CA Supreme Court shuts down lawsuit against teachers union job protections


School teacherDeclining to hear an appeal, the California Supreme Court brought an apparent end to the saga of California’s historic lawsuit against teachers union job protections, alleged to violate students’ constitutional rights. A majority of justices “declined to hear the case, Vergara v. California, and let stand an appeals court ruling that preserved an array of employment rights,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

“The outcome left some union opponents looking for a different battlefield in the ongoing wars over public education, while others said they should try the courts again. The Vergara litigation was closely watched across the country as a test of whether courts would invalidate rules that protect teachers on the argument that they violate the rights of students.”

In a twist that left reformers clinging to hope that the Vergara cause could still be advanced, the justices who declined to hear the case left the door open to an untested alternative. “The majority of justices didn’t say why they chose not to review rulings by the courts of appeal,” EdSource observed. “Lawsuits involving state education issues generally cannot be appealed to federal courts. However, Theodore Boutrous, lead attorney for Students Matter, said that attorneys were exploring that option or pursuing another lawsuit in state courts.”

Revolutionary potential 

Supporters of the defendants in the Vergara case, including some prominent state Democrats, breathed a sigh of relief. The persistence of the case had not only surprised unions and their supporters but forced them onto treacherous political terrain. At stake was a potent logic of argument seen by pro-union groups as a serious new threat to the status quo for teachers unions, which have attained substantial political power in California and other states. On the one hand, Vergara invoked the language of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, potentially recasting the debate over teachers unions in explicit civil rights terms. On the other, the case linked up high principle with the practical matters that most often animate change in the education system at the local level. “The main thrust of the suit’s argument was that students’ academic performance would improve if school officials were more easily able to fire bad teachers,” as UPI recalled.

“The plaintiffs challenged five statutes that offer teachers protection — including one that gives tenure after two years and another that makes it more complicated to terminate educators. Such protections have been in place in California and the rest of the United States for decades as a measure to bolster an often shallow candidate pool.”

At first, plaintiffs prevailed. But as the case made its way through the courts, trouble arose. “Los Angeles Superior Court ruled in favor of Vergara in 2014, but an appeals court overturned that decision in April,” the wire added, “which sent the matter to the California Supreme Court.”

Sharp dissents

Despite the majority’s decision, however, three justices dissented, warning that the scope and force of the claims in Vergara required the state Supreme Court at least to review them. Both Goodwin Liu and Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar — “ardent advocates for the rights of minority children as law professors before Gov. Jerry Brown nominated them to the court,” as EdSource noted — insisted “that the appeals court set too high a threshold in concluding that an identifiable group of student, with common characteristics, had to be harmed – the basis for bringing a challenge involving a fundamental right to an education under the state Constitution.”

“Difficult as it is to embrace the logic of the appellate court on this issue, it is even more difficult to allow that court’s decision to stay on the books without review in a case of enormous statewide importance,” wrote Cuéllar, with Liu asking “whether the education clauses of our state Constitution guarantee a minimum level of quality below which our public schools cannot be permitted to fall.”


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  1. Ron
    Ron 29 August, 2016, 10:33

    “Tenure” for teachers is blatantly discriminatory as it excludes tenured job protection for other occupations. Tenure may set a bad precedent for tenure in other occupations!

    In a “real” business environment, only the performers survive. MEDICAL: Can you expect quality service from individuals with protected jobs and complacency to stay abreast of the latest technologies and procedures? SPORTS: Can you imagine tenured athletes with guaranteed jobs having the motivation to be competitive against athletes fighting for their jobs? CONSTRUCTION: Can you expect quality work and adherence to any schedule with a complacent worker tenured with job protections?

    Performance from TENURED teachers is irrelevant for their guaranteed jobs! Tenured teachers are NOT required to teach! In a non-competitive environment, tenure is a direct reflection on low student performance scores as ill qualified teachers are protected from being fired. Tenure protects those in their careers from the competition young workers would generate.

    The unintended consequences of tenure are that students are often shuffled from one grade to the next on the basis of attendance, even if they do not know the material.

    If tenure is allowed to continue, an even playing field would provide tenure opportunities for heart surgeons, airline pilots, athletes, and construction workers, etc., so that they too have guaranteed jobs with no accountability for performance and protect them from the competition from other and possibly more qualified workers.

    Reply this comment
  2. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 29 August, 2016, 15:14

    It should be unconstitutional to force a teacher to join some corupt union or the NEA

    Reply this comment
  3. Prof T. Steele DD
    Prof T. Steele DD 29 August, 2016, 20:22

    Doomers– Attention,

    You know this stuff, do we always have to review it for you out here? PLEASE try to keep up. School boards run the school districts. The boards are mainly filled, or at least 1/3 full, of morons.We all know this right? All of the piss ant newbie wanna be republibaggers start off their goofy pol hack careers on the local school boards, where, of course, they pretend to know ANYthing about education, but, of course, they know zip. And then they ride roughshawed (sp?) over the professional educators many who have higher degrees and decades of experience etc. I mean it’s a real s–t show.
    So— In order to educate your brat kids (and oh, doomers, there are oh so many mini me doomer brat whiners some of your kids are dreadful like mommy and daddy), they have to try to do their jobs and they need protection from the morons on the board— Hence—– our laws try to help protect the teachers, who by the way, are often saints.

    Here endeth the lesson, now stop whining!

    Reply this comment
    • afrequentreader
      afrequentreader 30 August, 2016, 13:08

      That’s the longest “bag of s**t” that has ever rolled off your feeble brain, through your fingers, onto the keyboard, and eventually landing on CWD yet again, showing your true ignorance of the issues. Well done what ever Steele you are today. What a show! This one takes the cake on your level of “intelligence” aka stupidity in a rebuttal to the reality of the issues. Keep ’em coming please.

      Reply this comment
  4. T Ted America
    T Ted America 1 September, 2016, 15:52

    LOL Frq Reader—- as always—- you cite to NOTHING

    I wash my hands of you little buddy!

    Reply this comment

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