'State Defendants' exhibit 1005, "California Standards for the Teaching Profession" (CSTP) (2009) in its opening sentence declares: "A growing body of research confirms that the quality of teaching is what matters most for the students' development and learning in schools." (Emphasis added).
'All sides to this litigation agree that competent teachers are a critical, if not the most important, component of success of a child's in-school educational experience....
'... Dr. Berliner, an expert called by State Defendants, testified that 1-3% of teachers in California are grossly ineffective ... the extrapolated number of grossly ineffective teachers ranges from 2,750 to 8,250.'
The line of precedents cited by Treu to justify his extraordinary intervention are, in themselves, unexceptionable. The California courts have long held that under both the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the state constitution education is a fundamental right that must be provided on equal terms. This doctrine is salutary; indeed, like Justice Thurgood Marshall, I think the Supreme Court erred by not reading the 14th Amendment the same way.
The question, however, is whether this doctrine is applicable to these cases. There is one huge difference between this week's case and the previous holdings. Previous precedents involved cases where poor school districts were being treated differently under state law. In Serrano v. Priest I and II, the issue was one of poorer school districts receiving fewer resources, and Butt v. California concerned a school district closing six weeks early because of a lack of resources. These were clear cases of equal protection violations: Poor districts were treated differently than affluent ones in ways that almost certainly had deleterious consequences for the education of students in the former.
n this case, however, there's no formally unequal treatment; the tenure system created by statute in California statute applies to all school districts. For most of the conservatives cynically praising Treu's decision, this should be the end of the discussion; to their thinking, as long as districts are treated the same there's no equal protection violation. But conservatives are wrong about this.
These questions aren't purely hypothetical; Treu's shaky causal logic could be tested in a number of ways. As Treu points out, many states provide less or no tenure protection to teachers. A serious opinion would then consider the question of whether these states are less likely to concentrate poor teachers in poor school districts. He might also consider whether teacher tenure has led to poor educational outcomes in other national contexts. But Treu's opinion is the opposite of serious; it just uncritically takes the shoddy arguments made by reflexive opponents of teacher's unions at face value and, even worse, reads them into the state constitution.
Part of the deal for teachers for years has been accepting lower salary– and, increasingly, little respect, particularly from the media– in exchange for job security. With the demise of tenure, that attraction would be gone. So that’s suppose to get more talented people into the system… how, exactly? I cannot understand that logic. Teacher attrition is sky-high, with best estimates of between 40-50% leaving the profession within five years of starting. That amounts to something like a thousand teachers quitting for every school day of a given year. Anecdotally speaking, most successful, Ivy League striver-types do not consider teaching as a serious option. But why would they, when there’s so many more remunerative, less stressful, less emotionally grueling, and better respected options out there? If your argument is that a profession’s problems stems from a talent deficit, you should be doing everything to make the job more attractive, not less.
Now there’s a standard bit of argumentative kabuki that happens when this point is brought up: people announce that they would be fine with trading tenure for higher pay, a kind of more money for less job security swap. I have heard that from people all over the ideological and political map. The problem is that we’re not going to get higher pay, not on anything like a system-wide scale. Paying teachers more would require more revenues and that would mean more taxes. What’s more, American public schools are funded primarily through local and state taxes. Does anybody think that we’re going to get broad and coordinated state and local tax increases across the country to pay teachers more? Anybody? We can have a discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of this kind of a swap, but it’s irrelevant, because we’re not going to get the additional pay part and essentially nobody really thinks we are. That makes this “concession” very frustrating for me. It’s a concession that isn’t. Instead, what we’re likely to get is the demise of tenure and the same bad pay and lack of respect relative to other professions. How does that possibly jibe with an effort to hire a ton of talented and hard-working people into teaching?
Teachers unions are girding for a tough fight to defend tenure laws against a coming blitz of lawsuits — and an all-out public relations campaign led by former aides to President Barack Obama.
The Incite Agency, founded by former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and former Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, will lead a national public relations drive to support a series of lawsuits aimed at challenging tenure, seniority and other job protections that teachers unions have defended ferociously. LaBolt and another former Obama aide, Jon Jones — the first digital strategist of the 2008 campaign — will take the lead role in the public relations initiative.
The involvement of such high-profile Obama alumni highlights the sharp schism within the Democratic Party over education reform.
Teachers unions have long counted on Democrats as their most loyal allies. But in the past decade, more and more big-name Democrats have split with the unions to support charter schools, tenure reform and accountability measures that hold teachers responsible for raising students’ scores on standardized tests.
The national legal campaign is being organized by Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor who told POLITICO that she has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent months to get the effort off the ground. She intends to start with a lawsuit in New York, to be filed within the next few weeks, and follow up with similar cases around the country. Her plans for the New York lawsuit were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Brown’s campaign will be modeled on the recent Vergara v. California trial, which dealt a major blow to teachers unions. In that case, a judge earlier this month struck down California’s tenure system and other job protections embedded in state law, ruling that they deprived students of their constitutional right to a quality education because they shielded even the most incompetent teachers from dismissal. Teachers unions have said they will appeal.
The Vergara trial cost the plaintiffs’ team several million dollars, most of that bankrolled by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Welch.
Brown said her campaign will be far less costly because she’ll be relying on free legal representation. The New York case will be handled by attorney Jay Lefkowitz, a former deputy assistant for domestic policy to President George W. Bush. He will take it pro bono.
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