Source: Courtroom View Network webcast of Vergara v. Califorina

Judge Rolf Treu is not expected to release his final ruling in Vergara v. California until mid-August.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Marshall Tuck this week launched a petition calling on his opponent, incumbent Superintendent Tom Torlakson, not to appeal a lawsuit ruling that struck down statutes giving California teachers firing protections and rights to tenure and seniority. The move indicates Tuck views the decision in Vergara v. California as an election issue that can work in his favor.

Tuck, a former charter school executive from Los Angeles, is, like Torlakson, a Democrat.

The online petition letter reads:

To State Superintendent Tom Torlakson: The five laws that were struck down in Vergara v. California regarding teacher tenure, dismissal, and layoffs have made it nearly impossible to fire ineffective teachers. Instead of defending these laws, I urge you, as the defendant in this case, not to appeal this ruling. Let’s use this as an opportunity to make sure our schools are finally able to put an effective teacher in every classroom.– YOUR NAME

Torlakson, along with Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Board of Education, are named as defendants in the lawsuit brought by the organization Students Matter on behalf of nine student plaintiffs in 2012. In June, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu issued a tentative ruling that the five labor protection laws denied minority students their constitutional right to an equal opportunity for an education.

In a statement after Treu’s June 10 ruling, Torlakson said, “Teachers are not the problem in our schools, they are the solution.” And he said Treu’s decision could “inadvertently” complicate the task of attracting and retaining good teachers. But neither he nor Brown has directly commented on whether they would appeal Treu’s decision, although the California Teachers Association, which is also is a co-defendant, already has said it would appeal the ruling.

Brown did not mention the Vergara decision in remarks at the national convention of the American Federation of Teachers in Los Angeles last week, prompting his Republican opponent for governor, Neel Kashkari, to hold a press conference outside the convention hall in which he also called on Brown not to appeal Vergara.

There’s no rush for Torlakson or Brown. Treu has indicated he would take an extra month, through mid-August, to finish writing a permanent ruling on the case, which could differ from the tentative decision. Torlakson, Brown and the state would then have an additional 60 days to decide whether to  appeal.

Tuck’s petition appears on his campaign website. Those who sign it are also asked to  provide the campaign with their email address.

Paul Hefner, a spokesman for the Torlakson campaign, called the petition drive a “political stunt” and a way “to grab headlines.”

“Superintendent Torlakson is focused on the job voters elected him to do – working with teachers, parents and school officials to improve California’s schools,” Hefner wrote in an email.

 


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  1. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    Here are some problems for the judge. Witnesses, including the "star" John Deasy, didn't leave him much in the way of ammunition in their testimony to back up his "conclusions." Perhaps this is why a number of legal scholars have noted how weak his ruling was. Here are some excerpts from an LA Times story on the case from 2/2/14: "Deasy spent three days on the witness stand last week helping to make this argument. He testified … Read More

    Here are some problems for the judge. Witnesses, including the “star” John Deasy, didn’t leave him much in the way of ammunition in their testimony to back up his “conclusions.” Perhaps this is why a number of legal scholars have noted how weak his ruling was.

    Here are some excerpts from an LA Times story on the case from 2/2/14:

    “Deasy spent three days on the witness stand last week helping to make this argument. He testified that he is simply unable to remove all “grossly ineffective” teachers and that taking action against them has proved prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.

    “In cross-examination, however, Deasy’s testimony also demonstrated a school system’s latitude under current law. The issue comes down to the choices and competence of management, not the constitutionality of current regulations, said attorneys for the state and teachers unions.”

    “‘Dr. Deasy’s testimony affirmed the point that we made in the opening argument: that whether a district is well managed makes a huge difference,’ said attorney James M. Finberg, who represents the California Teachers Assn. and the California Federation of Teachers.”

    The article points out that in 2009-10 LAUSD fired 10 teachers. In 2011-12 it fired 99 teachers and another 122 resigned facing dismissal hearings. (This is not to stipulate that the teachers deserved dismissal nor that Deasy is an effective administrator.) It does indicate that when administrators put in the effort the laws present no major obstacle to getting rid of teachers. The 122 resignations appear to be the result of the Deasy/Broad administration creating such a “hostile teaching environment” that teachers are willing to bail out given an opportunity.

    Other constantly well managed districts had administrators that testified the laws presented no great obstacle to them doing their jobs.

    The frequent hyperbole about how long the process takes and how expensive it all is was dealt with in pre-trial discovery when it was revealed that there were a few outlier cases that took years and hundreds of thousands, but the typical case cost tens of thousands and a couple of months. Some will argue that is too much and too long, but we are talking about the career of professionals here and how much and how long is appropriate when justice is the question? Justice is accomplished in our Constitutional system by assuring due process and, yes, that’s just the legal question involved.

    It should also be remembers that under the law, when a teacher is accused of credible misconduct, they can be immediately removed from the classroom. Children are not in danger if administrators are doing their jobs.

    The historical record shows that the Governator tried initiatives on these questions some years ago and was crushed. No matter what the polls may (or may not) say now, teachers are much more trusted and more popular with the public than lawyers, judges, administrators, and Silicon Valley tycoons.

