Wrong Call: A California Judge Picks Big Money over Teachers and Students

A California judge’s ruling Tuesday against due process for teachers is as flawed as the meritless lawsuit filed by a billionaire boys’ club behind it—and the California Teachers Association (CTA) promised to appeal it on behalf of teachers and students.

“Let’s be clear: This lawsuit was never about helping students, but is yet another attempt by millionaires and corporate special interests to undermine the teaching profession and push their own ideological agenda on public schools and students while working to privatize public education,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

The lawsuit, Vergara v. State of California, was filed on behalf of Beatriz Vergara and eight other California students, but the man behind it is Silicon Valley billionaire David Welch. Welch and his ultra-rich cronies are funding the lawsuit for corporate special interests, in yet another attempt to railroad their school privatization agenda through California public schools.

The lawsuit and the judge’s support of it will do nothing to actually help students, and in fact will do a lot to harm them. Stripping teachers of their rights to due process won’t help learning. But it will make it more difficult to attract and retain the best and brightest to the teaching profession—which already loses up to 50 percent of new teachers within the first five years. The plaintiffs also ignore all the research that shows clearly how experience is a key factor in effective teaching, pointed out Van Roekel.

If the plaintiffs really wanted to make a difference for students, instead of attacking the rights of teachers, they’d consider the real problems in California public schools. Since 2008, California funding to public schools has been cut nearly 14 percent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, leaving teachers without adequate resources and too-large class sizes.

“This lawsuit has nothing to do with what’s best for kids, but was manufactured by a Silicon Valley millionaire and a corporate PR firm to undermine the teaching profession and push their agenda on our schools,” said CTA President Dean E. Vogel.


California isn’t the only state to consider teacher “tenure” this year—but they are the only state to get it wrong. In North Carolina this May, a judge rejected the state’s attempt to repeal due process, after a group of teachers represented by the North Carolina Association of Educators filed suit against a state law passed in late 2013.

That law, which would have required all North Carolina teachers eventually to work on contracts running no longer than four years, would have forced teachers “to give up very basic protections, [while] further undermining the ability of districts to recruit and retain high qualify teachers,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

Proponents of these kinds of measures often say they’re about “tenure,” or so-called jobs for life. But, even before the North Carolina law was passed, North Carolina teachers never had jobs for life. Those who have taught for four years and have been deemed proficient are granted “career status,” which provides for due process, or basic fairness, during dismissal or demotion proceedings. Teachers in the state can be dismissed for any number of reasons.

Veteran teacher Rich Nixon, one of the six plaintiffs in the North Carolina suit, said the drumbeat against due process was more about silencing teacher voices than improving public education.

Similarly, no teacher in California has a job for life either. Any teacher can be fired in his or her first two years for no reason. But current law does make sure that teachers aren’t dismissed for unfair or arbitrary reasons, and that budget-based layoffs are implemented objectively, in a process free from favoritism.

On Tuesday, NEA promised its continued support for CTA during the appeals process. Van Roekel also said; “NEA will continue to stand up for students and focus on the ingredients that are proven to help students the most—like supporting new teachers, providing ongoing training, paying teachers a decent salary, and developing reliable evaluation systems to measure teacher effectiveness.”

  • Celeste Juarez

    I sure hope NEA and CTA are doing something about this!!!!! This makes me sick! While I don’t have a problem getting rid of “rotten” tenure teachers, I do feel they are entitled to Due Process! As professionals we need to stick together!!! I hope we are not going to be expected to take this lying down! As a united front, all teachers in California should take a stand, TOGETHER!!!!

  • Harold Acord

    CTA will appeal this bad decision all the way to the CA Supreme Court if need be. To be clear, the decision has been stayed upon appeal, so nothing has changed at this time for California teachers. Celeste, you are right, we all need to unite and fight against this. As a teacher in California, I was disgusted by what Arne Duncan had to say about this decision. This case was brought forward by rich corporate interests, and anti-public education “advocates” who were unable to win against us at the ballot box with their myriad ballot initiatives, so they took their fight against our rights to the courts looking for someone easier to persuade. I have read the judge’s decision and strangely enough, he seems to have ignored or twisted the evidence provided during the case. This fact should be very helpful in appeal. In solidarity…

  • Darrin Harrison

    Unfortunately, California was not “the only state to get it wrong”. This year Kansas also passed legislation stripping the right to due process from teachers. However, that new legislation in Kansas will be challenged, and hopefully will end up being overturned.

  • Mel Palmer

    We don’t know what the law suit is about, the facts please.

  • Dr Ken Alston

    The mind boggles. DUE PROCESS is surely every person’s right in a court of law… well, it is in civilised countries!! Where are Teacher Unions? Surely it is their task to confront education authorities that the lack of due process cannot be tolerated? I thought the USA had a legal system where fair play was guaranteed. Obviously I have been mistaken!!

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  • George Snider

    I ask the NEA to set a Capwiz so that we can let Arne Duncan and President Obama know how misguided Duncan’s endorsement of CA court decision is. I don’t suppose that millionaire plaintif is concerned because he is sending his kids to public school. One wonders what his status is before the law which allows him to bring suit.

  • Shelia Blume

    I sat in the galley and watched the Kansas legislature strip me of a right that I have had since I started teaching. It was shameful the way they did it in the dead of night. Thank goodness for those who fought for the teachers. We will remember in November the night we lost our right of due process.

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  • Logan Mannix

    How can we elevate the teaching profession, and expect our communities to respect us and treat us as professionals, if we are not willing to be accountable? Last in first out? That’s crazy. Layoff’s should NOT be “Free from favoritism” at all… we should keep those that are best at their jobs. What if every time a company downsized it had to pick out a lottery ball, whomever’s name got drawn…their out! As teachers, we are not respected as professionals. Teacher tenure (in its current state) is one of many reasons why.

  • SigmetSue

    California time to tenure is way too short!!! The decision has to be made halfway through a teacher’s second year. That is NOT enough time to fully evaluate someone and leads to a lot of negative consequences: teachers fired when the administrator isn’t sure about them even though they might have been mentored along to success if there had been more time and teachers kept on low paid long-term sub status for years for fear of putting them on tenure track. Four years to tenure would work much better.

    Even then, there should be some ways to spare kids from the five percent of senior teachers who have “lost it.” Due process, absolutely! But there is no reason that senior teachers shouldn’t be put on probationary status after receiving unsatisfactory ratings from more than one administrator at more than one school. After three years on probation, they’ll have to either shape up or ship out.