor of education at Arizona State University. “There’s no data on that. That’s just a ballpark estimate, based on my visiting lots and lots of classrooms.” He also never used the words “grossly ineffective.”


    Berliner seems to have let something important get lost in translation on the stand. Because, as he said to me, he doesn’t necessarily believe that low test scores qualify somebody as a bad teacher. They might do other things well in the classroom that don’t show up on an exam, like teach social skills, or inspire their students to love reading or math. And while he has observed teachers he didn’t particularly like, or thought could use more training, he’s never encountered one he would consider “grossly ineffective.”

    “In hundreds of classrooms, I have never seen a ‘grossly ineffective’ teacher,” he told me. “I don’t know anybody who knows what that means.”

  3. Don on Jun 12, 2014 at 9:25 am06/12/2014 9:25 am

    • 000

    To the extent that teaching provided an exclusive and uniquely high set of legal job protections prior to this ruling, it tended to a certain degree to attract people who wanted those protections more than the other attributes of that particular field or, for that matter, any field. That is one of the primary drivers for incompetency in the teaching profession. People who enjoy teaching tend to have higher competency than those that don’t. They are more enthusiastic and motivated than the lazy person who seeks a comfortable job under the pretext of protections granted historically to ensure 1st Amendment rights in the classroom. People who will leave the profession or never enter it due to lowered security do themselves, their prospective future students and society a favor. So when Paul encourages prospective teachers to go elsewhere he does the teaching profession and society a service by discouraging all those who would teach for themselves, their security and their benefits rather than for the students who need teachers who put their students’ interests above their own.


    • navigio on Jun 12, 2014 at 9:52 am06/12/2014 9:52 am

      • 000

      Sorry Don, but that’s just rude. One should never make such accusations without evidence to back it up, and worse, one should never direct such accusations at people one doesn’t know.

  4. Paul on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:17 pm06/11/2014 9:17 pm

    • 000

    In a separate post, I wrote about the decision’s impact on me. Since the decision makes employment in teaching even less stable than before (tens of thousands of charter, substitute, temporary, and end-of-year probationary teachers in California already labored without due process protections), I am fortunate that I have already returned to my prior profession.

    Now I want to address the meaning of this decision for incumbent and prospective teachers.

    Every day, politicians (up to and including Obama and Duncan), parents, pundits, school site and district administrators tell you that you are overpaid, that you are ineffective, that your work day ends at 3 PM, that your master’s degree doesn’t benefit your teaching, that you sit around all summer, that you do not deserve your pension, and so on. California voters and taxpayers reinforce these negative messages by fighting any permanent, general tax increase that would boost baseline school funding. Now, the judiciary has joined the chorus.

    How much more evidence do you need that your work is not valued? Warm fuzzies, a coffee mug and an occasional “teacher of the year” certificate cannot protect your job when your principal or superintendent decides to replace you on the spot, for no reason at all — as this court decision will allow. There is always someone younger, cheaper, and more obedient waiting behind you, and now your school district will be free to choose that person over you.

    If you are in the classroom but still young, take up a new profession now. Within two or three years, when this decision has wound its way through the appeal process, your job security could be gone. This decision creates too much uncertainty.

    If you are considering a teaching career, don’t. At-will employment is a risky proposition indeed, in an emotionally-driven, “high-touch” field. All of the time and money expended on your training can now be lost with the flick of a principal’s pen.


    • Andrew on Jun 12, 2014 at 7:29 am06/12/2014 7:29 am

      • 000

      I have a lot of respect for your perspective and insights, Paul.

      But as someone who has worked over several decades with some thousands of California clients and hundreds of businesses and many public entities, I don’t see that many will find security in the private sector. Nobody in the private sector gets a gold watch anymore. It is brutally and ever increasingly competitive, with cycles of business life and death, hiring and firing. For those employed full time in the private sector, the average number of hours worked per week has steadily increased. With cell phones, texting, email, it is hard to have a life. Much is at risk of being outsourced. Every year the screws of competition in the private sector get turned down a few turns tighter, and they never loosen.

      To some degree, these maladies (and tolerance of them and resulting attitudes) of the private sector have predictably spilled over into the realm of public education.

      I know of a middle school where a multiple subject veteran teacher has admitted in a moment of candor, “I just don’t get math.” The results are obvious and predictable, and many would conclude that math isn’t all that the teacher doesn’t “get.” There are gifted and qualified unemployed young teachers in the region who have desperately but unsuccessfully sought employment for several years. If the law doesn’t change or the decision in Vergara isn’t sustained, the “don’t get” teacher will be there at the top of the pay scale for another ten years and students will continue to suffer. What would you propose for this situation?

      • Manuel on Jun 12, 2014 at 2:50 pm06/12/2014 2:50 pm

        • 000

        Andrew, I know for a fact that such a teacher can be fired. No, it doesn’t cost as much as Deasy claims because LAUSD is always getting rid of teachers. If a teacher doesn’t “get” her/his subject, it is incumbent for the administration to take the necessary steps to get help for that teacher and if the teacher is recalcitrant, to fire that teacher.

        That’s what I’d propose.

        Turning to Paul’s position: I feel his pain. It is the classic conflict between labor and management. Either labor raises up and destroys management, or management drives the process into the ground and society changes the laws that allow management to screw up. It takes time, and in the meantime there will be great suffering. We don’t live in an ideal world.

        So, yeah, let’s encourage people not to go into teaching because you would need to be a saint to take this job under the present circumstances. Let them burn their own village.

      • Paul on Jun 13, 2014 at 3:46 am06/13/2014 3:46 am

        • 000

        Andrew, you ignore employment dynamics.

