California Appeals Court Rules Teacher Tenure Laws are Constitutional

Yesterday, in Vergara v California, the California Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the provisions of California’s Education Code governing tenure, the teacher discipline process, and reductions in force are constitutional.

The court noted that those provisions, which help school districts to recruit and retain good teachers at a time when teachers are paid lower salaries than peers with comparable education, do not cause any particular students or group of students to be assigned to less effective teachers.

School district administrators, not the statutes, assign teachers to schools and classrooms, and the evidence at trial showed that in well- run school districts, administrators assign the strongest teachers and principals to high-needs schools.

In the Vergara case, EJS signed onto an amicus brief of civil rights organizations, including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the SF Bay Area, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and the Education Law Center supporting the positions of the state and the California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers, who intervened in support of the statutes.

Other amici who supported the position of CTA and CFT and the state included constitutional law scholars Erwin Chemerinsky, Pam Karlan, and Charles Ogletree, and approximately 100 professors and deans from schools of education, including Diane Ravitch from NYU , Ed Heartell from Stanford, and Gary Orfield from UCLA.

Amici argued that the Vergara case is a distraction, and that the problems in our schools should be addressed by increasing per pupil funding and by supporting teachers, not by scapegoating teachers or taking away their job security.

“EJS is particularly gratified that the Court’s reasoning in this case adopts, at least in part, the argument EJS has been making for years that proof of intent should not be required to make a constitutional challenge to a California statute on Equal Protection grounds,” said Eva Paterson, EJS President.

The court wrote: “ When … a statute impinges a fundamental right, … strict scrutiny will apply, irrespective of motive or intent.”

Read The New York Times article and download the court decision here.

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