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School Reform In The Courts

Hillel Aron | August 13, 2012

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While the legal status of the Reed v. California settlement was thrown into limbo with Friday’s court ruling, we thought this might be a good time to look at the three recent court cases which, taken together, represent a new front in the education reform battles of California. Frustrated by the State Legislature’s inability to enact even the most modest reforms, thanks to the influence of the California Teachers Association, a group of well-to-do reformers are taking their cause to the courts. The three main cases are Reed v. California, Doe v. Deasy [re the Stull Act], and Vergara v. California.  Read below for a little bit about the cases, their supporters, and their current status.

Case Description Supported By Status
Reed v. California Flied at the request of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the suit is aimed at LAUSD’s “Last Hired, First Fired” policy, which the plaintiff’s alleged had negative impacts on schools in lower income areas, which tend to have less experienced teachers. ACLU The plaintiffs reached a settlement with the district in early 2011 which shielded 45 LAUSD campuses in poor areas from seniority based layoffs. UTLA appealed settlement. On Friday, California’s 2nd District Court of Appeals overturned the settlement. The matter may head to the State Supreme Court. If not, it will still get another trial, where UTLA’s claim will be heard.
Doe v. Deasy* Six anonymous parents and students sued LAUSD, alleging that it does not obey the Stull Act, a 1971 law that mandates districts to evaluate teachers and administrators based on objective criteria that includes pupil progress. In many interpretations, pupil progress means test scores. Ed Voice On June 11, a judge ruled that the district was not, in fact, following the Stull Act, and ordered LAUSD, UTLA and the administrators to get together and come up with a new evaluation system that incorporated pupil progress. He later set a deadline of December 4.
Vergara v. California Filed in May of 2012 by two famous lawyers named Ted– Boutrous and Olson– on behalf of eight named children and parents, Vergara aims at overturning five California laws that make it extremely difficult to fire teachers. One union lawyer calls it “Doe v. Deasy on steroids.” Students Matter The case is still probably at least a year from heading to court.

*One of the interesting quirks of Doe v. Deasy was that even though Superintendent John Deasy was named as a defendant, he actually gave a deposition that agreed with the plaintiffs in the case, leading former school board member David Tokofsky to joke that case should be called “Deasy v. Deasy.”

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