In a major victory for teachers’ unions, a state appeals court panel today overturned a Los Angeles judge’s ruling that struck down California’s laws granting tenure to educators.
The panel ruled that while there appear to be “drawbacks” to the state’s statutes governing tenure and the firing of teachers, the plaintiffs in the case failed to prove the laws are unconstitutional.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of 2nd District Court of Appeal struck down a decision made in June 2014 by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu, who found students and teachers alike were “disadvantaged” by the statutes.
The judge noted that teachers have a right to due process when they are being targeted for dismissal, but the current system is “so complex, time consuming and expensive as to make an effective, efficient yet fair dismissal of a grossly ineffective teacher illusory.”
The lawsuit, known as Vergara v. California, was filed in May 2012 by a privately funded advocacy group called Students Matter on behalf of nine young plaintiffs, alleging the laws violate students’ constitutional rights to an equal education.
The suit named the state and two teacher unions that later intervened as defendants, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers. The unions argued that the laws governing tenure ensure that quality teachers are in classrooms.
In a hearing before the appeals court panel in February, plaintiffs attorney Ted Boutrous argued that teacher job protections result in a “dance of the lemons,” in which “grossly ineffective teachers” are simply transferred from school to school.
“It’s impossible to dismiss these teachers,” the attorney said, adding that poor teachers invariably end up in low-income and minority outposts.
“The students’ fundamental right to a quality education is being violated,” Boutrous said, urging the panel to affirm Treu’s ruling.
But Deputy Attorney General Nimrod Elias argued that there is no evidence that students at some poor and minority schools are being harmed by the protections.
“These laws help reduce teacher attrition,” he said. “There are benefits.”
Elias also argued that school districts statewide attract educators who might otherwise be dissuaded by what they may consider low pay and difficult working conditions. In California, administrators must in effect decide whether to grant teachers tenure permanent employment after just 18 months.
In its 36-page ruling, the appeals court panel noted that the case pointed out “deplorable staffing decisions being made by some local administrators that have a deleterious impact on poor and minority students in California’s public schools.”
“The evidence did not show that the challenged statutes inevitable cause this impact,” the court ruled. “Plaintiffs elected not to target local administrative decisions and instead opted to challenge the statutes themselves. This was a heavy burden and one plaintiffs did not carry. The trial court’s judgment declaring the statutes unconstitutional, therefore, cannot be
Officials with Students Matter said they plan to appeal the ruling.
Ref Rodriguez and Scott Mark Schmerelson joined the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education today, replacing Bennett Kayser and Tamar Galatzan, while Richard Vladovic began his third term and George McKenna was sworn in to his first full term.
Rodriguez, the founder of a chain of charter schools known as Partnership to Uplift Communities, defeated Kayser in a May runoff election in District 5. Kayser, who was backed by the United Teachers Los Angeles teachers’ union, faced stiff opposition from charter school backers due to his general opposition to charters.
District 5 includes Eagle Rock, Boyle Heights, Bell, Cudahy, Los Feliz and Huntington Park
Schmerelson, a retired LAUSD teacher and principal, defeated Galatzan, in the San Fernando Valley’s District 3 in May, while Vladovic defeated teacher Lydia Gutierrez to continue representing District 7, which includes the Harbor area and reaches into South Los Angeles.
McKenna ran unopposed for the District 1 seat, which he originally won in 2014 in a special election to fill the vacancy created by the death of board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. The district represents south and southwest Los Angeles.
After the members were sworn in, the board elected Steve Zimmer as board president. Zimmer appointed McKenna as board vice president.
Ref Rodriguez and Scott Mark Schmerelson will join the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education July 1, replacing Bennett Kayser and Tamar Galatzan, while Richard Vladovic will begin his third term.
Rodriguez, the founder of a chain of charter schools known as Partnership to Uplift Communities, defeated Kayser, 53.55 percent-46.44 percent in Tuesday’s election in District 5, according to unofficial results released by the City Clerk’s Office.
Kayser, who has generally opposed charter schools, drew fire from the California Charter School Association, which put its financial might behind Rodriguez.
A former teacher and technology coordinator for the district’s Independent Studies program, Kayser had the backing of the powerful United Teachers Los Angeles union, which reportedly spent $800,000 to help Kayser, nearly $1 million less than what the Charter School Association was reported to have spent in support of Rodriguez.
