Victory

Historic Victory for Students in Vergara v. California Trial

Court Strikes Down Five Provisions Of The California Education Code As Unconstitutional

Plaintiff Julia Macias, with her family, Students Matter advisory board member Russlynn Ali and Students Matter founder Dave Welch, addresses media outside the courthouse on the day of the Court’s ruling in Vergara v. California. Source: Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Trial Court: “The Evidence is Compelling. Indeed, it Shocks the Conscience.”

On August 28, 2014, the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles made final its historic decision in Vergara v. California, striking down five harmful provisions of the California Education Code as unconstitutional. According to the Court, the laws in question—laws that govern teacher tenure, dismissal, and layoffs—impose substantial harm on California’s students by forcing administrators to push passionate, inspiring teachers out of the school system and keep grossly ineffective teachers in front of students year after year.

In the 16-page ruling, the Honorable Judge Rolf M. Treu found:

  • “…Plaintiffs have met their burden of proof on all issues presented.” (p. 3:26-27)
  • “All sides to this litigation agree that competent teachers are a critical, if not the most important, component of success of a child’s in-school education experience. All sides also agree that grossly ineffective teachers substantially undermine the ability of that child to succeed in school.” (p. 7:13-17)
  • “Evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.” (p. 7:19-21)
  • “There is also no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.” (p. 8:1-3)
  • “Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this Court that the Challenged Statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students.” (p. 15:23-24)
  • “All Challenged Statues are found unconstitutional…” (p. 16:1-2)

Permanent Employment Statute:

  • “This court finds that both students and teachers are unfairly, unnecessarily, and for no legally cognizable reason (let alone a compelling one), disadvantaged by the current Permanent Employment Statute.” (p. 10:7-9)

Dismissal Statutes:

  • “…the Dismissal Statutes present the issue of uber due process.” (p. 11:22-23)
  • “This Court heard no evidence that a classified employee’s dismissal process (i.e., a Skelly hearing) violated due process. Why, then, the need for the current torturous process required by the Dismissal Statues for teacher dismissals, which has been decried by both plaintiff and defense witnesses?” (p. 12:15-19)
    “This Court is confident that the independent judiciary of this state is no less dedicated to the protection of reasonable due process rights of teachers than it is of protecting the rights of children…” (p. 12:23-26)

LIFO:

  • “The logic of [State Defendants’/Intervenors’] position is unfathomable and therefore constitutionally unsupportable.” (p. 14:1-5)

Context:

  • “While these cases [(Brown, Serrano I, Serrano II, and Butt)] addressed the issue of a lack of equality of education…, here this Court is directly faced with issues that compel it to apply these constitutional principles to the quality of the educational experience.” (p. 3:5-9)
  • “That this Court’s decision will and should result in political discourse is beyond question but such consequence cannot and does not detract from its obligation to consider only the evidence and law in making its decision.” (p.2:23-27)

The Court ordered a stay on the decision, pending appeal.

We’ve provided the following resources to offer more information about the Court’s decision and what it means for the future of public education: