The Empire Strikes Back: Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown Files Appeal To Force Crappy Teachers On Poor Kids

Eric Owens | Editor

California’s Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has filed an appeal of a judge’s decision gutting the state’s laws regarding tenure and seniority protection for taxpayer-funded public school teachers.

Brown’s appeal contends that a lower court ruling in June by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu fails to supply a proper legal basis and contains insufficient details, reports Fox News.

More specifically, the governor’s appeal alleges that Treu dismissed school districts from the case for “unclear and unexplained” reasons. Consequently, the appeal reasons, the district court decision “applies only to parties that have no role or duties under the challenged lawsuits.” Also, the appeal argues that Treu was wrong when he initially issued his decision on a tentative basis.

Treu’s 16-page tentative opinion in “Vergara v. California” cited “Brown v. Board of Education” among many other cases and concluded that strict rules limiting how teachers are hired and fired disproportionately impact the state’s poor and minority students, thereby depriving the students of their right under state law to an equal education.

The opinion became final on Thursday, a day before Gov. Brown’s appeal.

The case was brought by nine students, including the named plaintiff, Beatriz Vergara, through a national nonprofit organization called Students Matter. The plaintiffs successfully argued that the 6.2 million public school students in California receive grossly unequal treatment because the state’s education infrastructure routinely sends lousy teachers to schools filled with poor and minority students.

The ruling affects The Golden State’s tenure policy, which requires that teachers obtain tenure just 18 months into their careers. It also affects rules that make it virtually impossible to fire tenured California teachers who aren’t good at their jobs — particularly if they have seniority and have been bad for a long time.

Attorneys and advocates for teachers have defended the 18-month teacher tenure scheme. Without it, they worry, bad teachers might get sacked too quickly. Also, they argue, the quick tenure system upholds academic freedom and draws talented people to the teaching profession which, they say, pays poorly.

The average mid-career salary for a high school teacher at a California teacher in a unified school district is $66,133, according to state government figures. The highest salary for teachers in a unified school district is $85,735.

In 2012, the median household income in California was between $50,000 and $59,999, according to statistics from the U.S. Census.

California’s two largest teachers unions have also promised to file their own appeals.

In June, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, detailed her disappointment with the decision in a press release that blamed everything but bad teachers for poor academic outcomes. (RELATED: American Federation Of Teachers Vows To Force Crappy Teachers On Poor Kids)

“We want you to hear directly from us about how we’re fighting – in California and across the country – to support students, protect teachers and tackle the real issues facing public education,” Weingarten said in June.

She argued that “full and fair funding” would turn bad teachers into good teachers. She also argued that bad teachers in core academic classes would improve if kids spend more time away from them learning “music, art and physical education.”

“Sadly, while the court used its bully pulpit to criticize teacher protections, there was no mention of funding inequities, school segregation, high poverty or any other out-of-school or in-school factors that have been proven to affect student achievement and our children,” she complained.

In addition to the California lawsuit, a similar lawsuit is forthcoming in New York. Also, several states, including New Jersey and Louisiana, have recently made teacher tenure more difficult to obtain.

California’s superintendent of public instruction, Tom Torlakson, asked California’s attorney general, Pamela Harris, to file the recent appeal in California because he does not have the legal authority to do it himself.

“We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full,” Torlakson said, according to Fox News. “We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children.”

Torlakson has been endorsed by California’s teachers unions in his bid for re-election this fall.

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