by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Campbell Brown, the former television news anchor turned Parents’ Transparency Project founder, explains in a New York Daily News column why people should be glad to see a California court ruling throwing out teacher tenure.
Sweeping and unambiguous, the outcome of Vergara v. California is more than one decision in one big state, although even that much is significant given the shudders it will cause. It is an indictment of laws in any state that protect inferior teachers at the expense of students — and a powerful inspiration for other families nationwide who will turn to the courts out of desperation.
It is precisely because of its spillover national implications that this case has had so many people watching, and they all just became witnesses to history. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu said the evidence of the deleterious effect of ineffective teachers on students is so compelling that it “shocks the conscience” — a line that instantly gave voice to countless parents.
The court found that the nine student plaintiffs and their team had proven both of their points. One, that California’s laws directly cause students to be unreasonably exposed to grossly ineffective teachers. And two, that poor and minority students, in particular, are saddled with those teachers. The ruling was so complete that the judge declared every state law in question unconstitutional. …
… Now what? In California, the ruling is on hold pending appeal, but the precedent has been set.
The Vergara case reflects just the start of opportunities for action in other states, where many leaders are searching for better ways to evaluate teachers.
In 37 states, including New York, states still make decisions on whether to grant tenure — protected employment — to teachers in three years or less.
In 33 states — again, including New York — states do not consider classroom performance in deciding which teachers go in a systemwide layoff. Instead of merit, they favor length of service.
And in 38 states, the cumbersome teacher dismissal process allows multiple appeals. This is not due process; it is an undue burden on those trying to protect teacher quality. And it can be dangerous. In New York, even teachers accused of sexual misconduct have stayed on the job.
It would be no surprise to see parents in New York and elsewhere take the cue of the Vergara plaintiffs and take matters into their own hands. It is empowering to know the courts can help.
It should never have come to this: Students taking on the powerful governments and teachers unions, all to challenge laws that inexplicably and directly lead to a worse public education.
Getting rid of teacher tenure, eh? I wonder why no else has ever thought of that. Oh, wait.