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APPEALS COURT AGREES WITH CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS, OVERTURNS VERGARA
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
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."
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