Search results for: "vergara"

A judge in New Jersey threw out a lawsuit intended to remove teachers’ seniority rights. This is the third loss for the corporate reformer groups that have tried to use the courts to strip away teachers’ job security. The “reformers” blame teachers and unions for low test scores while ignoring overwhelming evidence that poverty is the proximate cause of low scores.

The first was the Vergara lawsuit in California, where a group called “Students Matter,” founded by a Silicon Valley billionaire, claimed that teacher tenure (due process of law) denied poor children equal opportunity. The plaintiffs won in the lowest court. They lost on appeal. And they lost again when they appealed to the states’ highest court.

A group found by former TV personality Campbell Brown called the Partnership for Educational Justice filed copycat suits in other states. One was tossed by a lower court.

Earlier this month, a judge in New Jersey dismissed a legal challenge to teacher seniority rules.

Rachel Cohen of The American Prospect reports on the corporate reformers’ latest defeat in court:

“Another legal effort to weaken teacher job protections through the courts has been dismissed, this time in the Garden State. On Wednesday afternoon, a New Jersey Superior Court judge tossed the latest case, ruling that the plaintiffs—six parents from Newark Public Schools—failed to prove that seniority-based layoffs harmed their students.

“Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ), a national education reform group that aims to challenge teacher job protections across the country, funded the New Jersey lawsuit. Originally filed in November, the case marked the third time PEJ has gone after tenure provisions. Their first case filed in New York in 2014, is currently before the state Supreme Court. In October, a Minnesota district judge dismissed PEJ’s second suit, filed there in 2016. That case has since been appealed.”

Campbell Brown’s news site, The 74, reported the outcome of the case.

“A New Jersey judge swiftly dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday that challenged state rules requiring school districts to base teacher layoffs on seniority regardless of performance in the classroom.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson told a Trenton courtroom that the plaintiffs had failed to establish how seniority-based layoff rules known as “last in, first out” were harming their children.

“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.

“The lawsuit, HG v. Harrington, was filed in November on behalf of a dozen Newark students, claiming that “last in, first out” mandates governing teacher layoffs violate their right to a “thorough and efficient” and “equal” education system under the state Constitution.

“The complaint was sponsored by The Partnership for Educational Justice, a national education reform nonprofit founded by 74 co-founder Campbell Brown. Named defendants include the New Jersey State Board of Education and Newark Public School District.

“The American Federation of Teachers and the New Jersey Education Association, considered “intervening” defendants in the case, filed the motion to dismiss.”

The Education Law Center reminds us that the California Supreme Court made the right decision on teacher tenure (Vergara) but passed up a chance to make funding equitable across the state. One would think that there should be a right to go to a public school that is adequately and equitably funded. But not yet.

CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT GOES 1 FOR 2: ENDS TENURE CASE, BUT TURNS AWAY CHALLENGE TO INADEQUATE SCHOOL FUNDING

On August 23, the California Supreme Court denied petitions for review in two cases asking the courts to declare state education laws unconstitutional. Campaign for Quality Education (CQE) and Robles-Wong v. State claimed the state’s school funding system violated the state constitution, and Vergara v. State challenged laws on teacher tenure, dismissal, and seniority.

Education Law Center, joined by civil rights organizations, filed amicus (friend of the court) briefs in both cases, arguing that the Supreme Court deny review — and effectively end — the Vergara tenure case and accept review in CQE Robles-Wong to allow the school funding case to proceed to trial.

In a 4-3 decision in CQE Robles-Wong, the Court denied review of lower court rulings and, instead, affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the complaints for “fail[ure] to state a claim for which judicial relief may be accorded,” thereby denying plaintiffs a trial on the merits of their claims.

The Court majority denied review without comment. But, three Justices would have accepted the case for review, two of whom wrote strong dissents. In his dissent, Justice Liu wrote,

It is regrettable that this court, having recognized education as a fundamental right in a landmark decision 45 years ago (Serrano v. Priest), should now decline to address the substantive meaning of that right. The schoolchildren of California deserve to know whether their fundamental right to education is a paper promise or a real guarantee.