Rodriguez finished first in the March primary election but fell short of the 50 percent of the vote needed to unseat Kayser.
District 5 includes Eagle Rock, Boyle Heights, Bell, Cudahy, Los Feliz and Huntington Park.
Schmerelson, a retired LAUSD teacher and principal, defeated incumbent Tamar Galatzan, a deputy Los Angeles city attorney, 54.61 percent-45.38 percent in the San Fernando Valley’s District 3.
Galatzan also had the support of the California Charter Association. Schmerelson had the backing of UTLA.
Galatzan congratulated Schmerelson on the victory and said she was proud of what the board accomplished over the past eight years “during difficult financial times.”
“I was an advocate for students before being elected to the school board,” she said. “I am an advocate for students as a board members and I will continue advocating on their behalf long after my time on the board.”
Vladovic defeated teacher Lydia Gutierrez, 55.91 percent-44.08 percent in District 7, which includes the Harbor area and reaches into South Los Angeles.
UTLA officials hailed the election of Schmerelson and re-election of Vladovic.
“UTLA is ready to work with all school board members in our fight for the Schools LA Students Deserve,” according to a union statement.
Los Angeles Unified School District board voted unanimously Tuesday in support of a three-year contract with teachers that provides roughly 10.4 percent in salary increases.
Members of the teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles, are expected to vote on the proposed contract next month. If ratified by the union, the contract will return to the LAUSD board for a final vote.
“LAUSD and UTLA believe this agreement is good for students, educators and the stability of the district moving forward,” according to a joint union-district statement issued late Friday, when the tentative deal was struck.
The agreement also calls for reduced class sizes and increased counseling services and makes changes to the teacher evaluation system and teacher reassignments, according to the district and union.
The tentative agreement came as UTLA engaged in a series of protests they called “escalating actions” aimed at reaching a more lucrative contract for teachers. LAUSD Superintendent had been holding the line on raises, saying offering more money would lead to across-the-board layoffs.
In a report to the Board of Education, Cortines said the proposed contract could leave the district in the red by hundreds of millions of dollars by the 2016-17 school year. He said, however, he was hopeful that Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget would help erase an anticipated 2015-16 deficit of about $140 million.
According to UTLA, the proposed contract includes a 4 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2014, and another 2 percent retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year. It also includes another 2 percent raise effective July 1, and another 1 percent effective Jan. 1.
La junta del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles (LAUSD) estudió en su reunión del miércoles una propuesta para notificar la finalización de contrato a más de 600 profesores, consejeros y trabajadores sociales del distrito escolar como parte de las soluciones para enfrentar un déficit de cerca de $160 millones.
Además, el órgano de gobierno consideró revisar la renovación de contratos a personal administrativo certificado, supervisores y otros funcionarios especializados.
La lista incluye a más de 260 educadores de adultos, 59 consejeros, 63 trabajadores sociales psiquiátricos y varias docenas de profesores de idiomas extranjeros.
Incluyendo estas notificaciones que no son usuales, el LAUSD podrá enviar en total cerca de 2.500 notas de finalización de contrato a su personal.
Según un reporte del LAUSD, el segundo distrito escolar más grande del país, éste enfrenta un déficit de $158,3 millones que buscará solucionar para comenzar el año 2015-2016 el 1 de julio.
El envío de las notificaciones es una medida preventiva exigida por la ley, aunque no necesariamente significa que todas las personas que reciban el aviso perderán su empleo. Cada año el LAUSD envía más de 1.800 notificaciones de finalización de contrato.
La decisión del miércoles, por otra parte, puede afectar las negociaciones entre los directivos del LAUSD y el sindicato Maestros Unidos de Los Ángeles que se encuentran estancadas, al no llegar a un acuerdo sobre el porcentaje de aumento de salario para el próximo año escolar.
Mientras el sindicato solicita un incremento de 8,5%, el distrito ha ofrecido un 5%.
Por eso, representantes del sindicato calificaron la decisión del miércoles de la junta como una maniobra de presión en la negociación sobre salarios.
Sin embargo, el superintendente del LAUSD, el hispano Ramón Cortines, defendió las medidas argumentando que es urgente balancear el presupuesto.