Defense Witnesses Agree That the LIFO Statute Harms Morale of Junior Teachers
State Defendants and Intervenors called three witnesses, Mr. Jeffrey Seymour, Ms. Betty Olson-Jones, and Ms. Theresa Bogeman Clark, to the stand today in the education equality trial, Vergara v. California.
Defendants’ and Intervenors’ first witness of the day, Mr. Seymour, is the former Superintendent of El Monte Unified School District. Mr. Seymour testified about the evaluation of teachers and the removal of ineffective teachers from his district through a “mutual agreement” process. During cross-examination, Mr. Seymour confirmed that most of the district’s new teacher hires had prior teaching experience, so he rarely had to make tenure decisions for teachers who were new to the profession. Mr. Seymour also confirmed that he had no experience attempting to dismiss an ineffective teacher under the Dismissal Statutes. Mr. Seymour further testified during cross-examination that three schools in the El Monte Unified School District closed during the period in which he served as Superintendent due to declining student enrollment, and agreed that “layoffs can have an adverse effect” on the morale of junior teachers.
Defendants and Intervenors’ second witness of the day, Ms. Olson-Jones, is a teacher in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and the former President of the Oakland Education Association. Ms. Olson-Jones testified that OUSD has difficulty retaining teachers and attributed this difficulty to large class sizes and infrequent raises for teachers. However, during cross-examination, Ms. Olson-Jones agreed that:
- It is possible to need both funding and effective teachers;
- The need for strong teacher evaluations does not eliminate the need for effective teachers;
- The district needs both effective teachers and effective principals;
- There are ineffective teachers in OUSD;
- Incompetent teachers affect students’ learning;
- The Dismissal Statutes should not have the effect of preventing OUSD from dismissing incompetent teachers due to the time and excessive cost of dismissal;
- No dismissal process should ever cost so much money that it prevents a school district from removing teachers; and
- Reverse-seniority layoffs can have an adverse impact on the morale of junior teachers who receive layoff notices.
Defendants and Intervenors’ last witness of the day, Ms. Clark, is a former teacher and a current employee of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Ms. Clark testified about the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) induction program that is provided to new teachers. During cross-examination, Ms. Clark testified that—ironically—districts are forced to make tenure decisions under the Permanent Employment Statute before “new teacher” induction programs have ended.
Since the first day of trial, Plaintiffs have acknowledged that California’s schools face multiple challenges and have various needs, including the need for effective principals and sufficient funding. Nevertheless, they have also contended that these needs do not obviate the need to have an effective teacher in the classroom each and every day. The Challenged Statutes force school districts to reelect and retain grossly ineffective teachers, thereby preventing that aspiration from becoming a reality. The chart below, taken from Plaintiffs’ opening remarks presentation, reflects Plaintiffs’ position on this subject.