Tuesday, August 2, 2016

California’s Ed Reform Wars

California’s Ed Reform Wars:
California’s Ed Reform Wars
How long before a teacher is tenured? The legislature mulls it over.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten says that extending the time it takes to get tenure in California is a legitimate idea, but that such changes should be done through the political process, not the judiciary.

his past April, the California Court of Appeals unanimously struck down the controversial Vergara v. California decision, in which a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that five longstanding teacher protections—including a two-year probationary period for new teachers and a layoff system based on how many years one’s been teaching—violated students’ constitutional right to an equal education. The lower court judge had argued that these labor protections make it harder to fire bad teachers, and bad teachers significantly undermine a child’s education. In a 3-0 decision, the appellate judges concluded that the labor protections themselves are not responsible for harming students, even if school administrators sometimes implement them injudiciously.
Students Matter, a nonprofit backed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch that’s representing the Vergara plaintiffs, has filed an appeal to California’s Supreme Court. Their supporters argue that children pay the price for such job protections as teacher tenure and seniority. They also point toresearch that suggests making it easier to fire teachers has positive effects on student achievement. Critics counter that the real problems students face—particularly low-income students of color—are not teacher job protections, but their under-resourced, highly segregated schools that fail to attract and retain high-quality educators. At a time when states like California face realteacher shortages, they say, the focus on firing teachers is misplaced at best.
Since the lower court’s Vergara ruling two years ago, similar suits challenging teacher job protections have been filed in New York and Minnesota.
While David Welch and his allies remain committed to waging legal battles against tenure, seniority, and other job protections, they are also pushing for statutory changes via the California legislature. Following the original Vergaradecision, Republican lawmakers introduced apackage of three bills to extend the time it would take a teacher to earn tenure, to repeal the “last-in, first-out” statute that makes layoff decisions based on seniority, and to establish an annual teacher evaluation system. These bills, however, got nowhere in the Democratic-controlled statehouse.
“I think the Vergara decision helped increase public demand for improvements in our education system, but I always think it’s better when we can make policy changes through the legislature rather than the court system,” says Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, the Republican who sponsored the teacher evaluation bill.
Back during the original Vergara trial, unions and some education expertsalso argued against making policy changes through the courts. A spokesperson for the California Teachers Association told The Wall Street Journal that legislators were already looking at ways to amend the contested laws, and Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said that extending the time it takes to get tenure in California is a legitimate idea, but that such changes should be done through the political process, not the judiciary.
Today, however, local unions are fighting back against attempts to change California’s Ed Reform Wars:
 

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