For CFT: Fred Glass 510-579-3343
For CTA: Frank Wells 562-708-5425
Students stand to win or lose based on Judge’s decision
LOS ANGELES — Arguments in the misguided, two-month-long Vergara v. State of California trial challenging due process rights for teachers will come to a close today. 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.”
“This trial and the evidence clearly show that well-run districts facilitate collaboration by teachers and administrators and help ensure that students are getting the best education possible,” said Joshua Pechthalt, President of the California Federation of Teachers. “Unfortunately, the wealthy conservatives and their mouthpiece attorneys are attempting to win in court what they have failed to achieve in legislation or at the ballot box because the people of California are not with them. Parents and the broader community see through this effort to demonize teachers. We believe we will eventually be vindicated in court.”
“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.”
Gloria Martinez, a special education and National Board Certified teacher at Rowan Avenue Elementary in Los Angeles Unified School District, said, “I find it offensive that private corporations have the ability to hide under false pretenses such as 'Students Matter' in an attempt to undermine public education. These same organizations have put student interests last over and over again, and corporate interests first. Show me a community in need and I will show you a school in need, and with that, a teacher addressing those needs—whether buying supplies, donating money for indigent families, writing grants, being a nurse, psychologist, and so much more. I find it offensive that private interests get to hide behind their money while I am out in the trenches.”
Erika Jones, a kindergarten teacher at Angeles Mesa Elementary in LAUSD, said, “As a teacher who has received pink slips in the past, I know all too well the uncertainty and frustration the process creates. However, I do not blame seniority. It is the inadequate funding of public education that triggered my pink slip. Experience is an equitable way to organize the process. We educators have been forced to do so much with so little, due to the devastating cuts. We try to protect our students from the harsh reality that their schools have been consistently underfunded. That’s why we supported Proposition 30, which stopped layoffs throughout the state this year.”
Jeff Seymour, former superintendent of El Monte City School District, and a defense witness in the trial, said, “A layoff system that makes keeping a teaching job dependent on standardized test scores would destroy the ability of teachers to work cooperatively and put them into competition against each other—turning the current layoff system into a school site version of The Hunger Games. This would also make our most challenging schools even harder to staff, as teachers would be reluctant to work with students like English language learners and others who sometimes struggle on standardized tests.”
Casey Carlson, a special education high school teacher from Santa Cruz, said, "My due process rights allowed me to advocate on behalf of one of my special education students. Without my due process rights I could have been forced to choose between saving my job and working on behalf of my students. No teacher should be put in such an untenable position."
It is expected that no matter which way the judge rules, the losing party will appeal. The Vergara v. State of California trial will then continue, alongside legislative attacks, deceptive ballot initiatives, and now, attempts to legislate through the bench. All of these activities are being funded by wealthy conservatives in their ongoing assault—which they call “education reform”—on public education and teacher rights.
More information on the case as well as background can be found here and here.
The 325,000-member CTA is affiliated with the 3.2 million-member National Education Association. The California Federation of Teachers is the statewide affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, and represents more than 100,000 faculty and school employees in public and private schools and colleges, from early childhood through higher education.