In Vergara, the Court denied review of the Court of Appeal decision, which found plaintiffs had failed to show a causal connection between the challenged statutes and an alleged inferior educational opportunity. The civil rights brief opposed the Vergara plaintiffs’ claims and explained to the courts that fair and sufficient funding is essential to providing a high quality teacher workforce in California’s school districts. The brief also recounted the expansive research showing that adequate educational resources yield better results for students.

“The California Supreme Court got it right in denying review in Vergara,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director and a leading education rights litigator. “The media attention on Vergara, however, overshadowed Robles Wong, a ruling with far more impact on the educational opportunities afforded California’s public school children.”

Mr. Sciarra added that, “in Robles Wong, the Supreme Court allowed an Appellate Court ruling to stand which effectively holds that public school children cannot vindicate their fundamental right to an education under the California constitution in the California courts. The ruling also prevents courts from hearing evidence and deciding on the constitutionality of California’s school finance system — among the most inadequate in the nation.”

California has the largest public education system in the nation, serving over 6 million K-12 students—one in eight U.S. students. Nearly half of those students qualify for federal free and reduced priced lunch, the benchmark for student poverty.

Education Law Center Press Contact:
Molly A. Hunter
Education Justice, Director
mhunter@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 19

Mercedes Schneider does one of her trademark investigations of the finances of Students Matter, the organization that tried to declare teacher tenure unconstitutional.

It turns out that the organization is funded by the usual billionaires, has spent millions on legal fees, and is deep in debt. It exists to litigate. It wants to ruin teachers’ lives, assuming that’s the best way to help children of color.

Who is on the board?

“Board members include:

former StudentsMatter policy director and former Parent Revolution exec director Ben Austin;

former Chief of School Family and Parent/Community Services for Los Angeles Unified School District Maria Casillas;

former LAUSD superintendent John Deasy;

former California state senator Becky Morgan;

former chief of staff to VP Joe Biden and former chief domestic policy advisor to former Pres Bill Clinton, Bruce Reed;

investment banker and venture capitalist Arthur Rock, and

former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association and founding CEO of Fortify, a pioneer in the software security market, Ted Schlein.

StudentsMatter lists a single staffer, David Stanley:

David Stanley leads major gifts fundraising at Students Matter. He enlists philanthropists to serve as key partners to Students Matter and helps sustain the organization’s high-performing Board.

Prior to joining Students Matter in January 2014, David was Executive Director of Teach For America….”

What a close-knit little world the “reformers” inhabit! Bruce Reed is also CEO of the Broad Foundation that funds Students Matter. Arthur Rock is a major donor to TFA (he personally funds all the TFA interns who work on Capitol Hill and protect TFA).

Peter Greene analyzes the Vergara case, now case closed after the California Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from its billionaire backers.

Reformers say that getting rid of teacher tenure will spur innovation. Peter says, “What?” What teacher will dare to be different when they may be fired at any time for any reason.

Reformers say that getting rid of teacher tenure will attract more bright young people to teaching. Peter says, “What?” More people will be drawn to teachers if there are no job protections?

Peter refers to a mass email by Jeanne Allen at the pro-choice, pro-charter, pro-voucher Center for Education Reform in D.C., and he writes: :

“Yes, being able to hire and fire teachers at will would totally drive innovation because… reasons? It’s the Dread Pirate Roberts School of Management (“I’ll probably kill you today.”) But then, Allen also assumes that hiring and firing are only based on years of experience– wait– hiring is based on years in the classroom??!! In fact, firing is pretty much always on turning out to be bad at teaching. Now, maybe she means layoffs based on years of experience, but as we see in places like Chicago, that’s not even true everywhere. At any rate, we know that the traditional system promotes stability and protects the district’s investment in teaching staff.”

Be sure to read the comments, where Jeaane Allen responds and Peter parries.

Only hours after losing its lawsuit to block teacher tenure in California, the Silicon Valley-funded “Students Matter”filed a lawsuit in Connecticut, claiming that the state’s restrictions on magnet schools and charter schools discriminated against inner-city children.

Curious. Why isn’t this group suing the state for not giving the neediest schools the funds to reduce class sizes and provide social and medical services to the children?

“California-based educational-advocacy group has filed a federal lawsuit charging that Connecticut’s restrictions on magnet and charter schools harm city children and violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Students Matter, a group best known for bringing an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to eliminate teacher tenure in California, filed a 71-page complaint Tuesday charging that “inexcusable educational inequity” in Connecticut was primarily the result of state laws “that prevent inner-city students from accessing even minimally acceptable public-school options.”

