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California Teacher Tenure Laws Ruled Unconstitutional

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A California judge has struck down several key teacher protection measures – including tenure and seniority laws, and the teacher dismissal process. The ruling in this bitterly-contested case could transform the state’s education system.

Teachers unions and education reform groups poured everything they had into this case – and Judge Rolf Treu’s ruling is an unequivocal win for the reform groups. The groups backed nine student plaintiffs who sued California challenging the state’s teacher protection laws: the tenure system, the “last-in, first-out” seniority layoff system and the process school districts must use to dismiss under-performing teachers. The judge ruled all those laws unconstitutional.

“It really couldn’t have been a better ruling, and it is an eloquent, powerful ruling that is going to reverberate not just through California but nationally,” says Ted Boutrous, a lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

The California Teachers Association’s Eric Heins says he’s “deeply disappointed” with what he calls the judge’s “very flawed” decision. “The children that I taught and that many of our teachers teach deserve better than this kind of political agenda being shoved down their throats and in their names. And that kind of disingenuous – well, I’ll just say it – crap – is just not right. And it makes me angry and it makes me sad,” Heins says.

Steve Boilard with Sacramento State’s Center for California Studies says the ruling will have a far-reaching impact – particularly for administrators and school districts. “It gives them more tools to ensure a certain standard of quality among teachers, which is important, clearly, to schools and to students.”

The CTA is promising to appeal.

Vergara vs Calif Tentative-Decision by CapRadio


Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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