Copycat Cases Pending in New York and Minnesota
On April 14, the California Court of Appeal held that the state statutes on teacher tenure, dismissal, and seniority do not deprive students of their right to equal protection under the California constitution. As civil rights amici urged in their brief, the Court held that plaintiffs failed to show the statutes are the cause of any group of students receiving an education inferior to other students.
The amici – Education Law Center, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Equal Justice Society, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles – asserted that plaintiffs failed to prove that state tenure and layoff laws are casually linked to a systemic lack of ineffective teachers in any specific California district or districts, thereby depriving students of their constitutional right to education.
The amici also informed the Court of the other factors – ignored by the Vergara plaintiffs – that research demonstrates do correlate to deficits in teaching quality and gaps in student outcomes, especially in high poverty districts and schools.
The civil rights brief explained that adequate education funding is the foundation for enabling California school districts to provide effective teaching for all students. Moreover, the brief presents a compelling argument that the lack of funding directly affects a student’s access to a quality education. Simply put, fair and sufficient funding is essential to provide a high quality teacher workforce in California’s school districts.
The amici brought to the Court’s attention the fact that adequate funding is a prerequisite for providing effective teaching, not only because funding for competitive salaries is necessary to attract and retain well-prepared and experienced teachers but also reasonable class sizes improve the quality of education for students. Moreover, resources for mentoring and professional development improve teaching quality and reduce turnover.
Finally, the amici recounted for the Court the expensive research showing that adequate educational resources yield better results for students.
“The Appellate Court got it right: the plaintiffs presented no proof that tenure and other teacher work laws are causing a denial of students’ education rights in any district or set of districts in California,” said David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center. “Our brief focused the Court on the real issues, particularly the need for adequate and fair funding to enable districts to attract, support and retain an effective teacher workforce, particularly in districts serving the state’s must vulnerable school children.”
In reversing a 2014 lower court ruling in this case, Vergara v. State, the Court of Appeal explained the causation burden plaintiffs bore in this facial challenge to the statutes and plaintiffs’ poor showing in trying to carry that burden. As the court stated and the evidence showed, “administrators—not the statutes—ultimately determine where teachers within a district are assigned to teach. Critically, plaintiffs failed to show that the statutes themselves make any certain group of students more likely to be taught by ineffective teachers than any other group of students.”
Molly A. Hunter
Director, Education Justice
973-624-1815, x 19
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications