Teacher Tenure Gets Failing Grade in California

Posted by Tucker Nelson on Thursday, June 12th, 2014 at 1:22 pm - Permalink

Nine students’ challenged the California teacher tenure system and won on Tuesday.

Sisters Beatriz and Elizabeth Vergara, along with 7 other students, felt they had been a victim of the education system in California. The sisters claim that when they were in middle school they faced a history teacher that could not manage his classroom and provided little to no instruction. Elizabeth Vergara in an interview to PBS said that the teacher would:

…just be at his desk.  Like, just using his computer or sleeping.  And students were just using their magazines and he wouldn’t care.... And I didn’t even learn anything.  Like, I was getting behind.

 With the sisters dreams set on attending college (they would be the first in their family to go) they feel as though that the California education system failed them. That is how the case Vergara v. California was brought before the Los Angeles County Superior court. The nine students were backed by a Silicon Valley millionaire David Welch’s non-profit Students Matters, claiming that the tenure system was the root of the problem.

Judge Rolf M. Treu agreed on Tuesday. With his reasoning rooted in the 1954 Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Topeka Board “separate but equal” grounds, Judge Treu explained that the teacher tenure laws in California, deprived these students “their right to an education under the State Constitution and violated their civil rights.” The Wall Street Journal reported that “The laws at issue will remain in effect pending that appeal.”  The judge also claimed that the teacher tenure system discriminates against minority and low income students.

One of the major problems the students had with the teacher tenure system in California had to do with evaluation period of the teacher. After 2 years of evaluation, teachers in California are up for tenure. The students were claiming that this was not enough time to properly evaluate a teacher.  Many other states have a longer tenure evaluation period on average 3 years with some even longer.

It is a very costly and timely procedure to fire a teacher that has been granted tenure. CNN reported that, “Firing a bad teacher could take anywhere from two to almost 10 years and cost $50,000 to $450,000 or more.” This leaves very few options for school districts that are already strapped for cash. As a result, many students and schools are stuck with bad teachers.

Unsurprisingly, teacher unions are not pleased with the decision. In a statement released by the California Teachers Association (CTA), an affiliate of the National Education Association, the union said that:

 We are deeply disappointed, but not surprised, by this decision. Like the lawsuit itself, today's ruling is deeply flawed. This lawsuit has nothing to do with what's best for kids, but was manufactured by a Silicon Valley millionaire and a corporate PR firm to undermine the teaching profession and push their agenda on our schools.

Though we can expect the CTA to appeal this decision, it is a big win for teacher tenure reform. Many are viewing the win in California as model for many other states with targets set on New York, Connecticut, New Mexico and Oregon among others, states with powerful teacher unions.  

If teacher tenure can be challenged in a liberal state like California, then it gives hope to the rest of America. The teacher unions across America should be scared about this reform and the future existence of their organizations.

Maybe now with the California win, students like Beatriz and Elizabeth will receive the education, guidance, and instruction they need to fulfill their goals of going to college.

Isn’t that what the American dream is all about?