Ewin Chemerinsky, Dean of the School of Law at the University of California in Irvine, wrote this compelling article about the Vergara decision and teachers’ due process rights.
He writes, in part:
American public education desperately needs to be improved, especially for the most disadvantaged children. But eliminating teachers’ job security and due-process rights is not going to attract better educators — or do much to improve school quality.
In recent months, several respected progressive scholars and politicians have endorsed litigation, like a successful case in California, to weaken the protections afforded public school teachers. Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown is spearheading a suit in New York. Their goals are laudable, but their means are misguided.
The problem of inner-city schools is not that the dedicated teachers who work in them have too many rights, but that the students who go to them are disadvantaged in many ways, the schools have inadequate resources and the schools are surrounded by communities that are dangerous, lack essential services and are largely segregated both by race and class.
Taking the modest job security accorded by tenure away from teachers will address none of these problems.
The causal relationship alleged by the plaintiffs in these lawsuits — that teachers’ rights cause minority students to receive substandard educations — is belied by readily available empirical evidence.
If the plaintiffs were correct, similarly situated students in states with weak protection of teachers — such as Texas, Alabama and Mississippi — would have higher levels of achievement and the racial achievement gap would be smaller in those states. But there is no evidence that minority students in Houston, Birmingham or Jackson outperform those in Los Angeles or New York.
One of the biggest challenges in education today is teacher retention. In the District of Columbia, 80% of teachers leave within five years. Getting rid of tenure and due process will not encourage more teachers to stay in the profession. It will drive them out and discourage other qualified people from entering the profession in the first place.
The plaintiffs who are bringing these lawsuits have misappropriated the soaring rhetoric and fundamental principles of the civil rights movement. Civil rights lawyers have worked for decades to end racial segregation in schools and neighborhoods and equalize school funding.
Cloaking the attack on teachers’ rights in the rhetoric of the civil rights movement is misleading. Lessening the legal protections for teachers will not advance civil rights or improve education.