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The New York Times Editorial
The Vergara v. California â€śruling opens a new chapter in the equal education struggle. It also underscores a shameful problem that has cast a long shadow over the lives of children, not just in California but in the rest of the country as well.â€ť
Vergara Plaintiffs Deliver Riveting Closing Arguments
Watch Plaintiffs' riveting closing arguments on the final day of the Vergara v. California trial.
Oakland Alliance of Black Educators Endorses Vergara
"We believe the spirit of dedication and making children the priority, as exhibited by educators like Marcus Foster, are necessary ingredients to effectively steward our most precious resource â€“ children."
Vergara Trial Day 17February 20, 2014 10:14 AM
111 North Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Plaintiffs Rest Their Case in Groundbreaking Education Equality Trial
Plaintiffs Present a Mountain of Evidence Demonstrating the Severe Harm Inflicted by Californiaâ€™s Teacher Tenure, Dismissal and Seniority-Based Layoff Statutes
Plaintiffsâ€™ counsel rested their case in Vergara v. California today, following four weeks of testimony from a range of education experts and educators.
â€śOver the past four weeks, we have provided ample evidence that Californiaâ€™s permanent employment, dismissal, and seniority-based layoff laws violate studentsâ€™ rights and cause substantial harm to students,â€ť said Plaintiffs lead co-counsel Theodore J. Boutrous. â€śIn addition to our Plaintiffs and their parents, we have introduced compelling testimony from superintendents, principals, teachers, and experts in the fields of education, labor economics, econometrics, and statistical research.â€ť
Evidence that Plaintiffs have presented clearly demonstrates that the Challenged Statutes impose a â€śreal and appreciable impactâ€ť on studentsâ€™ fundamental right to equal educational opportunity. Indeed, over a span of four weeks, over twenty witnesses have provided testimony on Plaintiffsâ€™ behalf that the Challenged Statutes force administrators to push passionate, inspiring teachers out of the school system and, perversely, to keep extremely ineffective teachers in front of students year after year.
â€śThe central question in this case is whether the laws governing the hiring, retention and dismissal of teachers causes harm to students,â€ť said Plaintiffs lead co-counsel Marcellus A. McRae. â€śWe anticipate that during trial, the Defense will continue their tactic of avoiding the core question and instead listing the range of other factors that can also impact student achievement. The role of these other factors, however, is not pertinent to this case, as Plaintiffs agree that teacher quality is not the only factor that affects student achievement.Â This case is focused on the specific impact of the Challenged Statutes.â€ť
The challenged statutes include:
Permanent Employment Statute: The Permanent Employment (or Tenure) Statute forces administrators to decide whether to grant teachers permanent employment after those teachers have been on the job for less than 18 months, a compressed timeline that severely limits the ability of administrators to evaluate teachersâ€™ effectiveness and results in grossly ineffective teachers receiving permanent employmentâ€”a job for life.
- Superintendents and principals testified that they do not have enough time to screen out all grossly ineffective teachers, nor do they have enough information to make permanent employment decisions.
- Former Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) Superintendent Jonathan Raymond: â€śI believe the statute is just fatally flawed. Thereâ€™s simply not enough time. Fourteen months is not enough time to determine whether a teacher is effective or ineffective.”
- Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent Dr. John Deasy: â€śThere is no way that, in my opinion, this is a sufficient amount of time to make such an important decision.”
- Experts testified that a longer probationary period would result in far fewer ineffective teachers receiving permanent employment.
- Harvard Economist Dr. Raj Chetty: â€śTeachers in California effectively are evaluated for tenure sixteen months or so into their teaching career, and it is my opinion that that is inadequate time to fully assess a teacherâ€™s effectiveness and hence that short probationary period has a negative, detrimental effect on student learning.â€ť
- Harvard Professor Dr. Thomas J. Kane: Ineffective teachers are in the system â€śas a result of school districts making premature decisions about a teacher’s effectivenessâ€¦â€ť
Dismissal Statutes:Â The Dismissal Statutesâ€”laws that govern the dismissal process for tenured teachersâ€”make it nearly impossible for school districts to dismiss ineffective teachers once they have obtained permanent employment. Indeed, dismissal requires years of documentation and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, and there still is no guarantee that dismissal will ultimately be successful.
In the past 10 years, only 91 out of approximately 300,000 teachers throughout the State of California have been dismissed, and the vast majority of those dismissals were for egregious misconduct. Â Of those 91 cases, only 19 dismissals were based, in whole or in part, on a teacherâ€™s unsatisfactory performance in the classroom.
- Superintendents and principals testified that dismissal is not a realistic option, which forces administrators to find â€śworkaroundsâ€ť or simply to leave ineffective teachers in classrooms, teaching students year after year.
- Former SCUSD Superintendent Jonathan Raymond: â€śItâ€™s very difficult to dismiss a teacher once they have tenure because of the time it takes to build a record, the numerous opportunities that an individual has to delay the process, have numerous appeals of the process and of course the exorbitant costs that it takes in terms of legal costs and legal counsel, as well as the time that it takes an administrator to build that record.”
- Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Direct of Labor Strategy Troy Christmas: â€śIt is the lesser of evils to pay money to not have someone who is ineffective working with students â€¦ than to hav[e] them work[ing] with those students.â€ť
- Teachers testified about the struggles they faced when they were forced to work alongside ineffective teachers who are impervious to dismissal.
- Jonathan Moss: â€śIt was demoralizingâ€¦ I was working long hours. I was putting in time, trying to be a leader on campus as much as possible, going above and beyond to provide extra resources for my students. And, my colleagues, my peers, the other teachers most of them weren’t. So it was hard to remain motivated and inspired as a teacher there.â€ť
- Maggie Pulley: â€śI left because I wanted a different teaching environment. I didnâ€™t want to be in an environment with teachers that just kind of phoned it in, andÂ were just going through the motions. I wanted to be in an environment that was exciting, creative andÂ collaborative.â€ť
- Experts testified that the costly and time-consuming dismissal process keeps grossly ineffective teachers in the classroom, with serious consequences for students.
- Harvard Economist Dr. Raj Chetty:â€śIf we replace an ineffective teacher with a teacher of average quality the impacts would be on the same order as ending the financial crisis again and again and again, year after year. It would be a dramatic effect on the American economy in the long run.â€ť
â€śLast-In, First-Outâ€ť (LIFO) Layoff Statute: When layoffs become necessary (due to budget shortfalls or declining student populations), the LIFO Statute forces districts to make quality-blind teacher layoff decisions based solely on seniority.Â The LIFO Statute, which does not permit districts to consider teacher effectiveness as a criterion when implementing layoffs, results in the layoff of countless effective teachers and the retention of grossly ineffective teachersâ€”teachers who should not be teaching Californiaâ€™s students.
- Superintendents and principals testified that the LIFO Statute deprives students of bright, enthusiastic teachers and does not serve the interests of students.
- LAUSD Superintendent Dr. John Deasy: â€śI do not believe itâ€™s in the best interest of students whatsoever. I have been very clear at indicating that the decision about who should be in front of students should be the most effective teacher and that this statute prohibits that from being a consideration at all. So by virtue of that, it canâ€™t be good for students.â€ť
- Former SCUSD Superintendent Jonathan Raymond: â€śI think a system that treats its best teachers this way and a system that ultimately doesn’t serve children and its families like they’re supposed to, in my humble opinion, is broken.
- Teachers testified that seniority-based layoffs deprive students of motivating, encouraging teachers, while ineffective teachers with more seniority remain in the system.
- Bhavini Bhakta: â€śI just felt like no matter what work I did in the classroom or how hard I worked that none of it mattered because a seniority date mattered way more than how much I did for kids, or what principals would say about me, or what parents would say about me.â€ť
- Jonathan Moss: â€śI became a teacher because I wanted to have an impact, and I wanted to provide opportunities for students that I had that they didnâ€™t, and it became apparent to me after teaching for Compton Unified for years that that really wasnâ€™t too important to the district, what was important was my seniority status.â€ť
- Experts testified that seniority-based layoffs impose significant and measurable harms on students, particularly for poor and minority students.
- Dr. Arun Ramanathan: â€ś[R]everse seniority layoffs exacerbate a terrible situationâ€¦ [O]ften your least effective teachers [are] placed in your highest poverty schools, while other teachers who wanted to be there, wanted to teach there, and were producing great gains there [are] removed from those schools.â€ť
- University of Washington Professor Dr. Dan Goldhaber: â€śUnder the seniority based criterion we are not laying off the least effective teachers, so we are losing from those classrooms, the teachers that tend to be more effectiveâ€¦â€ť
- Harvard Professor Dr. Thomas J. Kane: â€śThe average teacher assigned to an African American and Latino student in Los Angeles is lower than the effectiveness of the average teacher assigned to white non-Hispanic studentsâ€¦â€ť
In addition, several of the Plaintiffs themselves testified about their educational experiences, offering a heartfelt perspective on what it is like to lose a passionate and inspiring teacher and how it feels to be stuck in the classroom with a grossly ineffective teacher. Watch video highlights from Plaintiffsâ€™ testimony.
â€śThe evidence paints a very clear picture. These laws are not designed with studentsâ€™ best interests in mind and, as a result, students are not getting the educational opportunities they deserve,â€ť added Mr. McRae.
State Defendants and Intervenors have filed motions for judgment with the Court in an attempt to end the trial immediately.Â In these motions, State Defendants and Intervenors contend that Plaintiffs did not introduce enough evidence to support their claims.Â But Plaintiffsâ€™ compelling and overwhelming presentation of evidence establishes that the Challenged Statutes impose a â€śreal and appreciable impactâ€ť on studentsâ€™ fundamental right to education and, as a result, that the Challenged Statutes are subject to a strict scrutiny standard of review.Â Under this standard of review, it is the State Defendants and Intervenors who must prove that these laws are necessary to the attainment of a compelling state interest.Â This, Plaintiffs posit, is a heavy burden that State Defendants and Intervenors simply cannot satisfy.