Former Superintendent Tony Smith, Oakland Unified School District

Public Statement Superintendents

“As Superintendent of an urban district with our 45,000 students in 126 district and Public charter schools, I believe there is nothing more important than having quality teachers in every classroom. Yet, despite all the research that demonstrates the importance of effective teaching, California’s current education policies create obstacles to ensuring that all children are taught by effective educators.  These policies hurt students from low–‐income and distressed communities the most.  There are a handful of state laws that hinder the recruitment, support, and retention of effective teachers. These provisions guarantee lifetime employment to virtually all teachers hired (regardless of performance) and make it costly and contentious to fire grossly ineffective teachers.  The result is an outdated and inflexible system where teacher quality is devalued at the expense of our students.

One of the most egregious provisions—‘Last–‐In, First–‐Out’—requires that teachers who have less seniority get laid off first during tough budget times, regardless of effectiveness.  Every year we lose quality teachers because we aren’t even allowed to consider performance when forced to make workforce reductions.  California can’t afford to continue this policy.

Our system needs an overhaul, and I am encouraged by the case, Vergara v. California, which seeks to overturn these outdated provisions that harm students.  The case is supported by a 2 non–‐profit advocacy group called Students Matter and a diverse coalition of statewide education reform organizations.

I support the case and applaud Students Matter and their advocacy on behalf of all California students.”

Superintendent Anthony “Tony” Smith
Oakland Unified School District