    Replies

    • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

      It may be and is highly likely that poor management leads to fewer dismissals. But poor management can hardly be the fundamental reason why K-12 teachers have the lowest dismissal rate by far - .005% vs. 1% in the general public sector. (And of course private is much higher.) If Gary is right we have to consider that the vast majority of administrations across the state are rife with misconduct and mismanagement. (Strangely, SFUSD, … Read More

      It may be and is highly likely that poor management leads to fewer dismissals. But poor management can hardly be the fundamental reason why K-12 teachers have the lowest dismissal rate by far – .005% vs. 1% in the general public sector. (And of course private is much higher.) If Gary is right we have to consider that the vast majority of administrations across the state are rife with misconduct and mismanagement. (Strangely, SFUSD, which has a golden relationship with the CDE and can do no wrong, fires practically no one.) And from where do almost all of these incompetent administrators hail? – from the ranks of teachers. In a district like San Francisco where administrators are unionized there’s an explanation – one affiliated union is not going to gang up on another. But everywhere else, if Gary is correct and all the tools are available for proper and expedient dismissal, we might assume administrators simply don’t have the heart to fire former colleagues. Kidding aside, in every instance I have ever known in which incompetent teachers were identified at schools, it was virtually impossible to get any movement on dismissal. These cases almost always end in transfer to low-performing schools after years if frustration and educational loss to dozens.

      • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

        Many principals simply don't try to fire anyone, ever. They are unionized here, but many are afraid to get a bad rep, have to deal with the union, etc. The union brings up the bad administrator argument, but the union, if they really want to use this argument, should actively work to make sure principals feel free to fire bad teachers. For instance, Ms. Pang is a universally known horrible teacher at … Read More

        Many principals simply don’t try to fire anyone, ever. They are unionized here, but many are afraid to get a bad rep, have to deal with the union, etc. The union brings up the bad administrator argument, but the union, if they really want to use this argument, should actively work to make sure principals feel free to fire bad teachers. For instance, Ms. Pang is a universally known horrible teacher at Lowell High School. Read the reviews at ratemyteacher.com. This is only one example, but despite everyone knowing it for many years, the principal has never even started the process. In fact, 5 principals have not. The union actively discourages administrators from doing so. I’ve been in the meetings, they come and argue and defend the teacher in question. In many cases, the principals don’t even bother.

  2. navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

    I've heard some proponents argue that Vergara was only the first step in a series of political moves to undo the union. The trial was supposed to bring the issue to the forefront for voters after which a ballot initiative would be launched to undo the rights that the failed Vergara trial attacked. Ironically, it may be a problem for that camp that Vergara succeeded in the first round because the delay that an appeal … Read More

    I’ve heard some proponents argue that Vergara was only the first step in a series of political moves to undo the union. The trial was supposed to bring the issue to the forefront for voters after which a ballot initiative would be launched to undo the rights that the failed Vergara trial attacked. Ironically, it may be a problem for that camp that Vergara succeeded in the first round because the delay that an appeal introduces will reduce that visibility. And worse, if it loses on appeal, most of that momentum will have been for naught.
    As far as politicians using political flash points as tinder for voter emotions: what else is new? The surprise for me will come when a ‘politician’ actually refuses to do that. Of course I won’t hold my breath. Such people are not taken seriously by our media and thus our voters.

    Replies

    • Floyd Thursby 2 years ago2 years ago

      Vergara didn't fail, it succeeded in bringing this issue to the forefront. Polls have shown over 60% of California voters feel the current system should be changed in terms of how difficult it is to dismiss ineffective teachers. However, most don't think about this in these elections, they get confused. People always claim that without this, there will be horrible abuses, but there have been horrible abuses under the current system. … Read More

      Vergara didn’t fail, it succeeded in bringing this issue to the forefront. Polls have shown over 60% of California voters feel the current system should be changed in terms of how difficult it is to dismiss ineffective teachers. However, most don’t think about this in these elections, they get confused. People always claim that without this, there will be horrible abuses, but there have been horrible abuses under the current system. Let’s come up with a system in between, not no due process, but one round only, and let this election be a referendum on Vergara. I don’t see any reform coming from Torlakson at all. All I see are excuses. We can individualize it to our peril, but if Tuck loses, it will not be seen as a symbole he had a job that was bad for too many years or the obscure things you mention, it will be seen as a blow to Vergara and a justification to return to a system in which children’s interests come second and under 10 teachers a year are dismissed.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        Floyd, Navigio’s saying the plan was to bring the issue to the ballot box IF it failed at trial. The court has the final say so I don’t think a ballot measure makes any legal sense now or later. But perhaps a ballot measure could be used to raise awareness and apply political pressure for one side or another. It could be used to craft an constitutional solution to replace the struck down statutes.

  3. Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

    John, a minor addition: Mr. Tuck spent more than 7 years running Villaraigosa's "Partnership for Los Angeles Schools." That's more than the time he spent running Green Dot (4.5 years). Shouldn't that make him more than a "charter school executive?" It is worth noting that in both systems, he could have, as the man-in-charge, removed any teacher for being ineffective. I doubt that he fired that many even though most of PLAS schools were subject to … Read More

    John, a minor addition: Mr. Tuck spent more than 7 years running Villaraigosa’s “Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.” That’s more than the time he spent running Green Dot (4.5 years). Shouldn’t that make him more than a “charter school executive?”

    It is worth noting that in both systems, he could have, as the man-in-charge, removed any teacher for being ineffective. I doubt that he fired that many even though most of PLAS schools were subject to state takeover. That will never happen now that LAUSD is operating under a waiver from all NCLB requirements.

    Therefore, his claims that ineffective teachers are responsible for schools not achieving the mythical API of 800 ring hollow since none of PLAS schools have ever reached that goal.

    But nobody cares about that. It is far more newsworthy to promote petitions that are nothing else than a cheap way of increasing his mailing list.

    As Dobyns and Ellerbie used to say: And so it goes.

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