“The group is taking aim at laws that have put a moratorium on new magnet schools, limit the expansion of charter schools, and set per-student funding levels for districts participating in the Open Choice program in which city students attend suburban schools.

“A statement from Students Matter said, “Year after year, these parents have tried to avoid sending their children to failing public schools by trying to enroll them in magnet schools, charter public schools or other adequate public school alternatives.”

“However, the group contends that children have been “forced to remain in failing schools” because laws prevent magnets and charters from “scaling and meeting the need for high-quality schools demanded by Connecticut’s population.”

Hmmm. If students have a constitutional right to attend charter schools, do charter schools have the right to refuse admission?

I wonder if TIME Magazine will give the story a cover, as it did for Vergara, claiming that Silicon Valley knows how to fix failing schools. Or the cover it gave to Michelle Rhee, holding a broom, saying that she knew how to fix the public schools of D.C.

I have an idea: since David Welch, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur behind Students Matter, knows how to fix low-scoring schools, why doesn’t he offer to take over a district in California and show us how to do it?

Mercedes Schneider posts here the dissents of the three judges who wanted to rehear the case. The majority of four denied the rehearing, agreeing with the lower court.

This just in:

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the California Supreme Court’s decision to reject the plaintiffs’ petition for review in Vergara v. California.

“I am relieved by the court’s decision declining an appeal of the unanimous California Court of Appeal ruling upholding California educators’ due process rights. The billionaire-funded attack, from its inception, tried to pit our children against their teachers—people who make a difference in our children’s lives every day—rather than understand and solve the real problems ailing public education. Now that this chapter is closed, we must embrace our shared responsibility to help disadvantaged kids by supporting them so they can reach their full potential. While that starts with teachers, it also means providing programs and services that engage students and address their well-being.

“I hope this decision closes the book on the flawed and divisive argument that links educators’ workplace protections with student disadvantage. Instead, as the expert evidence clearly showed—and the Court of Appeal carefully reasoned—it was the discretionary decisions of some administrators, rather than the statutes themselves, that contributed to the problems cited by the plaintiffs.

“It is now well past time that we move beyond damaging lawsuits like Vergara that demonize educators and begin to work with teachers to address the real issues caused by the massive underinvestment in public education in this country. The state of California, like many others, remains in the throes of a serious teacher shortage. We need to hire, support and retain the best teachers, not pit parents against educators in a pointless blame game that does nothing to help disadvantaged students pursue their dreams.”

– See more at: http://www.aft.org/press-release/afts-weingarten-calif-supreme-courts-decision-decline-hear-vergara#sthash.ZruIIJjh.dpuf

In a big win for teachers and their unions, the California Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from a lower court ruling. The vote was 4-3. See the report in the LA School Report (controlled by Campbell Brown and The 74) here.

The initial decision had over-ruled state laws that protected teacher tenure and seniority. That decision by Judge Rolf Treu was overturned on appeal by a unanimous three-judge court. The state supreme court let stand the last decision.

Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times reports:

In a major victory for teachers unions, the California Supreme Court has let stand a ruling that preserves traditional teacher job protections such as tenure and seniority-based layoffs.

In refusing to hear the case, the state’s high court sided not only with unions, but also the state of California and others, who contended that these job protections are both constitutional and reasonable.

The case was being closely watched across the country as a bellwether on whether courts could be used to invalidate employment rights of teachers on the grounds that they violate the rights of students.

Attorneys for a group of nine students had argued that making it easier to fire bad teachers would improve academic performance. They also claimed that speedier teacher dismissals would narrow the achievement gap that separates white, Asian and wealthier students from their lower income, black and Latino peers.

There are states that have no teacher tenure, but no evidence was introduced to demonstrate that those states have higher academic performance by low-income, black and Latino students or smaller achievement gaps.

StudentsMatter, funded by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and cheered on by the corporate reform movement, spent millions of dollars fighting tenure laws, and forced the unions to do the same.

A contact at the Los Angeles Times informed me that I got a faulty report about the Vergara decision. The California Supreme Court has not released its decision.

I apologize for misleading you.

