It has been a very good year for California teachers, as these workers just notched their second victory of 2016 in a landmark employment law case.
This time, the setting was the California Supreme Court, as the justices voted not to consider Vergara vs. California. In this case, a group of students sued to overturn the tenure system, which they claimed degraded the quality of education in the Golden State.
Judge Agrees Current Tenure System is Inadequate, Second District Court of Appeals Overturns Decision
At trial, the students testified about tenured public school teachers who ignored or even belittled them; according to expert testimony, such treatment made students lag so far behind their peers that they had no hope of catching up. Additionally, the plaintiffs argued that if it were easier to fire "bad" teachers, nonwhite educators might have a better chance to move up.
The trial judge agreed, ruling that the current tenure system was so inadequate that it "shocks the conscience." But the Second District Court of Appeals overturned that decision, saying that if the tenure system needed to be changed, the Legislature, and not the courts, must do so. In the end, the California Supreme Court voted 4-3 to leave the appeals court's decision intact. The majority offered no written opinion, as it was not required to do so, but two of the three dissenters issued statements insisting that the court should have heard the case to decide important legal questions.
There were strong feelings on both sides. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten lampooned the plaintiffs "because they pretend there are simple silver-bullet solutions - that you can fire, threaten or sanction your way to helping children succeed;" Hoover Institution of Stanford University Senior Fellow Eric Hanushek lampooned the courts for not "stepping up" to correct the problem.
Why We Have Tenure Laws in California
To understand the importance of tenure - which makes it difficult to remove educational instructors after they reach a certain level of expertise - one must go back a little over a century. Prior to 1880, almost all federal workers, almost literally from the Secretary of State down to the front desk receptionist, were political appointees. But in 1881, a mentally disturbed office-seeker named Charles Guiteau assassinated President John Garfield shortly after he took office. In response, Congress passed the Civil Service Reform Act in 1883. Among other things, this law gives public employees additional job security to foster increased professionalism.
Of course, not all tenured teachers are perfect. However, tenure does allow our country's educators to concentrate on teaching, rather than looking over their shoulders.
California Teacher Tenure Laws: For Further Reading
- California High Court Refuses to Hear Appeal of Teacher Tenure Law via WSJ.com
- California Supreme Court allows teacher tenure laws to stand via SFGate.com
- California Teacher Tenure Laws Upheld via NPR.org
- In a major win for teachers unions, California Supreme Court lets teacher tenure ruling stand via LATimes.com
If you have been terminated from your teaching position in California, and have reason to believe that your employer is violating California teacher tenure laws, we are here to help fight for your employee rights. Contact our experienced employment lawyers at Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation today.