Arguing that “changes of this magnitude, as a matter of law and policy, require appellate review” and that trial judge Rolf M. Treu had “declined to provide a detailed statement of the factual and legal bases for [his] ruling,” an appeal was submitted by Attorney General Kamala Harris on behalf of Governor Jerry Brown for the controversial ruling that would throw out the state’s tenure process for public school teachers.
The ruling also eliminated rules that made dismissing teachers more difficult and expensive than firing other state employees. Finally, Judge Treu eliminated regulations that made seniority the primary factor in deciding which teachers to lay off.
Judge Treu issued his final ruling: “The evidence is compelling,” the judge wrote in his original decision. “Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”
According to teachers’ groups, the judge’s final decision “offered no new reasoning or information as to how stripping teachers of their workplace professional rights will help students gain a better education. In rolling back the protections that allow teachers to educate their students and advocate for them without fear of arbitrary and capricious retaliation, the judge has set back a century of well-reasoned law.”
“The people who dedicate their lives to the teaching profession deserve our admiration and support. Instead, this ruling lays the failings of our education system at their feet,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, following a judge’s decision to finalize the ruling last week. “We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full. We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children.”
“No teacher is perfect. A very few are not worthy of the job. School districts have always had the power to dismiss those who do not measure up, and this year I helped pass a new law that streamlined the dismissal process, while protecting the rights of both teachers and students. It is disappointing that the Court refused to even consider this important reform,” the Superintendent added.
“In a cruel irony, this final ruling comes as many California teachers spend countless unpaid hours preparing to start the new school year in hopes of better serving the very students this case purportedly seeks to help,” he said. “While the statutes in this case are not under my jurisdiction as state Superintendent, it is clear that the Court’s ruling is not supported by the facts or the law. Its vagueness provides no guidance about how the Legislature could successfully alter the challenged statutes to satisfy the Court. Accordingly, I will ask the Attorney General to seek appellate review.”
His opponent, Democrat Marshall Tuck, said in a release that “[Torlakson] stands with his Sacramento funders and not with students.”
Mr. Tuck added, “Never has it been more clear that it is time for change in California than when the only [statewide] elected official dedicated to education will not side with kids — even after an independent judge found that the status quo ‘shocks the conscience.’”
“This decision fails to recognize the benefits to society provided by the challenged statutes, including the ability to recruit and retain educators, promoting teaching as a life-long career, the stability they bring to district employment decisions in layoff and other situations, and the basic due process they provide that allows teachers to speak up on behalf of their students,” said CTA President Dean E. Vogel.
He would add, “No link was shown between these statutes and the hiring or retention of ineffective teachers, or in the assignment of ineffective teachers to particular schools. On the contrary, the evidence showed that school districts have tremendous latitude in hiring and in assignment, and that in fact, underperforming teachers are remediated or removed from their positions frequently using the existing statutes. Simply put, the judge has ruled on faulty logic.”
“In ignoring all the real problems of public education, this is simply an anti-union attack masquerading as a civil rights issue,” said Joshua Pechthalt, President of the California Federation of Teachers.
“The central problems we face each day in the classroom are inadequate funding, poverty, lack of decent jobs in the communities surrounding our schools, and high turnover among younger teachers due to the pressures of those problems—none of which is addressed by the ruling in this case,” Mr. Pechthalt stated. “This decision will only reinforce the perception among idealistic young people that well-funded enemies of public education are undermining respect and support for teachers. This will make it harder to attract and retain young teachers.”
“I am beside myself with anger that JB is appealing Vergara,” Neel Kashkari, Jerry Brown’s opponent in November tweeted this week. “His lifetime of empty words about caring for the poor is utterly worthless.”
The California Federation of Teachers and the California Teachers Association anticipate joining in filing an appeal.