John Thompson, teacher and historian in Oklahoma, decided to check out what the supporters of the original Vergara decision were up to. They have appealed the reversal of the original decision. The original decision struck down California statutes that protect tenure and seniority. On appeal, that lower court decision was reversed by a unanimous court. Now the plaintiffs have filed an appeal, seeking to restore the original decision. Thompson wrote a direct letter to two distinguished legal scholars who filed amicus briefs, asking them to explain why they support a decision that was anti-tenure, anti-seniority, anti-teacher, and anti-union.

After reading the names of eminent scholars who signed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff of Vergara v California, I sent a “say it ain’t so” email to a couple of them. I appreciate the responses that I received, but I must admit that they reinforced my fears about the continuing corporate reform, anti-teacher public relations campaign. As Jal Mehta explains, teaching is treated like a “semi-profession.” It’s bad enough that school reformers seek to silence our hard-earned insights, as they move us around like chess pieces, in the hopes that they can someday-over-the-rainbow devise a system of rewards and punishments that will transform our schools. It is sadder still that eminent jurists would agree that the noneducators in the Billionaires Boys Club have virtually no burden of proving that their hunches about school improvement would cause more good than harm to poor children of color.

Two legal scholars replied that they aren’t anti-teacher, and their brief is limited to a specific aspect of California constitutional law. I wonder if they would follow the same logic and write an amicus brief in support of a narrow point in the Citizens United case. After all, Vergara is just one part of a corporate assault on unions, collective bargaining and traditional public education governance; Citizens United was a similar attack on traditional electoral politics. But here is the vexing problem: legal scholars would never come out in support for Citizens United without conducting a careful review of the facts as well as the legal logic of the case. I wonder how many Vergara supporters have even read the evidence presented by the plaintiffs at trial. Had they done so, I wonder if they would see the disconnect between the experts’ narrow research methodology, their broad expressions of personal opinions on the witness stand, and the real world.

The amicus brief says that five challenged statutes should be stricken because “they guarantee education ineffectiveness without regard to the educational rights of students.” “Guarantee” is a strong word. My view is that the striking of those statutes would virtually guarantee the acceleration of the exodus of teaching talent from inner city schools. And, that gets to the heart of the issue. The case is based on opinions versus opinions. I think it is fair to say that the beliefs of the noneducators behind Vergara are held by a minority of scholars, and that the preponderance of evidence is that the contested statutes are imperfect but basically beneficial to poor children of color. I wonder if the amicus signers are aware of the huge body of social science and education history that argue against the plaintiff’s claims. But, the amicus argues that it is the state law, not the hypotheses of corporate reformers, which must carry the burden of “strict scrutiny.”

I wonder if the amicus signers are aware that the Vergara trial was fundamentally a venue for market-driven reformers’ high-dollar, anti-union publicity campaign, which presents adorable images of students who they claim are victims of the due process rights of teachers. Expert witnesses, like the Gates Foundation’s Tom Kane, presented theoretical research (mostly dealing with average outcomes) that had little or no relevance to the policy questions at hand. Their regression studies were basically props, providing numbers (of dubious relevance) for beautiful multi-colored graphics. The plan is to take their well-funded dog and pony show across the nation. For them, it’s a win-win, political hardball strategy. If they lose at trial or on appeal, teacher-bashers, like the Vergara II campaign known as Campbell Brown’s The 74, can continue with their meme, that supposedly it is “bad teachers,” protected by bad unions that keep poor children of color down. If they win, two of the nation’s largest unions are crippled, meaning that the coalition which seeks to stand up to the One Percent is undermined.

Much of the problem is rooted in segregation. There’s a huge gulf between life in the Ivory Tower and the inner city. I wonder if the signers would support a corporate effort to strip college professors of tenure. Public school teachers don’t have the same free speech rights on the job as university professors, but we need the due process rights which allow us to speak up for our students during special education IEP meetings, in student disciplinary hearings, and in debates over policy. These legal scholars not only poo-poo the claim that public school teachers have First Amendment rights, but would strip us of our legislative victories that protect the clash of ideas in the urban classroom.

