by Liku Zelleke
Nine public school students in California are suing the state over the laws on teacher tenure, seniority, layoff, the “last-hire, first-fire rule” and other protections that they say allows for sub-par teachers to stay in the classroom.
In what might prove to be a landmark case, a Silicon Valley-based group, Students Matter, is going to court with the argument that students are lagging in their schooling because the state’s education system traps them with ineffective teachers.
The group said in a press release that inefficient teachers were entrenched in California’s public school system and that the superintendents of many school districts affirm that their districts are beleaguered by “grossly ineffective teachers” and attribute the continued employment of these teachers to the challenged statutes.
“The system is dysfunctional and arbitrary due to these outdated laws that handcuff school administrators,” said the students’ lead lawyer Theodore J. Boutrous, adding that Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy would be called to testify for the plaintiff.
Although the case will go to trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, its outcome will have the eyes of the whole nation on t as interest has grown, in the past couple of years, in upending age-old ways of public education.
Tenure was created early in the 20th century to prevent arbitrary or discriminatory firings based on gender, nationality or political beliefs.
Now, opponents of tenure claim that the rules under which teachers could be dismissed after a probationary period make it almost impossible to fire those who aren’t performing well.
States across the US have recently abolished or weakened union-backed teachers’ protections to give administrators more flexibility in firing those who aren’t holding their own. In response, the unions are fighting back stating that the change de-moralizes, unfairly targets and denies due process to older teachers.
The nonjury trial, which began on January 27th, is expected to end sometime in March of this year.