A California appeals court has reversed a lower court ruling that struck down the state’s teacher tenure and dismissal laws as unconstitutional. It’s a big win for teachers unions and a setback for supporters of overhauling public education.
The Los Angeles County Superior Court’s “Vergara” ruling two years ago sent shockwaves through the state’s education system. The judge ruled that California’s teacher laws disproportionately – and unconstitutionally – harm low-income and minority students.
The California Teachers Association appealed, and the three-justice appeals court panel agreed that the lower court was wrong.
This ruling says that although plaintiffs demonstrated “likely drawbacks” to the teacher tenure, dismissal and layoff laws, they did not demonstrate a “constitutional violation” because they did not show that the laws themselves, as opposed to local school administrators, “inevitably cause this impact.”
“Plaintiffs elected not to target local administrative decisions and instead opted to challenge the statutes themselves,“ wrote 2nd District Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Roger Boren, an appointee of Republican Govs. George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson. “This was a heavy burden and one plaintiffs did not carry. The trial court’s judgment declaring the statutes unconstitutional, therefore, cannot be affirmed.“
The CTA praised the ruling.
“Today’s ruling reversing [Superior Court Judge Rolf] Treu’s decision overwhelmingly underscores that the laws under attack have been good for public education and for kids, and that the plaintiffs failed to establish any violation of a student’s constitutional rights,“ union president Eric Heins said in a statement. “Stripping teachers of their ability to stand up for their students and robbing school districts of the tools they need to make sound employment decisions was a wrong-headed scheme developed by people with no education expertise and the appellate court justices saw that.”
The legal group representing the nine student plaintiffs says it will appeal the ruling to the California Supreme Court.
“The Court of Appeal’s decision mistakenly blames local school districts for the egregious constitutional violations students are suffering each and every day,“ lead plaintiffs' counsel Theodore Boutrous, Jr. said in a statement, “but the mountain of evidence we put on at trial proved — beyond any reasonable dispute — that the irrational, arbitrary, and abominable laws at issue in this case shackle school districts and impose severe and irreparable harm on students.”