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Superintendent Deasy Testifies on Egregious Impact Challenged Statutes Have on Students

Superintendent Deasy Testifies on Egregious Impact Challenged Statutes Have on Students


Deasy: “What protects the quality of public schools is having highly competent, and highly effective teachers in front of students every single day.”


The highly anticipated education equality lawsuit, Vergara v. California, continued today with powerful testimony from Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy, who testified on the impact of the State’s permanent employment, dismissal, and “Last-in, First-out” layoff laws.  Deasy took the witness stand for the full day of proceedings.   Marcellus A. McRae, Plaintiffs lead co-counsel, conducted the questioning.

“The mission of the district is to assure students learn. It’s the only reason I open my doors in the morning,” Deasy said. “Students come to us and we make the promise that they will graduate college and be workforce ready.  In order to do that, the most important factor is a teacher—a highly effective teacher.  And if the students are not given a right to be in front of a highly effective teacher every single day, that is not in the best interest of them.  That’s what we are in the business for.”

Vergara v. California Trial Day 2 – Testimony of Dr. John Deasy, Part 2 from Students Matter on Vimeo.

Following yesterday’s testimony, which focused on the harm done by the permanent employment statutes, Deasy focused today on the Dismissal Statutes, as well as the “Last-in, First-out” layoff laws.

Superintendent Deasy submitted a declaration in support of Plaintiff opposition to Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment. Read Dr. Deasy’s declaration.

Dismissal Statutes

In opening statements, Plaintiffs argued that the dismissal laws go far beyond teachers’ constitutional due process rights, noting that the process for dismissing a single ineffective permanent teacher requires years of documentation, costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, and still rarely results in dismissal.

During his testimony, Deasy argued strongly that based on the evidence and his year of experience, the dismissal statutes are violating students’ rights every day.

“It is my opinion and it is my experience that this statute does not provide for the timely dismissal of teachers who are incompetent, who are unable to teach,” said Deasy. “And that is fundamentally what protects the quality of public schools, is having highly competent, and highly effective teachers in front of students every single day.”

Deasy said that dismissal costs are extremely high, estimating the average cost to be $350,000. Deasy explained how this high cost is a major decision factor for districts like LAUSD with limited resources. “$350,000… that’s six teachers that could have been brought in to lower class size; that could be number of counselors that could have been brought into a high school.”

Deasy also addressed how teachers are negatively impacted by keeping ineffective teachers in the classroom, saying that these ineffective teachers “harm the morale of the profession and their desire to remain in the schools as part of the profession…They are overwhelmingly proud of their profession and are proud of what this profession does and don’t want publicly that to be diminished by either incompetence or malfeasance by a colleague.”

“Last-In, First-Out” Layoff Statute

The California Education Code’s “Last-in, First-out” or “LIFO” law forces schools to make layoff decisions based on seniority, with no consideration for teachers’ impact on students.  Plaintiffs argue that through this law, schools across the state are getting rid of passionate, motivating newer teachers every year and keeping ineffective teachers instead.

While on the stand, Superintendent Deasy provided clear testimony that demonstrated the negative impact of determining district layoffs based solely on seniority:

“Competence is not a factor in determining layoff. A credential is. The ability to actually teach the subject as opposed to having the certificate to get your license is not a factor in layoff, nor is the judgment of the system as to whether you are actually doing the job or not allowed to be a factor.”

Deasy affirmed Plaintiff’s position that seniority-based layoffs are clearly not in the best interest of students.

“I do not believe it’s in the best interest of students whatsoever,” Deasy said. “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 can’t be good for students.”

Deasy addressed the way that LIFO disproportionately harms students at predominately low income and minority schools. “Its impact in classrooms has been teachers have been laid off as a result of this statute that have had a track record of providing learning gains for students who are language learners, who are students who live in circumstances of poverty where those learning gains are not the same of other teachers who have been retained.”

Deasy also explained the demoralizing impact of seniority-based layoffs on teachers that he has observed as Superintendent of the nation’s second largest school district. Deasy stated:

“Teachers are devastated when they receive a layoff notice. These are very public events. I mean, I’ve had to be at board meetings, at community meetings, where teachers who have received wide recognition by the district and the state are laid off because of their seniority number. And they have an extremely difficult time understanding that situation. I remember quite vividly a community meeting…where people were extremely angry, extremely emotional and we were trying to explain our ability, our requirement to comply with the law that had nothing to do with your evaluation or your contribution to the school, or whether you had provided any of the additional supplemental support services to students…that the teacher had received the layoff notice in compliance with the statute.”