State Supreme Court upholds California teacher tenure laws

Nine-studentlawsuit, Vergara v. State of California, was filed against state officials in 2012

The California Supreme Court 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 today'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.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

— Bay City News Service

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5 people like this
Posted by Hot slide
a resident of Oak Tree Acres
on Aug 23, 2016 at 11:36 am

Well, what a big surprise ! The governing bodies of this State mirror those of the national politicos: corrupt. I worked in union environments all my life and experienced the same BS, you cannot get rid of a poor worker. And anyone that owns a business will tell you that just ONE poor employee has a devastating effect on the whole workforce. If a poor worker is getting paid for doing a poor job, then why should I bust my ass? Of course, we are much better off here because of the high average income. But take a look at the large cities and the graduation rates. There are certainly other factors, but bad teachers abound in larger cities, and there is no way in hell you can get rid of them. The court just reinforced this aspect. Do you think things will now get better or worse?

5 people like this
Posted by Sueme
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2016 at 12:38 pm

What a shame. Once again the unions win and the children lose.

Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on Aug 23, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Not a big fan of giving teachers tenure after only two years or laws giving protection to teachers accused of poor or incompetent teaching, but trying to attack such laws on the grounds that they are un-Constitutional seems like a losing strategy that was doomed to failure.

9 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 23, 2016 at 3:42 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

Completely stupid decision. Tenure was meant to protect college professors from being fired for teaching controversial material - fair at the time and grade level.

It was never meant to protect poor performing teachers, or even teachers at the elementary or high school levels where content is state dictated. Complete misappropriation of its intention for self serving interests. Meanwhile we argue over costco......

2 people like this
Posted by Get the Facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2016 at 3:44 pm

Get the Facts is a registered user.

Teachers can be dismissed after they have tenure, I have seen it happen. It takes work on the park of the principal, but good principals will put in the time. If you have a problem with a poor performing teacher, take it to the principal and make them do their job.

The tenure rules are there to give due process. I have seen numerous teachers dismissed in the first two years for poor reasons, for example, maybe the principal didn't like them. But with tenure, a principal just can't get rid of you because you are too old, too inexperienced, too outspoken, too union, too tall, or for whatever reason they want.

6 people like this
Posted by Crumudgeon
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Aug 23, 2016 at 7:26 pm

Get The FActs,

We saw what happened to Vranesh when he tried challenge teachers.
They had him fired on a trumped up accusation. Any principal in his right mind got the message. Just don't make waves and hop on the tenure train.

What about the kids? That's alright they all grow up and move on.
Time is always on the teachers side. Some teachers (not all) can do a rotten job and then promote the poor kid to the next grade. Repeat the process 12 times and the kid is gone for good. Out of sight out of mind.

Does anyone think a rational principal wants to take on the union that he belongs to?

3 people like this
Posted by res1
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 23, 2016 at 10:08 pm

res1 is a registered user.

Get the Facts, you must be involved with the teacher's union.

I have seen teachers being shuffled from school to school because it was so hard to get rid of a teacher with tenure the district moves them around. My kids have had teachers that everybody knew were poor teachers and even the principal and district staff I spoke with knew there were a lot of complaints, but too hard to dismiss the teacher. Even if the teacher is caught doing something terrible , the union will always be there to support the teacher (I have seen it first hand).

The reason you see teachers removed within two years for 'no apparent reason' is because of tenure. Once they are there for two years, it is quite difficult to get rid of them. So if there is anything you do not like about the teacher meeting the requirements, you have to get rid of them by the two year mark. Some of them could become great teachers if given a bit more time but the union rules of tenure prevent the district from taking any risk.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood

on Aug 23, 2016 at 10:37 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

8 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 23, 2016 at 10:40 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

Tenure does nothing to keep good teachers, if anything it probably only frustrates them as they're the ones having to pick up the slack for mediocre teachers and get grouped in the same bunch.

A completely bureaucratic and wasteful benefit that only serves the interests of the bottom performers.

Name your price, I'd write a check for almost any parcel tax, bond measure, etc. if it came with provisions to eliminate tenure forever.

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

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