In yet another blow to those who seek to dismantle due process rules for public school teachers, a New Jersey appeals court has affirmed the 2017 dismissal by a trial court of a case seeking to strike down provisions of the state’s teacher tenure law.
The plaintiffs in the case, H.G. v. Harrington, are students in the Newark Public Schools and their parents. They challenged the statutory rule mandating that “reduction in force” (RIF) decisions be based exclusively on seniority.
Despite overwhelming evidence that many factors, both in-school and out-of-school, affect student achievement, the plaintiffs attributed below-state-average student performance on test scores and graduation rates to this seniority rule, charging that it forced the district to retain “ineffective” and “partially effective” teachers. Consequently, they claimed that the tenure statute deprived Newark students of a constitutionally “thorough and efficient” education.
However, the plaintiffs conceded before the court that there was no evidence in Newark that the seniority rule actually resulted in the retention of ineffective tenured teachers at the expense of effective tenured teachers.
Because the plaintiffs put forth no evidence that the seniority rule had any effect on teacher quality in Newark, the appeals court affirmed the lower court’s decision that their claim was speculative and, therefore, not ripe for judicial review.
Teacher due process protections have become a favorite target of lawsuits by so-called education “reformers.” Yet these cases so far have gained little traction. Legal attacks in California and Minnesota similar to the New Jersey case have been rejected by the courts in those states. A lawsuit challenging New York’s teacher tenure and workplace rules is pending.
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