California teacher job protection laws ruled unconstitutional

LOS ANGELES Tue Jun 10, 2014 6:45pm EDT

Trainee math teacher Mia Shaw from the Teach for America program teaches a class at George Washington Carver Middle School in Los Angeles, California July 18, 2012.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Trainee math teacher Mia Shaw from the Teach for America program teaches a class at George Washington Carver Middle School in Los Angeles, California July 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California laws granting tenure and other job protections to public school teachers hurt students and are unconstitutional, a court ruled on Tuesday in a decision that may change the way educators are hired and fired in the most populous U.S. state.

The decision by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge marked a victory for education reform groups who sued on behalf of nine students. The groups said five laws meant to protect teachers' jobs were unfair to poor and minority students by putting them at a disproportionately greater risk of being taught by less-effective teachers.

"This is a huge deal not only for California but nationally," said Marcellus McCrae, a lawyer who argued the case for the education reform group Students Matter. He called on the state to make sweeping changes to its laws and said his team was considering filing similar actions in other states.

The ruling, opposed by teacher union leaders and the state, comes at a time of bitter political wrangling over how best to reinvigorate a U.S. public school system that leaves American children lagging counterparts in countries such as Finland and South Korea.

The five laws challenged by the group include such union-backed job protections as the "first in, last out" rule, which requires that teachers with the least experience be laid off first during cutbacks. Also challenged were rules granting teachers tenure after just two years on the job and making it difficult to fire them for incompetence.

The ruling enraged representatives of the state's powerful teachers unions, who vowed to appeal.

"This decision today is an attack on teachers," said Alex Caputo-Pearl, president-elect of United Teachers Los Angeles. "An attack on a right to a hearing, due process, seniority. All are under attack."

Students Matter, which backed the lawsuit, had argued that the job protections had the unintended consequence of making poor and minority students more likely to have grossly incompetent teachers because it is difficult to fire them and many are transferred to schools in disadvantaged areas.

"The current tenure and dismissal policies in California serve neither students nor educators, but we now have an opportunity to right that wrong," said Students Matter spokesman Felix Schein. "The court’s decision is a resounding call to action to rethink these policies."

In his decision, Judge Rolf M. Treu ordered the state to stop enforcing all five rules but then stayed his own ruling pending expected appeals.

(Reporting by Dana Feldman; Writing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Eric Beech and Lisa Von Ahn)

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Comments (21)
JamVee wrote:
ALL I CAN SAY, IS IT’S ABOUT TIME! This should have happened 50 years ago, when we began to wake up to what was, or was not, unconstitutional.

Jun 10, 2014 4:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
jdunn1950 wrote:
According to the teacher’s unions, it is the parents who are responsible for the lack of education in this country. With their massive war chests, the teacher unions pound that message incessantly 24/7 to parents.

STOP LISTENING TO THIS NONSENSE! It is the teacher’s job to teach, not the parents. Parents have their own jobs (often harder and with more demanding bosses). The parents can give the children love, but it is not their job to teach their kids algebra.

If the teacher can’t effectively teach the kids algebra, they should be fired… just like the parents get fired if can’t do their jobs. If a teacher can’t motivate their students to learn the material, they should lose their job the same as a salesman will who can’t sell the company’s products.

Jun 10, 2014 5:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
dcayman wrote:
this is way past time…so sick of incompetent teachers and government workers avoiding the consequences of their stupidity…let the market get to work…

Jun 10, 2014 6:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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