        A public school teacher has exactly one potential employer in his immediate geographic area, and just a handful within commuting distance.

        Every school district in the state asks the same question: have you ever been non-re-elected (dismissed without cause before achieving permanent status in a district), or resigned to avoid non-reelection? If you must answer yes, you will not work in teaching again.

        It was bad enough that the old law allowed dismissal without cause during the early years of a teacher’s career in a district. (Officially, the probationary period lasted two years, but in practice, illegal temporary contracts delayed the start of probation by a year or two. Layoffs also contributed, because changing districts would reset the clock.) Now, the court decision will allow dismissal without cause at any stage.

        There is not much security in private-sector employment, even in the professional occupations that teachers might retrain for. It’s not necessary, because the job markets in question are broader and more flexible, the starting salaries are higher, and the retirement arrangements are portable.

        If you lose your private-sector professional job, you can do the same work for any number of other companies in your geographic area. Your higher starting salary has left you with a financial cushion that no early- or mid-career teacher could hope to accumulate. Prospective employers care about different aspects of your background; changing jobs after two or three years isn’t a black mark. The old employer’s contribution to your 401(k) plan is yours to keep, as are your Social Security credits. In your next job, you can continue building your 401(k) balance and accumulating Social Security credits.

        And why didn’t the principal catch the math-incompetent during his year as a long-term substitute, his two years in temporary status, and his two years in probationary status?

  5. Gary Ravani on Jun 11, 2014 at 4:31 pm06/11/2014 4:31 pm

    • 000

    Dred Scott v. Sandford
    Plessy v. Ferguson
    Korematsu v. US
    Citizens United
    Vergara v. The State of CA

    The latest adventure of the Supreme Court has been to dismantle the Voting Rights Act resulting in many (mostly) southern states immediately jumping in to enact various kinds of voter suppression. Much of the suppression has been modeled on the work of Koch Bros. funded ALEC. All Americans should be very wary of billionaires using their money to drive politics (money is “speech” of course) and file legal actions to suppress the rights of others. First it’s voting rights for the poor, minorities, and elderly, then it’s teachers’ rights, then it’s…? All based on the whims of oligarchs.

    CA teachers and students face many obstacles, including: lowest dollars per student in the nation, largest class sizes, and the fewest nurses, counselors, and librarians. These are all real life, on the ground, issues in CA education. Neither the Vergara lawsuit nor the judge’s decision comes close to addressing even one of the real issues. One could easily conclude the lawsuit was intended as a distraction from the real issues. The solutions to the real problems will involve taxing billionaires, and we don’t want to talk about that! Pay no attention to the billionaire behind the curtain!

    Perhaps the biggest irony is the constant reference to Brown V. Board (the Court finally got it right) a suit about segregation. This is a metaphor, of course. Except according to the UCLA Civil Rights Center it’s not a metaphor, it’s real geographic and economic segregation. A real problem. Vergara is, again, silent re reality.

    The judge’s decision noted not a single causal relationship between any of the statutes and negative consequences for disadvantaged students. We have very successful school districts in CA and some less so. All districts draw from the same teacher pool and operate under the same laws. Some manage well and some don’t. It is not the statutes themselves.


    • Gary Ravani on Jun 11, 2014 at 4:53 pm06/11/2014 4:53 pm

      • 000

      When the CA State Auditor examined irregularities in Los Angeles’ reporting of alleged illegal acts of teachers to the Credentialing Commission the Auditor cited poor management, not problems with the law.

      The one known common characteristic of disadvantaged schools is an over abundance of inexperienced teachers. Every witness in Vergara agreed that experience equates to better instruction. What does challenging seniority rights do? It decreases the chance kids will get an experienced teacher who delivers higher quality instruction. It increases the chance kids will get a cheaper, inexperienced teacher and lower quality instruction. Senior teachers tend to leave certain schools because of poor leadership and a lack of resources and support to do a good job.

      Teacher due process rights came into existence long before unions and collective bargaining. Legislatures put them in place because it was recognized teachers were being fired because they cost more, or they wrote a letter to the editor some school board member didn’t like, or they endorsed the wrong political candidate, or they argued with the principal about what good instruction should be, or they taught the “wrong” book, or taught the wrong science (like evolution), or got married, or pregnant, or the principal didn’t like the “cut of their jib.” The court’s ruling could make this a reality once more.

      Court testimony established that teachers will leave the profession long before any expensive legal process if management handles it well. The costs and time frames for dismissal cited by plaintiffs attorneys are hyperbolic and based on a few outlier cases.

      Dismissal is a statutory issue and not a collective bargaining issue.

      • navigio on Jun 11, 2014 at 5:51 pm06/11/2014 5:51 pm

        • 000

        but the lawsuit was not about quality it was about equality (the former is not a constitutional right, while the latter is). reducing the quality of all teachers to a common level would reduce inequality of access if there were in fact differences in quality as the plaintiffs claimed. having a teaching force consisting entirely of ineffective teachers would be consistent with the goals of the plaintiffs in this case. as you point out, this is likely exactly where we’ll end up going. by design even.

      • S Nelson on Jun 12, 2014 at 8:21 am06/12/2014 8:21 am

        • 000

        I believe the first CA teacher tenure law was passed in the 1950’s and it was for employment after 4 years. I liked the quote from the head of Association of CA School Administrators on this subject – a “wake up call”. CA legislators – although they have been wonderful reformers on school funding (LCFF actually does start to direct more $$ to poor districts) have not yet addressed the teacher performance/dismissal issue that is locked in old statutes. The judge unlocked this chain.
        My limited understanding of the CA Constitution education guarantees – and the research and data that uphold this court decision (ever hear of Brown vs. Bd. of Education of Topeka) leads me to believe that this first trial court decision (unlike Serrano vs. Priest), will be sustained on appeal and force statutory reform quickly. Reformers rejoice! (reform is not destruction)

    • Eleanore on Jun 19, 2014 at 1:49 pm06/19/2014 1:49 pm

      • 000

      Gary, very well said. The millionaires and billionaires are now coming for the money in public education, under the pretext that they are helping minority children (black and brown)get a quality education by making it easier to fire ineffective teachers. It’s very difficult for a teacher to be effective when he/she has 30 to 35 children in a classroom, a lack of resources – nurses, coaches, equipment, dilapidated facilities, etc, I could go on, but you get my point.

