Teacher Tenure and Seniority Lawsuits: A Failure of Logic
Their Minnesota lawsuit was thrown out of court last fall; in New Jersey, however, we had to wait for a state Supreme Court ruling on a Christie administration motion to tie tenure and seniority laws to school funding. The Court ruled it wasn't going to opine on these laws until a lower court takes up the PEJ's case. So now we wait for that ruling -- and the PEJ continues its public relations campaign against tenure and last in-first out (LIFO) seniority rules.
To their credit, PEJ has posted all of the filings in the case. But it's clear after reviewing them that PEJ doesn't have a leg to stand on. Not to say they won't prevail: bad legal reasoning didn't stop Judge Rolf Treu in California from issuing a terrible ruling in Vergara, which was inevitably overturned on appeal. Similarly, the only way PEJ can win here in New Jersey is if the lower court hearing the case sets aside all logic and reason...
Because the PEJ's case simply makes no sense.
When a group like the PEJ goes before the courts to get a statute overturned as unconstitutional -- by which I mean in violation of the state's constitution, not the federal Constitution -- the burden of proof is on them. They may have a problem with the NJ tenure and LIFO statutes, or any other law on the books, but getting the court to overturn a law isn't simply a case of arguing against the law's merits: they have to show how it violates the state's constitution.
The constitution states (Article VIII, Section IV): "The Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years." Unless and until the PEJ can demonstrate to the courts that tenure and LIFO laws violate this clause, the courts cannot act.
In a long-running series of cases involving school funding in New Jersey, the NJ Supreme Jersey Jazzman: Teacher Tenure and Seniority Lawsuits: A Failure of Logic: