Petition – Governor Brown Letter Organic

Tell Governor Brown and legislative leaders: California students deserve great teachers.

California Students Matter

As the groundbreaking education equality lawsuit Vergara v. California has made clear, our state’s education policies are broken. Despite the Court of Appeal’s flawed ruling, the laws challenged by Vergara harm our kids — especially low-income students and children of color — while pushing passionate, hard-working teachers out of the classroom.

Unfortunately, powerful special interest groups in Sacramento are fighting to defend the status quo.

California students can’t wait. Tell Governor Brown and our state legislators that they must take action to ensure every child has access to great teachers and a quality education.

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Dear Governor Brown:

During oral argument in the state’s appeal of Vergara v. California, Presiding Justice Roger W. Boren asked:“Is there anybody in this room that probably didn’t have a bad teacher some time?”

California is not the only state in the country with families living in poverty, with high numbers of English learner students or with challenging education politics.

But California is the only state that has refused to implement commonsense measures to safeguard students’ right to effective teachers, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

California’s current laws are so broken that we expect students to be taught by bad teachers. We expect some subset of students to go to school every day and – for an entire school year – not learn.

Neither the trial court’s historic ruling in Vergara, nor the court of appeal’s recent overturning of the original ruling, can change students’ reality in the classroom on its own. Regardless of the appellate court’s failure to protect California’s students, we have an obligation to act on what we know.

From the evidence presented during the two-month Vergara trial, we know:

  • Great teachers make the biggest difference of any in-school factor between a student fostering a lifelong love for learning and dropping out of school.
  • The permanent employment and dismissal policies have turned California into a “lemon accumulation machine.” Teachers attain permanent status within 18 months – before even completing their beginning teacher certification programs. Dismissing an ineffective tenured teacher takes a borderline infinite number of steps, requires years of documentation and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and still rarely ever works.
  • The “last in, first out” layoff policy devastates schools in low-income neighborhoods and demolishes new teacher morale – a factor that has contributed at least in part to the current teacher shortage.

Additionally, supermajorities of California voters support policy changes to elevate teacher quality, including either eliminating teacher tenure or lengthening the time before teachers receive tenure from the current eighteen months to at least four years, taking performance into account when making layoff decisions, and making it easier to let go of underperforming teachers.

Change does not happen overnight. Building a high-quality and equitable public education system is not easy.

But other states and school districts around the country have proven that reasonable and responsible laws based on quality and accountability can take major strides toward the fair and quality education that all students and teachers need and deserve.

California will continue to land at the very bottom of every measure of how well we’re preparing our students for the future – graduation rates, social and emotional wellbeing, math and reading achievement – unless we make serious changes to ensure every student has a great teacher, in every subject, every year.
Instead of obstructing, delaying, and forcing students to contend for their basic educational rights in courtroom after courtroom, let’s get to to work solving the problem we know exists.

We cannot continue to expect the worst for California’s students, when we have the ability to give them the best.