      Diane Ravitch, historian and educator extraordinaire, at NYU, has a balanced article about this ruling on http://www.commondreams.org. Anyone interested in knowing what’s really going on should read it…

      • Don on Jun 19, 2014 at 8:15 pm06/19/2014 8:15 pm

        • 000

        Ravitch seems to contradict herself when she says:

        “…researchers overwhelmingly agree that family income and family education are the largest determinants of academic performance. Only a few months ago, the American Statistical Association said that teachers account for only between 1 percent and 14 percent of the variation among students in test scores. “The majority of opportunities for quality improvement,” said ASA, “are found in the system-level conditions”—that is, variables such as resources, class size, school leadership, the quality of the curriculum, and other factors that are mostly beyond the control of a single teacher.”

        First she says family influences are the largest determinants of academic performance, then she advocates for better and expensive system-level conditions. Why should we spend inordinate amounts of money on system level reforms if family is the key factor? Sure, some system level improvements including teacher quality are a smaller but important part of the picture and that is as it should be. But where in LCFF is the restraint implicit in the understanding that familial and cultural factors cannot be bought as a function of America’s penchant to solve problems through financial means?

        I don’t know what is going on in LA, but in SF so-called underserved schools are anything but underserved, yet they’re just about as low-performing as they’ve ever been.

  6. Don on Jun 11, 2014 at 3:16 pm06/11/2014 3:16 pm

    • 000

    Some polls, Field and others,have shown wide public support for teacher employment reform. Part of this support is the result of inaction. As a parent involved in school reform over the last ten years I have seen the ability of parents to advocate for their children drop as government becomes more and more byzantine and individual concerns are waylaid by the dominant players who control the access. When it comes to teachers, parents have zero influence and are intimidated by the idea that their children’s grades will suffer if they complain. Yet they are the legal representatives of the end users, the students, who are most affected by teacher quality.

    When the public is left out of the process discontent festers and the conditions for revolution are born. The Vergara case is a revolution in the making – a shot off the bow. Reform of LIFO and tenure dwarfs the other concurrent reforms of CCSS and LCFF as it strikes directly at the heart of classrooms and the people who run them for better or worse. That’s why unions have allowed those reforms to enter without a fight while fighting tooth and nail against Vergara and what it represents.

    This decision is not a policy, but the rejection of one. Like the other two reformers it has wide bi-partisan support and legislators are likely to act preemptively to curtail judicial oversight. I suspect that within a year the Legislature will vote for new reformed statutes as the California Supreme Court, in its current configuration is unlikely to reverse the decision. The Democrats will act to minimize the damage.

  7. marco on Jun 11, 2014 at 10:48 am06/11/2014 10:48 am

    • 000



    • Floyd Thursby on Jun 11, 2014 at 12:36 pm06/11/2014 12:36 pm

      • 000

      OK, the idea that every teacher was doing their best and this was only a scapegoating is just not consistent with what’s on the ground. Why would 12% call in sick the Tuesday before Thanksgiving? Some teachers are rude to parents, don’t listen to principals, call in sick the max every year. Those who work hard will be kept.

      You are saying bad parenting is a problem. I agree, 100%, but I am a very good parent and have been essentially advised to be a worse parent by some teachers. I met with some asking how my daughter could get an A and said I wanted her to get into Lowell High in SF, on the list of top 50 schools in the US according to Newsweek, 28-78 depending on the poll you use, but easily the best swchool in Northern California even ahead of private elite 40k schools in stats. My daughter was consistently in the top 3% of test takers. I was told, maybe she’s a B student, don’t pressure her, just have her do her homework and if she gets a B, she gets a B. That would have made her go into a random lottery in which some kids go to a pretty good school close by and some take 2-3 buses to a far corner of the City to go to a mediocre high school. Either way, it’s nowhere near as good as Lowell, the oldest high school west of the Mississippi and having a Supreme Court justice, entrepreneurs, famous authors, etc. as graduates, and a much more rigorous academic climate.

      I had phone conferences not honored and a teacher leave in the middle of a conference and no good advice. I had to switch teachers mid year. These teachers were horrible and giving advice that would have damaged my daughter’s life. I was saying, I’ll spend Saturday with her studying in a cafe, I’ll get tutors for her, what does she need to improve on to get an A in your class, what must she work harder on? I raise my kids to work harder to win, not give up. I was trying to be a better parent, and she was smart.

      • Floyd Thursby on Jun 11, 2014 at 12:40 pm06/11/2014 12:40 pm

        • 000

        Most teachers are good, but some are bad. Bringing up other things is passing the buck. Parents being a problem doesn’t mean protecting bad teachers is not a problem. They are both problems.

        It’s like a police chief saying let’s solve the rapes and someone saying, but what about murder, that’s the problem. BOTH MURDER AND RAPE ARE PROBLEMS!

        You’re not saying parents are bad to try to hold parents to a higher standard. You’re saying it so we turn our heads as we have for decades and do NOTHING about another significant problem, bad teachers staying on the job due to seniority and tenure.

        Sure, let’s have parenting class, let’s have public service messages, let’s require parents to meet with teachers who give good advice on turning off thee TV and games and studying. But let’s not let that be an excuse to do nothing on this other significant problem.

    • Paul Muench on Jul 3, 2014 at 8:21 am07/3/2014 8:21 am

      • 000

      I think education is essential to a person’s future. Parents and students are therefore held accountable just by living. Which makes me wonder what additional accountibility you had in mind.

  8. Replies

    • Don on Jun 11, 2014 at 10:57 am06/11/2014 10:57 am

      • 000

      The statement and my response to it from the link above:

      “Treu’s argument is framed on the assumption that a school is employing a teacher identified as “incompetent,” and not merely less effective, or in need of support. That seems to me a flimsy premise upon which to engage in such hypotheticals about layoffs. If a teacher has been officially deemed incompetent, that should be the end of it – why would that person still be employed? But I have a feeling this hypothetical is about the senior teacher who might be incompetent, or has a reputation as such – and I don’t think education code should work that way. It might even be a teacher who’s in the middle of the dismissal process – but the difference between the middle and the end is the difference between maybe and definitely. While Treu offers supporting studies and testimony elsewhere in his ruling, this section refers to neither research nor trial evidence. He merely engages in a thought exercise, and then compares California’s statute to laws in other states, where for the most part, seniority is less binding than it is in California.”

      Response – Mr. Cohen, you predicate this passage on this question – “If a teacher has been officially deemed incompetent, that should be the end of it – why would that person still be employed? ”

      Because under current law and the practical exercise of it, incompetent teachers DO remain employed. As a parent I have seen this play out over and over – teachers who by all accounts of students, parents and other staff ought not to be in education, but there they are, ensconced in a job they don’t know how to do and with no practical way to get rid of them. I’m not speaking anecdotally though I am speaking practically. This is the experience of parents in general who know little of the ins and outs of teacher dismissal law and practice. What they know is that their children have had teachers who consistently fail to show up for work and don’t the job and that their children suffer.

  9. Andrew on Jun 11, 2014 at 8:40 am06/11/2014 8:40 am

    • 000

    One of my concerns, not certain how valid, is that LIFO and firing protections had become virtual hostages for the CA legislature, where any legislator defending them was given a free pass on anything else, including California’s horribly inadequate funding of education.

    I’d like to see a strong message sent to every last California legislator and to the governor: “Whatever else you do or do not support, either you ensure that education is funded adequately or consistently, no less than the national average at a minimum, or we will unseat you at your next election. Every last one of you. Period.”

    Those entrusted with administration of our public schools may gain the right to terminate ineffective teachers more easily. But fairness compels us to ask why such teachers are ineffective. If teachers are ineffective because CA education is underfunded and understaffed and we are burning them out mercilessly, we are being grossly unfair to them in terminating them when we burn them out. If teachers are not very bright, lack initiative, don’t maintain professional skills, if they lack work ethic, or have personality issues inconsistent with their occupation, they shouldn’t be in the teaching profession and should be fired so they can find work in some other more compatible field. Nothing personal or punitive. They just don’t really fit in such an important and demanding function.

    We may only be able to determine which teachers are truly and incorrigibly ineffective when we fund education adequately.


    • Don on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:39 am06/11/2014 9:39 am

      • 000

      So, if I understand you correctly Andrew, were CA K-12 education to be funded at a minimum to the average standard of the nation, arbitrary though that is, you would then agree that tougher dismissal would be appropriate as all good but overworked teachers would no longer be part of the equation as they would be succeeding where they weren’t before and only the chafe would be left. Humm…

      I agree as does everyone and their mother that we need to fund education at higher levels, though what exactly we fund more is probably of greater importance that the actual dollar amount. But if as you say K-12 funding is held hostage due to politics, why then hold it hostage instead to finances? It seems you advocate that we cannot do anything about these issues of “bad” teachers until we have a funding paradigm that rules out any blame on the part of the State. This has been the exact the position of the union – that we can’t do anything about dismissal reform until we fund education appropriately AND solve poverty. In other words, until we become the richer less debt-ridden nation that we once were we might as well just sit back and do nothing! While poverty and government funding are factors, and I’m not dismissing their importance, there are other factors like motivation and dedication on the part of students and teachers that we expect somehow to be delivered through governmental action rather than individual action. The private sector doesn’t coddle its employees and somehow seems to work well enough to fund the entire government. Ultimately, we must ask, are students benefiting from the current system or does it need to change?

  10. navigio on Jun 11, 2014 at 6:59 am06/11/2014 6:59 am

    • 000

    “Every day administrators are spending thousands upon thousands and countless hours trying to dismiss ineffective teachers,” said Deasy, who testified for the plaintiffs in the case. “That money should be spent on procuring new supplies, instituting new programs, improving teacher salaries, securing critical services for both the professionals and the students, and reducing class size.”

    I’ll believe that when he fires thousands upon thousands and countless administrators he no longer needs to be spending all that time pretending to try to fire ineffective teachers. You’re on Super.

  11. Paul on Jun 10, 2014 at 11:17 pm06/10/2014 11:17 pm

    • 000

    It’s been almost one year since I returned to my career in Tech. Our 7-person startup released its new app. today, to appreciative comments from end-users and the national press. My contract doesn’t end automatically after one year, with no regard for the effort I’ve put in or the results I’ve achieved. My education and experience are valued, not second-guessed. Best of all, I am not only permitted, but also expected, to make my own decisions about how to do my job.

    Now, I don’t earn much more money than I did as a teacher, because our company is so small and so young. Though my evenings and weekends are free of grading, lesson planning and report card-writing — and I no longer need to take courses during the summer — I continue to invest more hours than I am paid for.

    Today’s court decision makes me very glad that I left the public education rat race.

    Whom do you want to teach your children? California has spoken: you want an army of temporary teachers, employed one year at a time and replaced immediately if they don’t follow orders. I pity the children who will be “educated” under the new system. They will believe that people are interchangeable and replaceable, and that compliance is better than thought.

    If the CTC still issued paper documents, I’d be tearing up my 3 preliminary credentials and 4 authorizations tonight. Instead, I will have a solemn celebration in a few years, when they expire forever.


    • Don on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:08 am06/11/2014 9:08 am

      • 000

      Paul, even when I don’t agree with you I always enjoy your measured, thoughtful and well-reasoned commentary. That’s why I was so surprised to read your penultimate paragraph above. Too bad you couldn’t have included a dramatic audio track. I don’t believe the five statutes are the difference between a bulletproof job for life and, in lieu of them, a virtual revolving door of replaceable temps.

      This decision simply takes K-12 education employment and treats it like any other government employment. Therefore, if we apply your logic across the board, you are happy to be out of any government employment and happy to be in the private sector where job security is considerably lower. I just don’t get it.

      And in any case, while I appreciate your concern for your colleagues, I don’t suspect that you were ever on anyone’s dismissal list.

      • FloydThursby on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:17 am06/11/2014 11:17 am

        • 000

        The problem is that the status quo was so extreme in making it impossible to fire bad teachers (91 in 10 years, 19 for cause, statewide) and people got so used to it that they are only looking at the direction. Yes, this takes rights away, but horrible rights that damaged millions of children. Any teacher who got tenure has the ability, but now they’ll have pressure and not be able to not worry about being fired. If they really are attentive to parents and students and principals, they’ll keep their job.

        But the issue is it was so extreme one way, many are on all the blogs acting as if you could have reformed schools without it and it had become the elephant in the room.

        I also don’t get the mention of poverty. It can be true that both are bad and harm education, though some overcome poverty. They’re trying an end run to say we can’t address LIFO and tenure until minimum wage is above poverty, but that’s a false choice. Yes, there are other problems, but this is a huge one hurting kids and we can make schools better if we cull the bottom 10% over 10 years and replace them with better teachers and if all teachers are pressured to work harder and call in sick less. It will help children but lives for teachers will be a little harder.

        It’d be like if we were discussing the problem of campus rapes and someone else said, you know, the real problem is murder.

        Both are problems, rape and murder.

        Both LIFO/Tenure and poverty/underfunding are problems. One doesn’t negate the other. Both damage children.

      • Paul on Jun 11, 2014 at 7:34 pm06/11/2014 7:34 pm

        • 000

        Once implemented, this decision will make all public school teachers in California into at-will employees, subject to dismissal at any time, without any reason.

        I have no idea what alternative government employee rights Don, Floyd and other people are imagining. There are none. In California, all employment, private and public, is at-will, unless:

        1. There is an affirmative law; or

        2. There is a provision in a collective bargaining agreement; or

        3. There is a provision in an individual employment contract.

        The decision strikes down #1 for certificated school employees (i.e., teachers). Due process laws for some other public employee groups remain on the books, but these do not apply to teachers. For example, classified school employees (aides, secretaries, custodians, etc.) and most state, municipal and special district employees enjoy limited due process rights, under state civil service laws. Teachers are not part of the civil service employment system.

        As for #2 and #3, CBAs and teacher contracts didn’t generally provide due process dismissal rights, because the rights were legislated. After spearheading the repeal effort, school districts have no reason to voluntarily restore due process at the local level.

        Legal analogies, for doubters:

        1. What due process dismissal rights apply to public school teachers employed by charter schools? None.

        2. What due process dismissal rights apply to substitute and temporary teachers (at any time), and to probationary teachers (at the end of a school year)? None.

        3. What due process dismissal rights apply to state and municipal workers in non-civil-service-system positions (e.g., the City and County of San Francisco’s growing list of non-civil service job titles)? None.

  12. navigio on Jun 10, 2014 at 7:50 pm06/10/2014 7:50 pm

    • 000

    The decision is a wake-up call that can’t be ignored. It puts everyone in education on notice that we need to work together and develop a system that works for our current and future students.”
    – Wes Smith, Executive director, Association of California School Administrators

    Um, getting a job in a school district puts you on notice that you need to provide a system that works for our students. Note who this guy is representing, then think about who the lawsuit targeted. grr..

  13. David Kemmer on Jun 10, 2014 at 6:04 pm06/10/2014 6:04 pm

    • 000

    Back in 2007 I had the unfortunate experience of having my case assigned to Judge Treu. As I understand it, based on my coversation with 2 attorney who have dealth with him, as well as my own experience, Rolf Treu is extremely conservative, and he thows out cases on a percentage much higher than normal. I also understand that he has had numberous complaints made to the state bar association but he continues to practice.


    • Don on Jun 10, 2014 at 8:18 pm06/10/2014 8:18 pm

      • 000

      It’s funny you should say that Judge Treu manages to keep working despite the complaints because I’ve had the same experience. The parents of whole classrooms have complained about teachers who repeatedly fail to do their job, (not just poorly, but entirely derelict) and they manage to stay employed by the school district year after year.

      • FloydThursby on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:19 pm06/10/2014 9:19 pm

        • 000

        The union is trying to portray this that they just wanted a few minor due process protections when they were pushing for rules which made it impossible to ever fire a bad teacher. This is misleading. The union wanted it to be nearly impossible. They went too far. If the union had compromised 20 years ago so that even 1% of teachers would be fired and 10% on probation or notice, this wouldn’t have happened. They were so rigid and created such extremes it made it easy to sue.

