Sunday, September 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Competing views of teacher tenure on view in California case

By
April 19, 2014 |

By Jennifer Medina
LOS ANGELES — These are two vastly different portraits of California’s education system. In one, poor and minority students are frequently placed in front of incompetent teachers whose blackboards are filled with basic misspellings and who play irrelevant movies instead of devising lesson plans for class time.

In the other, the vast majority of teachers are providing students with all they need to learn, and well-run school districts are able to ferret out and dismiss the ones who are not.

For more than two months, lawyers have been arguing in state court over whether California’s laws governing teacher tenure, firing and layoffs violate students’ constitutional right to an education. And by the beginning of July, Rolf Treu, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, will deliver the first legal ruling on the case, which has attracted national attention.

In states around the country, opponents of tenure rules, who have tried and largely failed to bring about changes through state legislatures, are looking to this case as a test of whether taking their arguments to court could prove more successful.

Lawyers for the students named in the case, Vergara v. California, have argued that California students are subject to an unfair system that deprives them of a fair education, which translates into the loss of millions of dollars in potential earnings over their lifetimes. But lawyers for the state and the teachers’ unions counter that the problems in the system have little or nothing to do with the rules that govern how teachers are hired and fired.

In many ways, the case echoes the political debate over tenure that has gone on for years. Some school superintendents and education advocates have pushed to loosen laws granting teachers permanent employment status, which they argue are anachronistic and harmful. Unions and their allies, however, say such laws are necessary to protect teachers.

Three states and the District of Columbia have eliminated tenure, and a few other states prohibit using seniority as the primary criterion to determine who is laid off. But efforts to enact similar changes have repeatedly failed in California and New York, where teachers’ unions hold considerable sway over the state legislatures.

Students Matter, a group backed by David F. Welch, a Silicon Valley technology magnate, recruited a group of students to file as plaintiffs against the state of California and hired a high-profile legal team to try to win the debate in the courtroom. No matter what Judge Treu decides, the case will almost certainly be appealed, and Welch has said he plans to help bring similar cases around the country.

Under California law, teachers are eligible for tenure after 18 months on the job, and the teachers who are hired most recently are the first to lose their jobs during layoffs. School administrators who try to dismiss a teacher with tenure for poor performance must complete a lengthy procedure.

“Students taught by grossly ineffective teachers fall behind for years,” said Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, who is best known for winning the case that struck down California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Students who are taught by such teachers lose up to $1.4 million in lifetime earnings compared with those who are taught by average teachers, according to a study by Raj Chetty, an economics professor at Harvard who testified on behalf of the plaintiffs.

In another study cited in court testimony, students in the Los Angeles Unified School District lost a full year’s worth of learning when they were placed with teachers in the bottom 5 percent of the district in terms of effectiveness. Assuming that 1 percent of the state’s roughly 275,000 teachers are ineffective, it would take more than 12 years to dismiss them all, according to the plaintiffs’ closing brief. And according to the plaintiffs, students who are black, Latino or poor are far more likely to be placed with a low-performing teacher than their white and more affluent peers.

“Even if funding and time in school are equal, students still cannot be assured of equal educational opportunities unless they have equal access to effective teachers,” Boutrous wrote in the final brief, submitted last week.

But lawyers for the state and the teachers’ unions say that while the plaintiffs have relied on complicated algorithms and emotional speech, they have done nothing to prove that students’ constitutional rights are being violated by existing teacher employment laws. In fact, the state’s lawyers argued in closing briefs, one of the teachers cited by plaintiffs as “grossly ineffective” was awarded “Teacher of the Year” by the Pasadena school district.

“Due process ensures that competent teachers aren’t dismissed unfairly or improperly,” James Finberg, a lawyer for the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers, wrote in his closing brief. The achievement gap, as the disparity between wealthy white students and poor minority students is often called, “has many causes, the majority of which involve out-of-school factors,” Finberg wrote, before arguing that high teacher turnover in low-income schools could be improved with additional funding, not a change in employment law.

Comments

comments

New York Times News Service

.

News

Elementary school counselors: necessary, but poorly funded

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Bet Haverim hosts High Holy Day services

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

 
Teams assess damage as wildfire burns

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Driver arrested for DUI after Saturday morning crash

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Help raise funds for juvenile diabetes cure

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Jewelry, art for sale at Senior Center

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Davis Community Meals needs cooks

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
UC campus chancellors granted hefty pay raises

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Send kids to camp!

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Da Vinci awarded $38,000 for restorative justice program

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

 
Hawk Hill trip planned Sept. 30

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Outdoor yoga marathon celebrates community

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Wise words

By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A12

 
.

Forum

Awareness is key to this fight

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Where is this going?

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A6

We’re living in the Golden State of emergency

By Debra DeAngelo | From Page: A6

 
Options for protection come with flu season

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Are we there yet? Not enough hours in the day to goof off

By Tanya Perez | From Page: A6Comments are off for this post

 
Paso Fino — it’s not worth it

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Archer will get my vote

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
It’s time for Davis Scouts to stand up for what is right

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

Mike Keefe cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

 
Building something at schools’ HQ

By Our View | From Page: A10

Don’t sell city greenbelt

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Paso Fino project is flawed

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Speak out

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Maybe David can beat Goliath again

By Lynne Nittler | From Page: A11 | Gallery

.

Sports

DHS gets on its Morse to beat Edison

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
JV Blue Devils drop low-scoring affair

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B2

 
Wire briefs: Giants rally falls short in San Diego

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Four local swimmers qualify for Olympic Trials

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

 
Republic FC’s fairy tale season continues

By Evan Ream | From Page: B3 | Gallery

‘We’re a way better team’ than record, says UCD’s Shaffer

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B4 | Gallery

 
UCD roundup: Aggie men pound Pomona-Pitzer in the pool

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B4

Davis 15-year-old making a splash in European F4 series

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Features

.

Arts

‘Ladies Foursome’ adds shows

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
.

Business

UCD grad’s startup earns kudos at TechCrunch event

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
Styles on target for November debut

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A7

MBI hires VP of marketing

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Rob White: What is an ‘innovation center’?

By Rob White | From Page: A9

Taylor Morrison unveils new Woodland community next weekend

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

Carol L. Walsh

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, September 21, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B8