State Supreme Court upholds California teacher tenure laws


The California Supreme Court on Monday upheld the state's laws on public-school teacher tenure after a lower court initially found them to be unconstitutional.

The state's high court denied a petition for review of a three-judge Court of Appeal panel's decision in April to overturn the 2014 ruling by a trial judge in Los Angeles that the laws on teacher tenure, dismissal and seniority were unconstitutional.

The five laws challenged in the case were a statute that gives teachers permanent tenure after two years, three that provide procedural protections to teachers whom school districts are seeking to dismiss for incompetence, and one requiring layoffs to be in the order of least seniority.

The appeals court had said attorneys for the nine students who challenged the laws hadn't proved that the laws themselves, as opposed to other factors, caused any particularly group of students to receive incompetent teachers or violated the constitutional right to equal treatment.

The appeals court's ruling said ultimately it was school district administrators, not the statutes, that determined where teachers were assigned.

The ruling overturned a decision by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rold Treu, who wrote that the laws had a "real and appreciable impact on students' right to an equal education" and disproportionately affected low-income and minority students.

The nine students' lawsuit, Vergara v. State of California was filed against state officials in 2012. It was sponsored by the Menlo Park-based group Students Matter, founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch.

The group wrote on Twitter following Monday's state Supreme Court decision, "The issues at the heart of #Vergara are not going away. #CASupremeCourt's decision falls short of the change CA students & teachers deserve."

The Burlingame-based California Teachers Association and Burbank-based California Federation of Teachers were allowed to join the case as parties defending the laws, which the unions said encourage veteran teachers to stay in the profession and young people to join it.

Two state Supreme Court judges wrote dissenting statements against the seven-judge court's decision to deny the petition for review.

"There is considerable evidence in the record to support the trial court's conclusion that the hiring and retention of a substantial number of grossly ineffective teachers in California public schools have an appreciable impact on students' fundamental right to education," Justice Goodwin Liu wrote.

"We owe the plaintiffs in this case, as well as schoolchildren throughout California, our transparent and reasoned judgment on whether the challenged statutes deprive a significant subset of students of their fundamental right to education and violate the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws," Liu wrote.

-- Bay City News Service

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5 people like this
Posted by Nebuchadnezzar
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 23, 2016 at 6:43 am

Darn! Now we are stuck with these bad teachers. The court has contributed to perpetuating declining educational standards in public schools. The unions have won yet again. Sad day indeed.

3 people like this
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 23, 2016 at 6:52 am

Quality of teaching is also found in quality of teacher training schools as well as the quality of local administrators who can see readily how good or not a first year teacher is and can at that point plan to ease them out.
All can be done rather then let the bad ones stay leaving community angry.

Another aspect not see is the quality of home environment as to level of quality reading, discussions at home rather then out hurts, level of educational perspectives at home. None of these seem to the public to matter BUT DOES a great deal

So bad teachers come from many levels and elements.

Does the home mostly watch TV or read quality books?
Does the home ever attend a library for quality searching of materials?

Simple things add up to major things down the road.

It not always the teacher, any teacher can ONLY do what the home foundation has prepared, as in self-discipline, knowing how to stay silent, listen to presentations and not just loud music, speak well other then local kid talk, read well develops at home, a few qualities which cant be started nor developed with no base from home by the teacher alone.

17 people like this
Posted by Herman Glates
a resident of Danville
on Aug 23, 2016 at 8:36 am

Herman Glates is a registered user.

Yes, it’s too bad we can’t get rid of bad teachers. California has 600,000 teachers and only around 2 teachers per year are dismissed for bad performance. What a JOKE.

After two years, teachers are granted tenure, which is essentially a job for life, as it costs the school district between $250,000 - $450,000 in legal fees to dismiss a bad teacher.

When there is a layoff, school districts must release the newest teachers first even if they are considered more talented than a veteran teacher.

The best performing teachers should be rewarded with higher pay. The bad teachers should be fired.

Tenure reform will never happen so long as the teachers union controls California politics. To the unions, job security is more important that student performance.

The only way to fight back is to elect politicians who support tenure reform.

5 people like this
Posted by Peter Kluget
a resident of Danville
on Aug 23, 2016 at 9:07 am

This was a bogus lawsuit based on a bogus argument - and the above commenters have fallen for it. There's absolutely no evidence that teacher tenure is responsible - in any way - for any deficiencies in education. None. Simply claiming that it does and using that claim as an excuse to go after tenure doesn't make it so.

The lawsuit was a straightforward political power play designed to weaken teachers' unions because the people who backed the lawsuit don't like the way teachers (or anyone else with the support of a union) vote.

Income inequality - and the shrinking of the middle class - have been accelerated by this kind of sneaky, propagandistic attacks on any laws or organizations which support and protect the rights of middle class people who work for a living. The attacks are never honest and above-board - like the bogus "voter fraud" BS which is used to justify vote suppression, they wrap their actual agenda in a carefully designed disguise. Herman Glates lets the veil slip with his comment - it's all about weakening the teacher's union, and increasing the prospects of the politicians he supports.

4 people like this
Posted by SHale99
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 23, 2016 at 6:29 pm

SHale99 is a registered user.

the simple fact is there are bad teachers and unlike most OTHER jobs nearly impossible to fire them. After 2 short years they have guaranteed employment? What other job or industry does that? None. Reason for that, I think.

Adding performance testing is, I think, pretty darn reasonable but teachers and their union fight any hint of that. WHY? does anybody have a job where they are not supervised?