  14. navigio on Jun 10, 2014 at 4:02 pm06/10/2014 4:02 pm

    • 000

    Do the lawyer fees count as prop 98 expenditures?

  15. el on Jun 10, 2014 at 3:58 pm06/10/2014 3:58 pm

    • 000

    I am still bemused by the fact that so many people are upset about questionable or low quality teachers working in classrooms… and so they want to extend the probationary period from two years to three years. Yet, it is clear to everyone that if districts have an extra year to decide, that they will use that to keep questionable new teachers an additional year:


    On Wednesday, San Jose Unified and its teachers union together will ask the State Board of Education to permit a three-year probation for teachers in some instances. They’ll argue that tweeners, those teachers who have shown the potential but not yet all of the skills to become a good teacher, deserve an extra year of mentoring and monitoring before it’s decided whether they deserve “tenure.”

  16. R.J. Seaby on Jun 10, 2014 at 3:37 pm06/10/2014 3:37 pm

    • 000

    This case and decision is nothing more than the continued effort to destroy the public education system in the USA and privatize it via Charters and vouchers. As one who taught in CA’s public schools for 35 years there are evaluative processes in place that any competent administrator can use to remove an incompetent teacher. Keep in mind that the teachers’ union and/or association’s only role in any dismissal process is see that due process is followed. Competent and hardworking teachers are just as concerned about the occasional incompetent teacher as anyone else as they have to pick up the slack. When society finally wakes up and stops scapegoating teachers for the failure of students from dysfunctional families, poverty, hunger, poor health and all the social ills that burden the poor and address the real problems of poor performing students nothing will change. However; as we continue to screw our vets, college students and now teachers do we really see the business model of the corporate world as a viable solution?


    • FloydThursby on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:23 pm06/10/2014 9:23 pm

      • 000

      RJ, you’re being silly. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was accused of destroying capitalism to which he replied “I saved capitalism”. This is the same. The union choosing to defend every bad teacher and make it nearly impossible to ever fire a bad teacher was damaging children and public education and this decision will save public education. Poverty will no longer be the scapegoat. Poor countries have higher test scores than we do. Poverty doesn’t stop you but the bad habits associated with it do, and teachers should teach kids not to follow their parents but to study as long and hard as possible regardless of their income. How can you have energy to play video games and sports and hang out, but it’s shocking to ask you to study? Many great scholars have been poor. Asians do it. Anyone can. Bad teachers will be fired, most won’t.

  17. FloydThursby on Jun 10, 2014 at 2:28 pm06/10/2014 2:28 pm

    • 000

    Great decision by the judge! No one is saying all teachers should be fired, you use the word summarily. That’s silly. Now teachers will be judged like all of us. Teachers will have to listen to parents and obey principals just like we have to listen to customers and obey bosses, no different. You can nitpick on this or that method of judging, but so far the union has opposed every proposed method of judging teachers including test scores, test score improvement, test scores with demographics, value add, attendance rates, principal evaluations, parent evaluations, peer evaluations, student evaluations, outside reviews, in favor of seniority. Seniority is the worst way to judge quality and takes away incentive to never call in sick (as I did for 10 years running twice), stay late (as I do all the time), or do anything to differentiate yourself from the masses. The union defended Berndt and he went to prison, if they had any independent thought they would have opposed him, they have defended teachers who call in sick 3/4 of days over an entire school year, they basically make any teacher into a noble cause. They want it to be virtually impossible to fire teachers. They no longer get their way. You have to provide the value you are earning and ideally as in most jobs, more. Many teachers do this, but if you don’t, you don’t have a guaranteed job. You may get pressure from principals and have to change your behavior and not ignore them. Some teachers are great, some are horrible, now we can merit bonus the great and fire the horrible and all will work harder and care more. This now aligns teaching with human nature.


    • Don on Jun 10, 2014 at 2:42 pm06/10/2014 2:42 pm

      • 000

      Aligns teaching with human nature? No, it doesn’t. All it says is the 5 statutes are unlawful. Some districts with pro-labor administrations will write additional and perhaps onerous protections into local collective bargaining contracts. Others won’t. Like LCFF, it will leave the districts to their own devices and it will undoubtedly set off a slew of lawsuits as LEAs figure this all out. Of course, that is IF the ruling is upheld.

      • FloydThursby on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:25 pm06/10/2014 9:25 pm

        • 000

        True, but now if SFUSD doesn’t protect kids, they can be sued. We can get rid of the bottom 10% of teachers and hire new ones. There are some jackasses teaching in SFUSD and they need to go. Most are good, but there are some real lemons out there. Bye bye!

  18. Anthony on Jun 10, 2014 at 2:04 pm06/10/2014 2:04 pm

    • 000

    Perhaps this is an unneeded comment, but I have to say: These are some of the most comprehensible internet comments I have ever seen.

  19. Don on Jun 10, 2014 at 1:47 pm06/10/2014 1:47 pm

    • 000

    I’m looking forward to this thread!

  20. Zeev Wurman on Jun 10, 2014 at 1:38 pm06/10/2014 1:38 pm

    • 000

    Don and Michael G. essentially nail it. The job of professional organization is to define and uphold professional standards as its main goal, not labor protections. When it doesn’t, it stops being a professional organization, and its members stop being professionals.

    As to Manuel’s claim, please explain to us your definition of an effective teacher so we can understand and judge your statement that the teacher is not ineffective. Due process has nothing to do with effectiveness.

    As to Ingie, nobody argues that teachers are the problem. *Some* teachers are the problem, is the argument. Whether this makes the union stronger or weaker should be beside the point — teaching effectiveness of California teachers should be the point. Unless you don’t really care about the students and just want to make labor unions stronger, that is.


