clear
Tuesday May 5th, 2015 5:24AM

Judge strikes down California teacher tenure

By The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California's public school teachers as unconstitutional Tuesday, saying such laws harm students - especially poor and minority ones - by saddling them with bad teachers who are almost impossible to fire.<br /> <br /> In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education.<br /> <br /> Siding with the nine students who brought the lawsuit, he ruled that California's laws on hiring and firing in schools have resulted in "a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms."<br /> <br /> He agreed, too, that a disproportionate number of these teachers are in schools that have mostly minority and low-income students.<br /> <br /> The judge stayed the ruling pending appeals. The case involves 6 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade.<br /> <br /> The California Attorney General's office said it is considering its legal options, while the California Teachers Association, the state's biggest teachers union with 325,000 members, vowed an appeal.<br /> <br /> "Circumventing the legislative process to strip teachers of their professional rights hurts our students and our schools," the union said.<br /> <br /> Teachers have long argued that tenure prevents administrators from firing teachers on a whim. They contend also that the system preserves academic freedom and helps attract talented teachers to a profession that doesn't pay well.<br /> <br /> Other states have been paying close attention to how the case plays out in the nation's most populous state.<br /> <br /> "It's powerful," said Theodore Boutrous Jr., the students' attorney. "It's a landmark decision that can change the face of education in California and nationally."<br /> <br /> He added: "This is going to be a huge template for what's wrong with education."<br /> <br /> In striking down several laws regarding tenure, seniority and other protections, the judge said the evidence at the trial showed the harm inflicted on students by incompetent teachers.<br /> <br /> "The evidence is compelling," he said. "Indeed, it shocks the conscience."<br /> <br /> The judge cited an expert's finding that a single year with a grossly ineffective teacher costs a classroom full of students $1.4 million in lifetime earnings.<br /> <br /> The lawsuit contended that incompetent teachers are so heavily protected by tenure laws that they are almost impossible to fire. The plaintiffs also charged that schools in poor neighborhoods are used as dumping grounds for the bad teachers.<br /> <br /> Los Angeles School Superintendent John Deasy testified that it can take over two years on average - and sometimes as long as 10 - to fire an incompetent tenured teacher. The cost of doing so, he said, can run from $250,000 to $450,000.<br /> <br /> In his ruling, the judge, a Republican appointee to the bench, said the procedure under the law for firing teachers is "so complex, time-consuming and expensive as to make an effective, efficient yet fair dismissal of a grossly ineffective teacher illusory."<br /> <br /> The judge also took issue with laws that say the last-hired teacher must be the first fired when layoffs occur - even if the new teacher is gifted and the veteran is inept.<br /> <br /> The judge declined to tell the Legislature exactly how to change the system, but expressed confidence it will do so in a way that passes constitutional muster and provides "each child in this state with a basically equal opportunity to achieve a quality education."<br /> <br /> The case was brought by a group of students who said they were stuck with teachers who let classrooms get out of control, came to school unprepared and in some cases told them they'd never make anything of themselves.<br /> <br /> "Being a kid, sometimes it's easy to feel like your voice is not heard. Today, I am glad I did not stay quiet," said one of the students, Julia Macias. "I'm glad that with the support of my parents I was able to stand up for my right to a great education."<br /> <br /> The lawsuit was backed by wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch's nonprofit group Students Matter, which assembled a high-profile legal team including Boutrous, who successfully fought to overturn California's gay-marriage ban.<br /> <br /> Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the nation's biggest teachers union, bitterly criticized the lawsuit as "yet another attempt by millionaires and corporate special interests to undermine the teaching profession" and privatize public education.<br /> <br /> U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan hailed the judge's ruling as a chance for schools everywhere to open a conversation on equal opportunity in education.<br /> <br /> "The students who brought this lawsuit are, unfortunately, just nine out of millions of young people in America who are disadvantaged by laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students," he said. "Today's court decision is a mandate to fix these problems."<br /> <br /> The trial represented the latest battle in a nationwide movement to abolish or toughen the standards for granting teachers permanent employment protection and seniority-based preferences during layoffs.<br /> <br /> Dozens of states have moved in recent years to get rid of such protections or raise the standards for obtaining them.<br />
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 4 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 4 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 4 months ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 4 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 4 months ago )
Local/State News
Committee leaves transportation funding to lawmakers
Georgia will have to cover a $1 billion to $1.5 billion transportation funding gap to stay economically competitive, a committee of lawmakers is warning in a report issued Tuesday.
5:36AM ( 4 months ago )
US off war footing at year's end, but wars go on
Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.
6:13PM ( 4 months ago )
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 4 months ago )
Politics
Obama again avoids calling 1915 Armenian killings 'genocide'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to ful...
1:00PM ( 1 week ago )
Ex-NFL star Hernandez convicted of murder, sentenced to life
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for a deadly late-night shooting, sealing the d...
8:54PM ( 2 weeks ago )
Clinton kicks off 2016 campaign online, heads next to Iowa
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped back into presidential politics on Sunday, making a much-awaited announcement she will again seek the White House with a promise to serve as the "champi...
7:56PM ( 3 weeks ago )
Hall, White, Jefferson schools recognized nationally for use of technology
Three school districts in northeast Georgia - Hall, White, and Jefferson - have received national recognition for their use use of innovative technologies. They earned top spots in the Center for Digital Education's and the National School Boards Association's 10th annual Digital School Districts Survey.
By Staff
1:00PM ( 3 weeks ago )
US Capitol lockdown lifted after man fatally shoots himself
WASHINGTON (AP) — A precautionary lockdown of the U.S. Capitol was lifted after about two hours Saturday following a suicide by a man carrying a protest sign.The man died after shooting himself on the...
6:15PM ( 3 weeks ago )