Education community stands united against 'Vergara' suit as closing arguments wrap up trial.
March 27, 2014
LOS ANGELES — The education community stood united today against the misguided, two-month-long Vergara v. State of California lawsuit trial challenging due process rights for teachers as the deceptive litigation came to a close. Educators and attorneys speaking at a morning news conference in front of the Los Angeles Superior Court said that the costly trial clearly showed that these laws provide important support not simply for teachers, but for students and quality public education. They also told reporters that the premises of the lawsuit were false, and the plaintiffs had utterly failed to make a convincing case.
Speakers at the press conference included Jim Finberg, attorney for CFT and CTA; Joshua Pechthalt, California Federation of Teachers President; Dean E. Vogel, California Teachers Association President; Gloria Martinez, a special education and National Board Certified teacher at Rowan Avenue Elementary in Los Angeles Unified School District; Erika Jones, a kindergarten teacher at Angeles Mesa Elementary in LAUSD; Casey Carlson, a special education high school teacher from Santa Cruz Unified School District; and Jeff Seymour, former superintendent of the El Monte City School District, and a defense witness in the trial.
Jim Finberg, attorney for CFT and CTA, said, “The evidence has established that the tenure, dismissal, and reverse seniority layoff provisions serve important interests. They help school districts recruit and retain qualified teachers, which is critical to student learning. Plaintiffs present a false dichotomy. They assert that one has to choose between teacher rights and student learning. In fact, the interests of teachers and students are aligned. When teachers have good working conditions, students thrive.”
“We're confident that if the judge rules based on the evidence we presented, we will prevail. Regardless of the outcome, we’re going to continue to fight for students and educators," said California Teachers Association President Dean E. Vogel. "The threat of corporate special interests and billionaires who want to push their agenda on our students is very real and will continue, even if the plaintiffs lose this case. We’re going to see this struggle to the end—until our students are no longer used by corporate reformers to convert their millions into billions.”
A group of billionaires and corporate special interests who want to push their education agenda on California schools filed a lawsuit last year attacking educators’ professional rights. The resulting trial, Vergara v. State of California, aims to overturn due process protections for teachers. It began on January 27 and is ongoing - possibly for several more weeks. If upheld, it will make it harder to attract and retain quality teachers in our schools. The lawsuit alleges that California laws governing teacher dismissals, attainment of permanent status and layoffs are unconstitutional and should be eliminated. The allegations—which are baseless and meritless—circumvent input by local parents and educators through the legislative process. CTA and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) got involved in this lawsuit to ensure all stakeholders have input in education policy decisions and to protect the rights of educators for the sake of the students they teach.
Simply put, this lawsuit highlights the wrong problems, proposes the wrong solutions, and follows the wrong process. This is yet another attempt by the usual corporate special interests to undermine the teaching profession and push their agenda on California public schools and students. Circumventing the legislative process to strip teachers of their due process rights will not improve student learning, will make it harder to attract and retain quality teachers in our classrooms, and ignores all the research that shows experience is a key factor in effective teaching. This is a blatant effort to legislate from the bench, keeping parents and educators out of education policy decisions. Download Key Points.
What you need to know:
- This lawsuit is baseless and meritless, and does nothing to address the real problems facing our schools. The problems we face with layoffs are not because of Education Code provisions or local collective bargaining agreements, but lack of funding. The real needs facing our students today are adequate resources, smaller class sizes, parental involvement and quality teacher training.
- Contrary to what the lawsuit claims, not one teacher in California has a job for life. In fact, teachers can be fired in the first two years for no reason at all. Current law ensures experienced teachers are not dismissed for arbitrary, unfair or unjustifiable reasons, and ensure that budget-based layoffs are implemented in an objective manner that is free of favoritism.
- The lawsuit ignores all research that shows teaching experience contributes to student learning. Studies show that teacher experience enhances teacher effectiveness and increases productivity at all grade levels in reading and in math.
- This lawsuit will make it harder to attract and retain quality teachers in our schools. In cities, we already lose 50 percent of teachers before their fifth year due to burnout and frustration in an underfunded school system. Eroding teacher rights is not the solution.
- The backers of this lawsuit include a “who’s who” of the billionaire boys club and their front groups whose real agendas have nothing to do with protecting students, but are really about privatizing public schools and attacking teachers and their unions. The proponents are good at coming up with fair-sounding names like “Students Matter” or “Students First” to mask their real agenda.
- Wrong solution! This lawsuit is trying to legislate from the bench and exclude meaningful input from parents, educators and lawmakers. If you have issues with education laws, rather than filing costly law suits go through the legislative process where parents, educators and all community members can have input. The only way to have honest education change is to include all stakeholders, including educators and parents, in the discussion.