Contacts: Fred Glass, CFT at (510) 579-3343 and Frank Wells, CTA at (562) 708-5425
Lawsuit does not improve student learning and hurts students, demonizes teachers
LOS ANGELES — Two days after nearly 1,000 educators denounced the Vergara v. the State of California lawsuit, opening arguments begin today in Los Angeles County Superior Court. This meritless lawsuit, which seeks to eradicate teachers’ professional rights, highlights the wrong problems, proposes the wrong solutions, and follows the wrong process while doing nothing to improve student learning. 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.
The California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and the California Teachers Association (CTA) intervened in the litigation last year on the side of the state of California to actively participate in the legal proceedings in support of educators and students.
“A teacher's simple right to a hearing before dismissal is not ‘unfair’ to students. Students need a stable, experienced teaching workforce, not a revolving door of educators,” CFT President Joshua Pechthalt notes. “So-called ‘tenure’—that is, the right to a hearing before dismissal—became law because educators used to be subject to political pressures and arbitrary decisions that threatened academic freedom and robbed teachers of their ability to advocate for their students. If Vergara succeeds, all students will suffer.”
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 lawsuit comes at a time when California has the largest student to teacher ratio in the country and ranks 50th in the nation in per-pupil spending.
“The real support our students need today is adequate resources, smaller class sizes, parental involvement and quality teacher training,” said CTA President Dean E. Vogel. “We need to be attracting new teachers to the field, not driving them away. This lawsuit and trial are a waste of valuable taxpayer money that would be much better spent actually investing in our students and schools.”
The Vergara lawsuit is backed by a conservative Silicon Valley millionaire and charter school proponent, David Welch, who started a group called “Students Matter” to pursue the suit. It also wrongly proposes that seniority rules mean that when layoffs occur bad teachers stay and good teachers are forced to leave. But the problem with layoffs is not seniority. The problem is the underfunding that causes layoffs—lack of revenues, exacerbated by the ongoing aftereffects of the economic recession. Seniority simply provides for fair, transparent rules to administer layoffs if they occur.
“The best way to avoid losing good teachers to layoffs is to find the funding to prevent layoffs,” says Pechthalt. “CFT and CTA led the campaign in 2012 to pass Proposition 30, which, by bringing new revenues to the schools, stopped layoffs in their tracks.”
“Not one of the Vergara backers were anywhere to be seen during the campaign to pass Prop 30, which, by filling in part of the hole ripped in education funding over the years, stopped layoffs this year, and did more to support equal access to education for all students than anything proposed in this lawsuit,” added Vogel.
More background and facts about the deceptive nature of this lawsuit are available online. The trial is expected to take a few months.
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 faculty and school employees in public and private schools and colleges, from early childhood through higher education.