Vergara v. California

Source: Students Matter

With the help of Students Matter, nine California public school children filed the statewide lawsuit Vergara v. California against the State of California in May 2012 to strike down the laws handcuffing schools from doing what’s best for kids when it comes to teachers. Meet the Plaintiffs.

The court’s historic decision in Vergara v. California reaffirmed the fundamental, Constitutional right of every student to learn from effective teachers and have an equal opportunity to succeed in school. Visit the Students Matter Victory page for the best quotes from Judge Treu’s ruling, an FAQ on what happens next, and key facts and statistics from the compelling evidence presented at trial.

We think it’s simple: reward and retain excellent teachers and hold those accountable who are failing our children. By striking down the following laws, Vergara v. California will create an opportunity for lawmakers, teachers, administrators and community leaders to design a system that’s good for both teachers and students. Because Californians shouldn’t have to choose: We can create an education system that gives every child a passionate, motivating and effective teacher and gives effective teachers the respect and rewarding careers they deserve.

  • Permanent Employment Statute: The permanent employment law forces administrators to either grant or deny permanent employment to teachers after an evaluation period of less than 16 months—before new teachers even complete their beginner teacher induction programs and before administrators are able to assess whether a teacher will be effective long-term.
  • Dismissal Statutes: The process for dismissing a single ineffective teacher involves a borderline infinite number of steps, requires years of documentation, costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and still, rarely ever works. Out of 275,000 teachers statewide, 2.2 teachers are dismissed for unsatisfactory performance per year on average, which amounts to 0.0008 percent.
  • “Last-In, First-Out” (“LIFO”) Layoff Statute: The “LIFO” law forces school districts to base layoffs on seniority alone, with no consideration of teachers’ performance in the classroom.

In May 2013, the state’s two largest teachers unions, the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), intervened in the case to defend these statutes alongside the State. The two-month trial for Vergara v. California began on January 27, 2014 and concluded on March 27, 2014.

Vergara Appeal

The State, the CTA and the CFT appealed the trial court’s historic decision in Vergara to the California Court of Appeal, Second District. Click here to read Plaintiffs’ brief in response. As the Vergara appeal continued, prominent groups and individuals across California and the country filed amicus curiae — or “friend of the court” — briefs in support of the Superior Court’s groundbreaking decision. Amici included two former governors, constitutional law scholars, social justice and civil rights groups, business organizations and California public school teachers and parents.

The Second Division of the California Court of Appeal’s Second District heard oral argument in the Vergara appeal on February 25, 2016. During oral argument, Plaintiffs’ legal team stressed the legal precedent that supports the students’ case and emphasized the overwhelming evidence from trial that the challenged statutes harm California students — particularly students of color and those from low-income families.

On April 14, 2016, a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal overturned the historic Superior Court decision, ruling against the nine student Plaintiffs. The Court of Appeal’s flawed ruling, filled with legal and factual errors, contradicted California Supreme Court precedent and other appellate decisions. Plaintiffs and their legal team immediately announced their intentions to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision to the California Supreme Court, and newspaper editorial boards across California criticized the ruling and called on the California Legislature to take meaningful action to improved the harmful statutes challenged by the lawsuit.