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Students win case that challenged California teacher tenure laws

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Nine students on Tuesday took a sigh of relief after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled on behalf of their lawsuit, Vergara vs. California, which challenged the idea that tenure for teachers deprived students to a fair education.

The students’ main argument in the case pursued the idea that the tenure track is unconstitutional, according to Reuters. The new ruling struck down previous laws, which provided teachers employed under the tenure-track as untouchable for being fired or laid-off, even when their teaching skills fail. Before this ruling, teachers who weren’t vetted to the tenure-track and produced a positive educational experience for students were first on the list to let go, even if their teaching skills were more effective than their longer employed colleagues.

Of course there are always many aspects outside a teacher’s control as to why students might fall behind in studies. However, the fact remains that teachers play a huge role in delivering education. The case questioned the idea of firing an outstanding professor based solely on the fact that they have been on the job less than 18 months, instead of their classroom performance.

Judge Rolf M. Treu’s decision focused on, “the burden required to be carried under the strict scrutiny test has not been met … ,” and the current system “is unfathomable and therefore constitutionally unsupportable.” Treu’s written decisions made it clear there is a “lose-lose” idea, whereas students who are in a great learning environment with a “junior” level teacher can be suddenly removed and stuck with a “grossly ineffective one [which not only] harms the students …, ” but also dismisses a fresh, vibrant, engaging teacher.

The LA Times reported if the ruling stands, California will need to draft new rules and guidelines for the hiring and firing of teachers. LA school chief John Deasy wrote an opinion piece published yesterday, June 10, in the LA Times stating he supports the new California ruling. Deasy said the Vergara case allows “California schools” to finally have the power to fix an ongoing disaster. He noted that it’s now his “responsibility,” and will be honored to guarantee that “L.A. Unified students” have the right to teachers who fulfill their educational rights.

Nevertheless, the state and teacher unions argued the tenure law aided teachers in fair employment, while also helping students. But Treu didn’t fall for the same soap-box cries from the teacher unions, he followed the evidence of facts presented and clearly saw a system that allowed learning environments to be “poor-performing,” and forcing students to have teachers that polluted their education environments.

Arne Duncan, U.S. education secretary, said the recent ruling in Vergara vs. California needs to be upheld as a “nationwide mandate.” He believes more can be done to seek out other areas that fail to support the the children and making sure they have access to the “best teachers.” Duncan and Deasy seem excited about the judges’ decision to strike down the California teacher tenure law. Let’s just hope the new ruling doesn’t get held up with appeal after appeal, while our students sit in classrooms for many years with schoolteachers that are subpar.

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