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Defense tries hard to undermine an expert in Vergara trial

Mark Harris | February 14, 2014

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Arun Ramanathan was back on the stand.

Arun Ramanathan was back on the stand.

Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a group that works for high academic achievement, returned to the witness stand today for more questions by the defense, aimed at undermining his credibility, research and right to be considered an expert.

As one of the plaintiffs’ key experts in the landmark trial, Vergara vs. California, Ramanathan’s offered testimony that suggested a significant gap statewide in student achievement between ethnic and socio-economic groups in California. Defense lawyers did what they could to undermine what he had to say.

Nine student-plaintiffs are claiming that the current teacher dismissal, seniority and tenure laws don’t work and violate a student’s constitutional right to a quality education by keeping ineffective teachers in the job. The California Teachers Association (CTA), the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and the state, as defendants, claim the statutes don’t infringe on students’ rights and that well managed school districts can work within the rules under challenge.

Glenn Rothner, a lawyer for the unions, and Jennifer Bunshoft, a deputy state attorney, used their cross examinations to try shooting holes through Ramanathan’s testimony with questions suggesting that he hadn’t done research himself and that his own knowledge of issues was insufficient for the court to consider him an expert.

Back in the hands of plaintiff lawyer Marcellus McRae for re-direct, Ramanathan recovered as McRae walked him through another series of questions designed to clean up any damage he suffered under defense questioning. McRae gave him a chance to describe more fully his work experience and skill sets that would enable Judge Rolf Treu to look more favorably upon him as a witness.

When asked about the defense’s contention that he lacks expertise as a budget analyst, Ramanathan responded, that’s “utterly illogical,” telling the court that some of the most informed people analyzing budgets are policy people.

“Are you a policy person?” McRae asked him. “Yes,” he replied.

Court adjourned at mid-day for a three-day weekend, with testimony scheduled to resume on Tuesday. McRae told Treu he expects to wrap up the plaintiffs’ case by Thursday.

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