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Constitutionality of Laws Protecting Teachers Challenged

MOOR Graphic by GEN THIPATIMA
DENISE TIEU
News Editor
JADE LIEU
Staff Writer

On Jan. 27, nine public school students in California took a lawsuit, concerning the constitutionality of laws that ensure teacher tenure and seniority, to court. The lawsuit, Vergara v. California, was first filed in May 2012 by Students Matter, a national nonprofit advocacy group, against California and the California Department of Education.

The plaintiffs – the students – aimed to overhaul the current dismissal process, extend the time frame for teachers to gain tenure and abolish the “last in, first out” policy. Students Matter argued that the Permanent Employment Statute, which obligates school administrators to grant or deny permanent employment to instructors in 18 months or less, does not allow schools enough time to draw a valid conclusion.

“The system is dysfunctional and arbitrary. Outdated laws handcuff schools administrators from operating in a fashion that protects school students and their rights to equality of education,” lead attorney Theodore Boutrous said, according to NBC.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the effectiveness of teachers has been questioned over the years as school districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, have attempted to find a correlation between teacher evaluations and students’ standardized test scores. The plaintiff claims that the current dismissal process is too “costly and timeconsuming.” Within the last decade, LAUSD officials have spent an estimated $3.5 million attempting to fire seven of the district’s teachers for unsatisfactory classroom performance.

According to LA Weekly’s five month investigation, LAUSD officials spent approximately $3.5 million within the last decade trying to fire seven of the district’s 33,000 teachers for lackluster classroom performance, withonly four actually being removed.

“The years prior to to the tenure should be extended. The security that tenure provides shouldn’t make the teachers feel too comfortable with their jobs,” senior Ricky Armenta said.

Teacher unions consider tenure seniority rules and the dismissal process as safeguards and an essential part of the hiring
process of teachers. Tenure was established to protect teacher’s academic freedom. Although tenure
is considered to be a “safety net,” it does not prevent school districts from firing teachers.

“The process for teachers to attain tenure is adequate because it protects our [teacher’s] academic freedom. Some forget that teachers teach because they want to express their creativity in their jobs,” history teacher Bill Yee said.

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