The Blog

Trial Underway for Meritless Lawsuit Targeting Teachers' Rights

The Vergara trial attacking due process for teachers facing dismissal, seniority/experience-factored layoffs, and the two-year probationary period began in Los Angeles this morning. After plaintiff attorneys opened by previewing a case they claim will show these teacher rights are unconstitutional, attorneys for the State of California, as well as attorneys for intervening parties CTA and CFT laid out strong arguments for why their case would show that the plaintiffs claims are completely without merit, and that these laws actually provide students with a quality, stable teaching force.

Students Matter, the shadowy organization behind this lawsuit, did not let a weak case stop them from pulling out all the stops for a huge noon press conference. Silicon Valley billionaire David Welch and lead attorneys and case plaintiffs all addressed the media, trying to make a case, where, frankly, there is none. Parent Revolution Executive Director Ben Austin was on hand to lend support, showing the connection between some of the same groups of anti-union corporate education "reformers" and this case. Fortunately CFT President Josh Pechthalt and CTA Board members Leslie Littman and Toby Boyd were there to give educators a voice and to tell our side of this story.

The first and only witness of the day was LAUSD superintendent John Deasy, who testified to the impossibility of determining if a teacher was "grossly ineffective" during a two-year probation and then moved on to talk about the cost associated with dismissing a teacher who has achieved permanent status. Citing the costs for dismissals that go "all the way," (therefore not including the far more common resolution of a challenged teacher leaving voluntarily) Deasy did insist that cost was never a factor in his decision to make a dismissal recommendation to the LAUSD Board and that the Board approved virtually all his recommendations. Which would make one question why then, are there any ineffective teachers remaining under his watch?

This was just one of many inconsistencies with the plaintiffs' case, showing that where problems exist around any of these issues, they are not the fault of the statutes, and in almost all cases are the result of bad administration. The challenged statutes are certainly constitutional, and they work well under competent administrators in countless districts across California. Bringing forward testimony from a district superintendent whose administration has in the past failed to apply them effectively doesn't make the case that these are bad laws, but it may make the case that there are some bad administrators.

But this case isn't really about these laws; it's about scapegoating teachers for all the problems facing our schools. It's a risky strategy given that existing statutes and procedures do have mechanisms for dealing with those who shouldn't be in our classrooms. The trial is expected to go on for several weeks, and we're confident that educators will prevail. If Students Matter really believes that students matter, they should start focusing on proven reforms, and on supporting teachers instead of demonizing them.
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