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Union supporters weigh in with briefs in Vergara appeal

Craig Clough | September 17, 2015

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Judge Rolf Treu affirm vergara decision* UPDATED

A group of education experts and organizations supporting the state’s two largest teacher unions’ appeal of the Vergara lawsuit have filed amici curiae, or “friend of the court” briefs with the California Court of Appeals while former California Governors Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger weighed in with their own briefs opposing the unions.

The deadline for any amici curiae filings was yesterday.

Nothing less than the future of California’s teacher employment laws surrounding tenure, seniority and dismissal hang in the balance of the Vergara v. California ruling after Judge Rolf Treu struck down the current laws after ruling in favor of a group of California students. They had contended that the laws deprived them of a quality education by keeping bad teachers in the classrooms. His ruling was stayed pending the appeal, and should it stand would require state lawmakers to draft completely new teacher employment laws.

With so much at stake, powerful entities have lined up on both sides with friend of the court briefs submitted by individuals or organizations that are not party to a lawsuit but have an interest in its outcome.

Parties filing in support of the two teacher unions, the California Association of Teachers (CTA) and California Federation of Teachers (CFT), and the state, which are all co-defendants, were Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Equal Justice Society, Education Law Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Advancing Justice-LA, according to a press release from CTA. Individuals who filed briefs in support of the unions included education scholars Diane Ravitch, Richard Ingersoll and Eva Baker, as well as 2012 National Teacher of the Year, Rebecca Mieliwocki, and 2014 California Teacher of the Year Timothy Smith.

A group of legal scholars that included Erwin Chemerinsky and Catherine Fisk of UC Irvine Law School, Charles Ogletree of Harvard Law School, and Pam Karlan of Stanford Law School wrote, “In this case, the trial court substituted its judgment about desirable education policy and the best way to improve education for students without regard to the harms its policy choice might cause and without regard to the evidence or the law about the cause of educational inequities and the likelihood that the court’s injunction would redress it. The trial court exceeded its role in our constitutional system and its ruling must be reversed.”

Joining a list of education chiefs from around the nation, student groups, business organizations and others who filed briefs supporting the student plaintiffs was Schwarzenegger and Wilson, who wrote, At stake in this case is not only the future of California’s students, but also the future of California,” said the former California governors, both Republicans. “As students who learn from grossly ineffective teachers face lifelong setbacks, by extension, California’s future economic and social success is similarly impacted.”

A ruling on the appeal is expected sometime in 2016.


Corrects spelling of two names, Erwin Chemerinsky and Eva Baker. They were misspelled in an earlier version.

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