Big News For Teachers! Appeals Court Overturns Teacher Tenure Case
April 14, 2016

It's a good day for teachers and students in California! A California appellate court has overturned an egregious decision which would have stripped California teachers of tenure and due process rights.

You may recall the Vergara lawsuit, where a group of right-wing Silicon Valley millionaires concocted a bogus civil rights suit claiming that teacher tenure violated the civil rights of children in low-income districts.

Their argument went something like this: Tenured teachers who demonstrated low competence were transferred to low-income school districts, violating the rights of children in those districts to get an equal education to children in other districts.

The Superior Court decision in favor of the millionaires was absurd, as I wrote at the time of the decision.

I see his ruling differently. What Judge Treu really said is that teachers are supposed to dedicate their lives to their profession, put themselves in physical danger (think school shootings, for example), put in more hours than their paycheck allows, fish into their own pockets for school supplies and even food for their students, and worry every day that they won't meet some arbitrary standard set by a billionaire or a charter school management organization for what constitutes an "effective teacher."

He further said that students bear no responsibility for their success or failure in school, nor do their parents. Teachers bear the entire responsibility for students' performance, regardless of those students' life situation and parental involvement. While they're doing all of this, they're supposed to submit to being tossed around like a political football during budget debates.

He's just wrong. It was laughable to read his ruling and see him defend what he's about to say by noting the political heat around the issue yet still pretending he isn't being political at all by making a sweeping ruling without any justification beyond his own offended conscience. I don't often criticize judges for their rulings, but there was no foundation under his declaration. Judge Treu's "preliminary opinion" paints everything with a broad brush without mentioning any of the contrary evidence presented by the state. Instead he said the number of ineffective teachers in California "offends the conscience" as if somehow those who oppose the idea of taking a sledgehammer to the tenure rules also think it's just terrific to have a few ineffective teachers. (They don't.)

Today, the appellate court ruled for the teachers and overturned the entire ruling. Characterizing teacher transfers as "staffing decisions," the 3-judge panel unanimously agreed that there was no civil rights violation in the tenure rules or in the statutes protecting teacher tenure as currently written.

I summarized Judge Treu's now-overturned decision this way:

Judge Treu decided there must be winners and losers. For students to win, teachers must lose. Conversely, he ruled that for teachers to retain tenure rights, students must lose.

This three-judge panel has now righted that wrong, and acknowledged that teachers are entitled to due process and tenure protection, and that by so doing, students also benefit, making it win-win for both sides.

This lawsuit was brought to the court in order to break the teachers' union and also to break the school systems so that charter management organizations could profit from our children's education. So if there's a loser in all of this, it's the millionaires who funded it.

For students and their teachers, it's a big win!

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