California teachers take a win, tenure laws to stay

The state Supreme Court of California declined to hear the highly contested Vergara v. California case that challenged state tenure laws, thus upholding current job protection laws for teachers throughout the state.

These laws grant the protections of tenure to teachers once they have worked for two years. Teacher tenure laws were originally devised as a means to prevent teachers from being fired for personal or political reasons, including the firing of experienced teachers to hire less expensive new teachers.

“Without teacher tenure, more experienced teachers could be let go because of arbitrary reasons,” social studies teacher Mark Mladinich commented. “Overall, I definitely support it.”

Vergara v. California was originally filed in May 2012 and alleged that several state statutes regarding teacher tenure violated the California Constitution by disparately impacting minority students in poorer school districts.

“There’s a fear that teachers who can’t teach stay in the profession and don’t help students,” Mladinich stated. “The hope is that students are getting veteran teachers that can teach well.”

“There are lots of pros and cons,” Spanish teacher Antonio Acosta shared. “In my former district, I did see really terrible teachers that took advantage of tenure that didn’t teach students at all.”

The attorneys of the nine student plaintiffs claimed that “the challenged statutes result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment, and that these teachers are disproportionately situated in schools serving predominately low-income and minority students….the challenged statutes violate their fundamental rights to equality of education.”

In June 2014, Judge Rolf Treu of the California Superior Court ruled that all of the statutes challenged by the student plaintiffs were unconstitutional because the state constitution guarantees free public education for all.

But in April 2016, a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision and held that the challenged statutes did not violate the state constitution. In May, the students’ lawyers asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider the reversal and reinstate the trial court’s ruling.

The State Supreme Court declined to review the case in August, apparently settling the issue for now.

“At the end of the day, I get to keep my job,” Acosta remarked.

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