Today, the California Supreme Court finally laid the Vergara v. California teacher tenure case to rest forever when it denied review to the Silicon Valley billionaires attempting to kill teacher tenure and due process.
“In sum, the evidence presented at trial highlighted likely drawbacks to the current tenure, dismissal and layoff statutes, but it did not demonstrate a facial constitutional violation. The evidence also revealed deplorable staffing decisions being made by some local administrators that have a deleterious impact on poor and minority students in California’s public schools. The evidence did not show that the challenged statutes inevitably cause this impact.”
Billionaires have long sought to kill teacher tenure and due process as a way to kill their unions. Today, one effort has failed. You can read about the background on Vergara here, here, and here.
The Los Angeles Times reports on lead millionaire David Welch's disappointment:
The suit had been pursued by the Silicon Valley-based group Students Matter, which is supported by philanthropists who have battled unions on various issues.
“While we are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision to not grant review, we are grateful to the courts for shining a much-needed spotlight on these shameful laws and the enormous harm they inflict on thousands of children every year,” said David Welch, the group’s founder. “But the fight is not over.”
Welch said the case had “changed the conversation” about how students are being shortchanged by laws that protect their instructors.
Students Matter is funded by David Welch, who has made large contributions to the Sacred Heart schools, among others. His goal was never to protect the civil rights of students, but instead to break the strength of public schools in order to elevate charter schools and private schools, which these wealthy funders see as future profit centers.
AFT President Randi Weingarten released a statement:
"I am relieved by the court's decision declining an appeal of the unanimous California Court of Appeal ruling upholding California educators’ due process rights. The billionaire-funded attack, from its inception, tried to pit our children against their teachers—people who make a difference in our children's lives every day—rather than understand and solve the real problems ailing public education. Now that this chapter is closed, we must embrace our shared responsibility to help disadvantaged kids by supporting them so they can reach their full potential. While that starts with teachers, it also means providing programs and services that engage students and address their well-being.
"I hope this decision closes the book on the flawed and divisive argument that links educators’ workplace protections with student disadvantage. Instead, as the expert evidence clearly showed—and the Court of Appeal carefully reasoned—it was the discretionary decisions of some administrators, rather than the statutes themselves, that contributed to the problems cited by the plaintiffs.
"It is now well past time that we move beyond damaging lawsuits like Vergara that demonize educators and begin to work with teachers to address the real issues caused by the massive underinvestment in public education in this country. The state of California, like many others, remains in the throes of a serious teacher shortage. We need to hire, support and retain the best teachers, not pit parents against educators in a pointless blame game that does nothing to help disadvantaged students pursue their dreams."
There is still cause for concern, however. It appears that the most progressive judges on the court - Mariano Florentino-Cuellar and Goodwin Liu - supported allowing the appeal to go forward, suggesting they had somehow bought into the argument that test scores could, in fact, be a determining metric for teacher effectiveness.
Students First is now turning to the California State Legislature to work with legislators there. Their arguments are not going to go away anytime soon. It will be up to parents, teachers and involved citizens to stop the trend toward using standardized tests as a measure of whether teachers are, in fact, doing their jobs.