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Vergara vs. California: How This Case Will Affect Education

Vergara vs. California

Currently, the State of California is faced with a lawsuit brought on by nine very brave students throughout California who feel their education has been negatively impacted by long-standing education policies that force school districts to lay off teachers based on tenure (how long a teacher has been teaching) instead of the quality of the teacher. With the help of an organization called Students Matter the plaintiffs/students are challenging the current tenure law known as Last In; First Out (LIFO), permanent employment statute (tenure after only 18 months), and dismissal statues that require many years of documentation. These students believe having a great teacher, regardless of how long a teacher has been teaching, should be the most important factor in retaining an educator.

Everyone is watching this case closely as it will set a new teacher employment precedent in California and potentially America. In fact, the two largest teachers’ unions California Teachers Association and California Teacher Federation have intervened and become a part of this lawsuit siding with California and against the plaintiffs.

The Plaintiffs believe it is their constitutional right to have equality opportunity to have access to quality education in the State of California. They believe the quality of education is dependent on whether or not they have a great teacher teaching them. They feel not every child has equality of education because every student does not have access to a quality teacher. You can watch a short video about the Plaintiffs and their stories. Meet the Plaintiffs.

In addition, it is costly to remove ineffective teachers, and union negotiated contacts require years to fire a bad teacher. Superintendent John Deasy of LAUSD estimated the cost to fire an ineffective teacher is around $350,000 and impacts district decisions on how district dollars are spent on students:

“It is my opinion and it is my experience that this statute does not provide for the timely dismissal of teachers who are incompetent, who are unable to teach,” said Deasy. “And that is fundamentally what protects the quality of public schools, is having highly competent, and highly effective teachers in front of students every single day. $350,000… that’s six teachers that could have been brought in to lower class size; that could be number of counselors that could have been brought into a high school.”

It has been reported that in the last ten years only 19 tenured teachers have been dismissed based on unsatisfactory performance in California. This case, if won by the students, will truly have deep impact on the state of education in California. Closing arguments are this Thursday in Los Angeles. You can learn more about this trial including a day by day summary at www.studentsmatter.org. You can also be a part of the discussion on Twitter at #VergaraTrial.

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Julie Collier is a parent, California credentialed teacher, and Orange County resident. In 2007, she created Parents Advocate League, a grassroots, parent-empowerment organization dedicated to student-focused education policy. Parents Advocate League has members throughout California who participate in local and state education reform movements. You can join Parents Advocate League by visiting www.parentsadvocateleague.org
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