I suspect the amicus signers sent their kids to elite schools where nobody would try to silence teachers defending the rights of affluent students to receive a holistic education, not just bubble-in malpractice. I wonder if they are aware of the pro-testing litmus tests that the corporate reformers who push Vergara have helped impose, such as “exiting” teachers in SIG schools who don’t pledge fidelity to teach-to-the-test under the pretense that they are “culture-killers.” Do they understand that the challenged laws have helped California resist this destructive micromanaging? Don’t they realize that striking down those laws could virtually guarantee the victory of the test, sort, reward, and punish school of output-driven reformers?

I also wonder if the signers would question their assumption that they are on the side of justice if they read Tom Kane’s latest piece which, like so many other expressions of his opinions, actually argue against Vergara. Kane argues that the education problem “is state law, combined with teacher’s employment preferences.” The Court must disregard teachers’ employment preferences because, he says, it would be too expensive to recruit and retain teachers in high-need districts. Even a $20,000 bonus has been shown to be an inadequate incentive for moving top teachers to the inner city. So, the Court must undermine duly-enacted protections against forced transfers of teachers.

That raises the question of why Kane doesn’t insist that the best and the brightest, i.e. elite college professors, be forced to transfer to the urban classroom. After all, if they have the intellect (and the interpersonal skills?) to earn tenure at elite universities, those professors must surely have the talents that would lift children in the toughest schools out of poverty.

I kid Kane, but he’s awfully disconnected from reality. His arguments make it sound like a key purpose of Vergara is to justify his pet project, his persuading of Bill Gates and the federal government into coercing more than 40 states to adopt his dubious test-driven approach to teacher evaluations. When not campaigning for Vergara, Kane repeatedly protests his mandates for value-added evaluations weren’t a fiasco, and others should be blamed for their costly failures. Now, the economist says that the Court of Appeal incorrectly ruled: “Although the statutes may lead to the hiring and retention of more ineffective teachers than a hypothetical alternative system would, the statutes do not address the assignment of teachers.” But, Kane still ignores the costs of his alternative in terms of driving teaching talent out of the profession in response to taking away our hard-earned legal rights.

Kane then shows how he misunderstands the nature of public education when criticizing the Court’s “view of the crux of the case” by concluding. “Plaintiffs still could have demonstrated a facial equal protection violation, however, by showing that the challenged statutes, regardless of how they are implemented, inevitably cause poor and minority students to be provided with an education that is not ‘basically equivalent to’ their more affluent and/or white peers.”

Once again, Kane remains oblivious to the myriad of ways that his next argument undermines Vergara’s logic. Rather than articulate a facial equal protection violation, he asserts “the challenged statutes “inevitably cause” poor and minority students to be provided with a lower quality education” in two ways:

The negative impact can take two forms, depending on the district leadership’s response to the statutes: First, if the district leadership chooses not to intervene in the flow of teachers moving between its own schools and between districts.

The second way in which the negative effects can be felt, however, is when district leaders do take counter-measures.

Kane further complains that “often collectively bargained, school districts cannot simply force effective teachers to move to high-needs schools to take the place of their less effective colleagues.” It never occurs to the economist that the personalities, backgrounds, and people skills required to teach in the inner city may be very different than those of teachers in low-poverty schools.

Let’s think for a second what Kane is saying. The life of a policy-maker is hard. Problems are complex and intertwined. The preferences of employees can’t simply be ignored because they still would have the freedom to quit and move elsewhere. So, the Court should order lawmakers to accomplish that task. Legislators should then mandate the crafting of a whole new set of laws that impose Kane’s metrics that are inherently biased against inner city teachers in order to attract more talent to the inner city!?!?

Vergara supporters would recruit and retain smarter teachers by taking away our democratic rights and ending, not mending, seniority (which, real world, is our First Amendment.) They would stifle teachers’ ability to help create an evolving balance which, we believe, may be flawed but which still protects students. Kane, like the amicus signers, would set the ground rules so that the chance of victory in the battle for the best ways to help poor children of color doesn’t go to the side which presents the best case. They would insist that we educators, and our expert witnesses, have to face strict scrutiny, and basically prove that those corporate-funded reformers’ opinions are not just misguided but basically irrational.

I had a modest proposal for university professors who want to strip tenure from teachers in elementary and secondary schools: They should prove their sincerity by giving up their own tenure. When they do that, we can take them seriously. Until they do, they are just blowing smoke.