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The judge in Vergara vs. California today released his final review of the case, affirming his preliminary decision in June, that five state statures governing teacher employment rules violate the California constitution by denying students access to a quality public education.
In his final ruling, filed yesterday, Judge Rolf Treu, said, “plaintiffs have met their burden of proof on all issues presented.”
The decision effectively starts the clock for the defendants — the state and its two largest teachers unions, which joined the case — on whether to appeal. They have 60 days to decide.
Jim Finberg, a San Francisco-based lawyer who represented the unions — the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and the California Teachers Association (CTA) — told LA School Report that the unions fully intend to appeal “and I fully anticipate that the state will appeal also.”
Treu’s ruling stops with his interpretation of the laws that involve tenure, dismissal and layoffs, leaving the ultimate remedy to the California legislature.
As he said in his decision, “All the court may do is apply constitutional principles of the law to the Challenged Statutes as it has done here, and trust the legislature to fulfill its mandated duty to enact legislation on the issues herein discussed, that passes constitutional muster, thus providing each child in this state with a basically equal opportunity to achieve a quality education.”
His preliminary ruling was hailed by that part of the education community, in California and beyond, that believes teachers should be held more accountable for the academic achievement of their students. The nine California students serving as plaintiffs had been seeking an end to laws that provide protections for “grossly ineffective teachers” at the expense of younger, effective teachers.
Treu’s affirmation only give that side greater expectation for changes.
“We are thrilled that the court has finalized its landmark ruling in Vergara,” Theodore J. Boutrous, lead co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “Judge Treu’s inescapable findings—that California’s teacher tenure, dismissal, and layoff statutes are harming students, and that poor and minority students are bearing the brunt of the harm—are supported by an overwhelmingly compelling trial record. The ruling in Vergara is a victory not only for our nine Plaintiffs, but also for students, parents, and teachers across California.”
Josh Pechthalt, the CFT president, expressed confidence that Treu’s ruling would be overturned when the case reaches the court of appeals. Meanwhile, he conceded, there was value in the national discussion over tenure and other issues, triggered by the outcome of the case.
“While I’m not happy about the ruling, it does light a fire under having a national discussion about what education reform should look like and the role teachers play in it,” he said in an interview. “This is not the environment of our choosing, but it does create some urgency to engage parents and the community in the discussion.”