When the Los Angeles School Unified School District was sued by lawyers claiming that due process for teachers harms the civil rights of minority students, one of those who testified FOR the plaintiffs and AGAINST the district was Superintendent John Deasy. The high-powered lawyers are paid by a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur.
The goal of the lawsuit is to remove the single most important protection that teachers have: freedom from arbitrary and capricious firing, and the right to a fair hearing before an independent arbitrator. This is not a right lightly awarded (or should not be); it is awarded by administrators after two years of teaching in the Los Angeles district. It is the responsibility of leaders to make sound judgments about teachers based on observation and to deny tenure to any who are “grossly ineffective,” or “ineffective” in any sense. In other jurisdictions, the probationary period is three or four years. Some states allow teachers to be fired at will. That seems to be Deasy’s goal.
The story begins:
“Last week’s testimony in the Vergara v. California trial raised many an eyebrow when Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent John E. Deasy testified on behalf of plaintiffs in a lawsuit whose defendants had originally included LAUSD.
Despite its supporters’ protests to the contrary, Vergara is widely seen as a frontal attack against statutory guarantees of due process and seniority rights for state teachers. The suit is the brainchild of Students Matter, a Bay Area nonprofit created by wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch and partly financed by L.A. billionaire Eli Broad.
“Under friendly direct examination by plaintiff attorney Marcellus McRae, the superintendent offered testimony that supported the suit’s contentions that the way in which teachers are fired, laid off and granted tenure has an adverse impact on the overall quality of the teacher workforce and illegally discriminates against low-income and minority students.
At one point Deasy’s apparent eagerness to anticipate McRae drew an instruction from Judge Rolf M. Treu for the superintendent to wait for the question before supplying the answer.
“Deasy readily agreed that due process laws complicated dismissals of “grossly ineffective teachers” and damaged the morale of the profession. “Morale is absolutely affected,” Deasy insisted, before attacking the state’s teacher seniority policies.
He also denied any connection between student performance and poverty. “I believe the statistics correlate,” he said, “but I don’t believe in causality.”
“Deasy’s performance as a friendly witness should not have come as a complete surprise, however. The day after the suit was originally filed against the state and the L.A. school district in 2012, then-defendant Deasy took the unusual step of issuing a press release endorsing the lawsuit’s aims. (Deasy, through a spokesperson, declined to comment for this article.)
For the city’s public school teachers and longtime education policy observers, the spectacle of the L.A. school chief siding with a lawsuit against the very system he is paid to uphold has become a familiar feature of Deasy’s fractious, two-and-half year tenure.”