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Supporters of Vergara lawsuit file ‘friend of the court’ briefs

Craig Clough | September 15, 2015

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Student plaintiff Elizabeth Vergara at a press conference

Student plaintiff Elizabeth Vergara at a press conference

A group of of education chiefs from around the nation, as well as some teachers, parents, student groups and business organizations, lended their official support to the Vergara lawsuit today by filing several amicus curiae or “friend of the court” briefs.

The briefs, which the group Students Matter reported were to be filed today, are documents submitted by individuals or organizations that are not party to a lawsuit but have an interest in its outcome.

“[T]here is no denying a teacher’s impact and no justifiable reason to not make every effort to improve in-classroom instruction, even while challenges remain outside the classroom,” said a group of current and former education leaders in one of briefs, according to Students Matter, the organization that funded the Vergara lawsuit. “While teachers as a whole certainly deserve due process, states must, and certainly may, strike a balance between such job protections and their responsibility to provide students with quality teachers and a quality education.”

The briefs’ authors include Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White, former Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, former Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek, New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera and former State District Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Cami Anderson.

The Vergara v. California lawsuit was brought by a group of California high school students, including several from LA Unified, who successfully argued that the state was depriving them of a quality education due to the laws that guide teacher tenure, seniority and dismissal, which they said kept ineffective teachers in their classrooms.

Judge Rolf Treu’s ruling in June of last year is currently under appeal by the defendants in the case, the state and its two largest teacher unions, the California Teachers Association (CTA)  and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT). Treu’s ruling stayed any changes in the laws until the appeal is decided, which is expected sometime next year.

CTA has called True’s ruling “deeply flawed” saying it “would make it harder to attract and retain quality teachers in our classrooms and ignores all research that shows experience is a key factor in effective teaching.”

The Vergara case is also being closely watched around the nation, as several copycat lawsuits in other states, including New York, have been filed.


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