    • Manuel on Jun 10, 2014 at 4:20 pm06/10/2014 4:20 pm

      • 000

      Zeev, to again borrow Justice Powell’s words, I know one ineffective teacher when I see one. To me, the proof is that my children did well under that teacher and, by every measure out there (except, of course, in the opinion of the parents of this child), this teacher is a leader in her profession.

      No, I am not going to research the awards, professional standing, etc., of this teacher to satisfy your curiosity. For the purposed of this dialogue, my word is enough.

      As for what due process has to do with effectiveness, the plaintiffs argued that the protection afforded by due process protects ineffective teachers. Then they went after one particular teacher who is not ineffective. If due process was not there, this plaintiff’s parents would have done all they could to get her fired. True, the two areas are completely unrelated. But the actions of this plaintiff’s parents brought them together.

      Let’s turn the question around: explain to us your definition of an effective teacher so we can understand and judge your impication that you know when a teacher is ineffective.

      BTW, I am sure that your definition of professional organizations will be news to the AMA and the Bar, to name just two. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion, but that doesn’t make it the paramount interpretation.

  21. Manuel on Jun 10, 2014 at 1:14 pm06/10/2014 1:14 pm

    • 000

    This decision simply passes the buck to the Court of Appeals.

    I know for a fact that one of the teachers accused of being ineffective isn’t. So how is it possible that Judge Treu did not notice that during the proceedings? He claims to be shocked, shocked to find that there are ineffective teachers out there. Recent news also indicate that there are ineffective judges but I don’t see calls for summarily getting rid of them as he has done for teachers.

    What then is the “due process” for? Are we going to change our laws because all legal appeals take too long and therefore are burdensome?

    Something is wrong with a decision that uses this as a legal reason. IANAL, but like Justice Powell, I may not be able to define it, but I know a crappy decision when I see one.


    • Don on Jun 10, 2014 at 1:34 pm06/10/2014 1:34 pm

      • 000


      All decisions for, against or split would have gone to the Court of Appeals. California labor laws and due process are still extant without the five statutes, just not a special due process exclusively for teachers. This decision is about the constitutionality of the statutes and whether students are deprived of their rights as a result of the current law. A school and the students who attend it that loses a majority of staff in a cutback exemplifies the severe disadvantage wrought by the disproportionate affect of the 5 statutes in the real world. If you are for helping disadvantaged students you should be for safeguarding their constitutional rights to an education. If only California safeguarded the rights of students through funding as well as law.

      You acknowledge there are ineffective teachers. What does the one teacher who you believe is not ineffective have to do with the big picture? This isn’t about one teacher.

      • navigio on Jun 10, 2014 at 1:47 pm06/10/2014 1:47 pm

        • 000

        Actually in this case it is. She was presented in the case as an example of an ineffective teacher.

        • Don on Jun 10, 2014 at 2:53 pm06/10/2014 2:53 pm

          • 000

          Obviously the judge either felt the teacher was ineffective (probably not given the awards and such)or that the one example, faulty though it was, didn’t matter in the large picture. I’m sure the plaintiffs wished they hadn’t used that teacher as an example, but they made an overall strong case compared to the union which focused on the need for special protections to maintain a viable workforce. That never seemed to me like a good strategy, but one that might score a few points short of nothing else by which to defend the status quo.

        • FloydThursby on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:29 pm06/10/2014 9:29 pm

          • 000

          Look Navigio, you’re trying to individualize it and pretend you’d have been for it if this one teacher weren’t there. I call bull. You’d find some excuse anyways. You always do. It’s not about one teacher, out of 400,000, it’s about 20-40,000 teachers. It’s about all teachers being nervous when a principal tells them to call in sick less and work harder. It’s about every teacher having to worry about their students’ test scores, thinking twice before calling in sick if you are healthy or have a minor cough or it’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, etc. It’s about a focus on quality of teaching, not a guaranteed job. This is going to help millions of children and you obsessively focus on one teacher you know. This is about millions. Be happy for millions. If your friend is good, she won’t necessarily be fired. She will have a chance to get help and improve. But if you reverse this decision based on her, we’re waiting another decade to change this horrible policy and millions of children will suffer. Forget this one person, look at the big picture.

      • Manuel on Jun 10, 2014 at 4:06 pm06/10/2014 4:06 pm

        • 000

        Don, I am not aware that “due process” was exclusive for teachers. IANAL, so I have no idea what the consequences of this will be for all other state employees who are covered under “due process” statutes. Surely, if the fire and police departments were hit with the same level of cutbacks, LIFO would be the way they would be handled. Of course, we don’t do that but certainly feel we can do it to teachers. Why not? They are just in charge of teaching our children.

        Since LAUSD is being used as a prime example, let’s make it clear that no LAUSD school lost a majority of its staff. None. In fact, scores went up after veteran teachers were forced to take the positions of the LIFOed teachers. Now, I don’t believe that scores are the best measure to define a school success, but that is what the plaintiffs and their fellow travelers believe.

        Because that strategy no longer applies, they went after individual teachers. I know that one of the plaintiffs is wrong. And in our system, if one of the examples brought forth to the court is so wrong, and the judge does not throw that instance, then it is clear that there is a flaw in the argument.

        And don’t you dare paint me with the “if you are for helping disadvantaged students” brush again. You don’t know me and have no right to imply that. Should I, in retaliation, imply that you were a lousy teacher because you could not stay in the profession? That would not be appropriate, would it? So stick with the facts of the case, please.

