“The 74,” a website founded by former television anchor Campbell Brown, reports that the Partnership for Educational Justice (an anti-Union, anti-tenure, anti-seniority advocacy group founded by Campbell Brown) had their day in court in New York yesterday, and possibly for additional days.

PEJ is seeking to eliminate teacher tenure on grounds that it discriminates against black and brown children and deprives them of their rights. The presumption is that if their teachers did not have tenure, the students would get higher test scores. The lawsuit was filed in 2014. Brown’s organization is bankrolling it (Betsy DeVos was a member of the PEJ board before she became Secretary of Education).

“The lawsuit takes aim at teacher seniority and tenure protections, charging that “last in, first out” rules governing layoffs and other aspects of tenure impinge on students’ constitutional right to a “sound basic education” by keeping “chronically ineffective teachers” in classrooms.

“Among the parent plaintiffs is Tauana Goins, whose daughter’s teacher at P.S. 106 allegedly bullied the girl and called her “a loser.” Goins told The 74 she believes tenure should be based on performance rather than seniority.

“On its website, PEJ contends that New York’s tenure laws amount to lifetime job protections that are so extensive, “schools have to navigate a nearly endless bureaucratic maze to replace even the worst-performing teachers.””

PEJ has pursued the same claim in Minnesota and New Jersey, thus far without success.

“In the New Jersey lawsuit, HG v. Harrington, six plaintiff parents argue that “last in, first out” rules prevent children in low-income school districts from receiving a “thorough and efficient education.” In May, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson threw out the case, contending the plaintiffs had failed to show how their children were harmed by the rules.

“I don’t see any link other than speculation and conjecture between the LIFO statute and the denial of a thorough and efficient education to these 12 children,” Jacobson said at the time.
The parents have since appealed that decision.”

PEJ is appealing.

Here is a curious twist in the story.

Campbell Brown originally became involved in the fight against unions and teacher tenure because she was convinced that they protected sexual predators in the classrooms of New York City. In 2012 and 2014, she wrote articles in Rupert Murdoch’s anti-public school Wall Street Journal about sexual predators in public schools.

The celebrated attorney David Boies agreed to lead the fight on behalf of PEJ because he agreed that tenure was harming the civil rights of minority children. Leave aside the fact that somewhere between 40-50% of beginning teachers don’t remain in teaching because of the demands of the job. The turnover is highest in poorest communities, where children need a stable and experienced corps of committed teachers. Removing tenure would likely increase teacher turnover, especially where the needs are greatest.

But here is the irony, given Campbell’s concern about sexual predators. In addition to representing PEJ, Boies also represented the celebrated sexual predator Harvey Weinstein.

According to reporting in the New York Times and The New Yorker, Boies hired a private investigator to protect Weinstein.

An article in the Times by Deborah Rhodes on November 9 said that Boies’ role in protecting Weinstein was “egregious.”

“The stories of sexual abuse swirling around the movie producer Harvey Weinstein offer so much not to like that it is hard to imagine much more to say about men behaving badly. But it turns out there is more. One of the nation’s most respected lawyers, David Boies, is among those whose work helped Mr. Weinstein try to conceal his abusive behavior.

“Mr. Boies personally signed a contract with a private investigation organization, Black Cube, to unearth, as the contract specified, “intelligence which will help the client’s efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY Newspaper.” The client was Mr. Weinstein. The contract also authorized investigators to look for material to discredit “harmful negative information” about Mr. Weinstein in a forthcoming book. Having Mr. Boies rather than Mr. Weinstein sign the contract had the advantage of protecting the resulting information under the attorney-client privilege, which would shield it from disclosure in subsequent disputes.

“What makes the involvement of Mr. Boies so egregious is not only that it helped Mr. Weinstein conceal his abuse and undermined the First Amendment interests of the press and the public. It is also that Mr. Boies’s representation posed a conflict of interest, because his firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, was representing The New York Times, the “leading NY Newspaper,” in libel litigation at the same time.”

(I can’t supply a link to the article because The NY Times website is not allowing me to copy the link. Google it. And google the New Yorker articles by Ronan Farrow about Boies and Weinstein.)

I guess people have different thresholds of tolerance when it comes to allegations about “sexual predators.” My understanding is that the United federation of Teachers has a zero tolerance policy for teachers who are sexual predators. But some process of review is necessary so that teachers’ careers are not destroyed by false accusations.