Lawsuit Takes Aim at Teacher Protections
article by California Teaching | May 16, 2012
Representing eight students, a Bay Area nonprofit known for battling teachers unions has filed a lawsuit challenging the California laws that protect teachers from losing their jobs. They claim that these laws are misguided and keep ineffective teachers in the classroom long after they should be released.
The lawsuit explains, “A handful of outdated laws passed by the California Legislature are preventing school administrators from maintaining or improving the quality of our public educational system.”
It asks that the courts examine laws concerning teacher tenure. The suit contends that the two years required to obtain tenure is not enough time to determine how effective that teacher will be in the classroom.
“These state laws create inequalities by depriving students taught by ineffective teachers of the fundamental right to education guaranteed by the state constitution, and they have a disproportionately negative effect on low-income and minority students,” Boutrous said in a statement. “The statutes prevent school administrators from prioritizing or even considering the interests of their students when making employment and dismissal decisions. The number of grossly ineffective teachers is small, but their impact on students is enormous.”
Additionally, the suit takes aim at the teacher dismissal process. They are seeking to change the process of which teachers are chosen to be laid off. Currently the state subscribes to the practice of using seniority as the primary factor in deciding teacher dismissals.
At the same time, the suit calls for a shorter, less costly dismissal process. The group filing the suit, Student Matters, contends that this enables ineffective teachers to remain in the system far too long.
“There are so many wonderful teachers who work hard every day, but their efforts are undermined when administrators are compelled to allow grossly ineffective teachers to stay in the system in violation of the constitutional rights of students,” Theodore Boutrous Jr., a lawyer representing the eight students said to Courthouse News Service.
Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, explained to The Los Angeles Times, however, that these efforts are misguided and will do more damage than good.
“We should be fighting like crazy to make sure schools are not laying off any teachers, except those who shouldn't be in front of a classroom,” he said.
Pechthalt explained that these ineffective teachers can be dealt with under the current laws if school systems are given the proper resources and use them properly.
The defendants in the case include Governor Jerry Brown, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the California Department of Education and the L.A. Unified School District. However, LAUSD superintendent has voiced his support for the changes in the law.
“I welcome the ability to try to resolve longstanding problems that have prevented the district from supporting high-performing teachers and protecting students' rights,” Deasy said to KTLA.
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