        As for acknowledging that there are lousy teachers out there, one would have to be an idiot to presume that every single teacher is a sterling example. Teachers are human beings and humans come in all levels of skills. If there are lousy teachers out there in our classrooms it is because either the principals are doing an equally lousy job of managing teachers or because district administrators are not supporting conscientious principals. The law is there and it is there for a reason.

        • el on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:23 am06/11/2014 11:23 am

          • 000

          LIFO does indeed apply to sheriffs, police, fire, etc.

          • Manuel on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:01 pm06/11/2014 9:01 pm

            • 000

            Indeed, but I don’t recall seeing any articles about massive lay-offs of cops and firefighters because of the Great Recession. (OK, there’s the case of the City of Vallejo, but that’s extreme.) I’m sure I’d remember reading about young cops complaining about being fired before the old battle axes who are no longer “effective” in doing their jobs.

    • TheMorrigan on Jun 10, 2014 at 8:18 pm06/10/2014 8:18 pm

      • 000

      It was also stated at the trial that one of the teachers who was supposedly ineffective didn’t even have tenure or due process, so I am slightly confused as well with how “shocked” the judge was.

      • Manuel on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:09 pm06/11/2014 9:09 pm

        • 000

        According to a post-trial filing, it turns out that two of the plaintiffs attended charter schools, where teachers are not subject to due process. The main plaintiffs attended an LAUSD pilot school, which operates with a “thin” contract allowing for dismissal of any teacher at the end of the year. Again, no due process. As for the other plaintiffs, well, enough has been said.

        It seems that this judge had already made up his mind once he was assigned this case. Justice is blind my foot…

  22. navigio on Jun 10, 2014 at 12:58 pm06/10/2014 12:58 pm

    • 000

    He also agreed to an injunction, keeping the laws in place during the appeals.

    What is the legal basis for doing that? If the court is to have any value, it’s decision should be binding immediately.

  23. Don on Jun 10, 2014 at 12:49 pm06/10/2014 12:49 pm

    • 000

    As a parent who gave a sworn statement to the plaintiffs as to the effects on my family of both competent and incompetent teachers, I was heartened to learn that California is making progress on this front with this decision. As a former teacher myself, I know many will view this decision as a loss for the profession, but I view it as a gain over time, if it stands, as districts weed out those teachers that shouldn’t be in the profession. There are no easy answers for how to proceed, but at least the problem has now advanced to the front page.

  24. Michael G on Jun 10, 2014 at 12:31 pm06/10/2014 12:31 pm

    • 000

    To say a teacher is incompetent implies you know what competent teaching is. I don’t think anyone is clear on what makes a competent teacher in a chalengin class room. To fire a teacher, you should demonstrate that they know how to teach better, and that they refuse to do it. I have never met a teacher who didn’t want to do the best job possible. If you can identify who is consistently succeeding in these class rooms, maybe you could cpy them.

    The ed schools need to get off their seats and figure out what competent teaching is and demonstrate that those methods work in challenging class rooms. Right now they are all about creative, self-actualized, high self-esteem students. What is needed is getting reading and writing and ‘rithmetic accomplishment and that is tough.


    • Don on Jun 10, 2014 at 1:07 pm06/10/2014 1:07 pm

      • 000

      The debate/controversy over what defines competency has been held up by teaching unions as the reason why reform should be stymied – the idea that without consensus there can be no path forward. Reform on this issue has been held hostage by the impasse over a definition and it has been used as a ploy to advocate for the status quo barring any agreement (which will never happen). Any professional organization should act to increase not decrease the competency and professionalism of its members. Currently, the union position is that there is no such thing as an incompetent teacher, only teachers without proper training and development. Hopefully, we can put such backward thinking behind us and find solutions for making the profession stronger for the sake and future of public education. The lack of progress on this issue up to now has directly resulted in the influx of charter schools. If unions get on board they can make traditional public schools stronger and compete more effectively with the public charter competition. That would be healthy.

  25. Andrew on Jun 10, 2014 at 11:50 am06/10/2014 11:50 am

    • 000

    A lawyer, I have to admit that I was wrong in assuming that the plaintiffs would lose this case despite their stellar legal team. It just seemed unlikely that a trial court judge would be so audacious, instead of deferring to the legislative branch for changes that I believe are needed to policies like LIFO and excessive obstacles to firing ineffective tenured teachers.

    The trial court decision will doubtless be appealed to the California District Court of Appeal, and then the California Supreme Court will be asked to review the matter. This could take several years.

    In the meantime, the California legislature could pass laws, or the California Voters could approve initiatives, that deal with the issues in question and make the court decision relatively moot.

    The arguments in favor of LIFO and existing obstacles to firing might make sense to long tenured teachers who want to be as secure as possible no matter what, but they seem much less than compelling to me and many others, including parents, and apparently the trial court was not captivated by such arguments.

    In view of the abysmally poor funding of education in California, close to the worst in the nation, once can’t help but wonder if it arose in part by too much fixation by teachers’ unions on the narrow interests of long entrenched teachers, the losing position in Court, and too little on the interests of students, effective education, and newer teachers.

  26. Ingie on Jun 10, 2014 at 11:39 am06/10/2014 11:39 am

    • 000

    This lawsuit is just another way to under mind unions. Current law already allows districts to consider student needs and other factors when issuing layoffs. Teachers aren’t the problem – I am a proud parent & supporter of public education!!


    • Brad on Jul 29, 2014 at 11:01 am07/29/2014 11:01 am

      • 000

      Not true. Having been a teacher for 20 years, 18 of which was in California, it is *extremely* difficult and near impossible to get rid of an incompetent teacher. It is even near impossible to get rid of a tenured teacher for blatant violations, such as being drunk on the job. I’ve witnessed it.

      Unions exist only to protect job security, period. That’s why we have bad teachers.

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