California Teacher Tenure Law Unconstitutional

The Associated Press is reporting California’s tenure protections for public school teachers were ruled unconstitutional.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that all students are entitled to equal education and said the current situation discriminates against minority and low-income students in placing ineffective teachers in their schools.

“Plaintiffs claim that the challenged statutes result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment, and that these teachers are disproportionately situated in schools serving predominantly low-income and minority students,” the decision said.

The judge said the plaintiffs’ equal-protection claims validly stated that the statutes violated their fundamental rights to equality of education.

Calif. court rules teacher tenure creates unequal conditions

In a 16-page ruling, in the case of Vergara v. California, Treu struck down three state laws as unconstitutional. The laws grant tenure to teachers after two years, require layoffs by seniority, and call for a complex and lengthy process before a teacher can be fired.

David F. Welch, founder of an optical telecommunications manufacturing firm, charged that job protections allow the state’s worst educators to continue teaching and that those ineffective teachers are concentrated in high-poverty, minority schools, amounting to a civil rights violation.

Welch’s case was argued by a team of prominent attorneys, including former U.S. solicitor general Ted Olson and Theodore Boutrous, who most recently paired to win a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down California’s prohibition against same-sex marriage.

Huge loss for teachers unions in California case

The students were represented by former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, who is perhaps best known for successfully fighting to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage. He and his team were hired by a nonprofit organization called Students Matter, which in turn was founded — and has been largely funded — by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David F. Welch.

Sources familiar with the plaintiffs’ work said the trial and accompanying public relations campaign cost “in the low millions.”

The plaintiffs framed the case as a civil-rights crusade, arguing that California’s labor laws disproportionately hurt poor and minority student. Using a contested measure of teacher effectiveness — a formula meant to assess how well teachers boost student test scores — the plaintiffs put on evidence that minority students are considerably more likely to be assigned the very worst teachers.

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