4 people like this
Posted by Nebuchadnezzar
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 24, 2016 at 11:35 am

Ok. Let's not argue over who should be let go. I say, it's only fair that we provide teachers feed-back on their performance. Let every teacher be evaluated by the student and the parent - every term. Let's give them feed back on a scale of say 1 -10 on things like pedagogy, attendance, fairness in grading, coverage of course content etc. Hold the school principals responsible for providing feedback every term to the underperformers. This is nothing new. I know the unions will reject this out of hand as they have always done, but it's only fair that teachers be told how they are doing in relation to the "average" score for that school. I am in higher education and I get evaluated every term by students for every course I teach. I find the feedback very helpful!

11 people like this
Posted by Herman Glates
a resident of Danville
on Aug 24, 2016 at 12:21 pm

Herman Glates is a registered user.

Just giving feedback ain’t enough. Bad teachers need to be fired and it shouldn’t cost half a million bucks to do it.

In places like Fresno, only 2% of high school seniors are ready for college English & math. 2% ain’t good enough. Web Link

Imagine if you worked in a factory and only 2% of your work product was acceptable. You’d get fired.

Kluget says this is about income inequality. He’s right, but for the wrong reasons. Kids who get a bad education are nearly all destined to live in poverty. The first step in addressing income inequality is addressing education inequality.

All kids deserve good teachers.

1 person likes this
Posted by PTA Mom
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 24, 2016 at 3:35 pm

HERMAN GLATES, where did you find this information stating CA has 600k teachers and only 2 get fired? I know for a fact that a San Ramon middle school fired 4 teachers at the end of last year, yes, 4. So quit making things up, until then, you will still be viewed as the community dunce. And to clarify, tenure does not guarantee you will not be fired, it guarantees a teacher due process when they get a poor evaluation.

4 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Alamo
on Aug 24, 2016 at 3:44 pm

PTA Mom: with all due respect,this is really no place for insults. Everyone's opinions have value just as yours does.
My daughter in law teaches ( not locally)and has been involved in her union.In her tiny school district,it'll cost upwards of $250-300K to "fire" a tenured teacher. In this day and age, districts can't afford that kind of expenditure,so teachers stay: good/bad or otherwise.
When I was teaching on the East Coast,it took 4 years to get tenured.Our rep was a 30+ year experienced teacher who PRIDED herself on not having changed a lesson plan in 23 years.I was one of the fortunate who got her kids the following year: pathetic!!
Is this really what we want for our children?

4 people like this
Posted by SHale99
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 24, 2016 at 8:29 pm

SHale99 is a registered user.

PTA Mom: Well, at least Herman is a registered user, you are not. and name calling, please kinda kills your opinion.

Due process is fine; being protected from any type of correction is not. Not sure why the union objects so much when evaluations from students, parents, grades, principal are rejected out-of-hand.
If a teacher's students have much lower grades than other teachers under similar situations, that teacher needs help in one way or another. And if help does cure the problem, time to be let go. And if a high percent of parents begin complaining about a teacher at LEAST an investigation should begin and if it concurs; bye bye or a transfer to a student(less) position.

I mean why do teachers need tenure AND a union??

6 people like this
Posted by Herman Glates
a resident of Danville
on Aug 24, 2016 at 9:06 pm

Herman Glates is a registered user.

During trial, testimony for the plaintiffs said school districts in California brought 36 cases of unsatisfactory teacher performance between 2003 and 2013, with 22 leading to dismissal, for an average of 2.2 teachers per year.

Web Link

But thank you for playing.

4 people like this
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 25, 2016 at 7:25 am

If you think teachers are bad, go to State web site for doctors, dentists, lawyers and you will many hundreds who are banned, suspended, fined, and removed.
All for not doing proper work

Once in the classroom, every parent knows "best" and how to do it "better". But none have ever been in the breech when students daydream, slack off, dont listen, dont do the work, argue with, dismiss classwork for "fun", dont bring current materials needed, fall behind of their own will and wish, accuse others of one wrong, want to show themselves off to other members of the class, and some even fall asleep due to exhaustion from day or night before.

No human can keep up with all the errors, omissions, lacks, fall behinds of over a hundred students per term for every minute detail and if they did nothing would get accomplished in the class but tend to those details.

Each student bares the responsibility of performing to accomplish.
It's job training at a youthful age.

There are many health systems which have same kind of problems.
Kaiser has a giant law company, theirs, which are destined to protect their system and doctors and protects doctors from claims.

No difference

But bad doctoring leads to missing body parts which happen and the doctor or system is protected!!!!

Like this comment
Posted by SHale99
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 25, 2016 at 6:19 pm

SHale99 is a registered user.

f: you certainly are not referring to elementary aged school kids, aye?
You MUST be referring to what, HS aged?
I don't buy the opinion if a teacher's class all have bad grades, or if there are many parent complaining it is the KIDS fault automatically. After all, did any teacher become one under duress and didn't understand they would be teaching kids?
There are documented 'bad' teachers who keep their job only because of tenure and their union. Tenure should be a lot harder to reach and take much much longer, imho.

2 people like this
Posted by Phil
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 30, 2016 at 10:37 am

PTA Mom is Wrong! The district let some probationary teachers go, not tenured teachers. In fact, we should all be asking how many tenured teachers have been dismissed over the last few years. I think you will be shocked, but not surprised by the answer. (Hint---it is less than 1.)

I am pleased that some probationary teachers were not granted tenure, but let's not confuse this action with the district addressing the issue of some underperforming, tenured teachers. There is a big difference.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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