August 29, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Sacramento, CA – The California Supreme Court preserved tenure and seniority rights for the state’s teachers Aug. 22. By a 4–3 vote, it refused to review the lower-court decision in Vergara vs. California that held those protections constitutional.
The suit, brought by a well-financed organization called Students Matter, charged that the five state laws involved protected bad teachers’ jobs to the point where they violated students’ constitutional rights to a decent education. A judge in Los Angeles backed that claim in 2014, but a state appeals court overruled him in April. It held that the issue should be settled by the state legislature, and that the court’s job is “to determine whether the statutes are constitutional, not if they are ‘a good idea.’” The suit’s backers took the “Hail Mary pass” route of going to the courts “because the Legislature was locked up by unions,” said Michael Petrilli, president of an Ohio education think tank that calls teachers’ unions “defenders of the education status quo,” Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, said the case was “fundamentally about providing a marketplace agenda within public education—doing away with the kinds of protections teachers have won over many years, such as seniority and due process, and creating the dog-eat-dog narrative that exists in the private sector.” Read more