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California Laws on Teacher Tenure, Dismissal Struck Down

A California judge on Tuesday struck down provisions of state law dealing with teacher tenure, dismissals, and layoffs in a nationally watched case.

The decision in Vergara v. California came in a case that pitted nine public school children and their advocates against the state and the major teachers' unions. The plaintiffs argued that five California education statutes result in "grossly ineffective" teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment and that such teachers disproportionately serve in schools with predominantly low-income and minority enrollments.

"Evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students," said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu. "The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience."

Judge Treu found that the state's permanent employment statute, which confers tenure on teachers after less than two years of employment, violates the equal-protection clause of the California Constitution. The judge made similar rulings regarding state teacher dismissal statutes and its legal requirement for "last in, first out" layoffs.

The judge's "tentative" ruling will be finalized within 30 days. He said it was up to the legislature to come up with alternatives that provide "each child in this state with basically equal opportunity to achieve a quality education."

Education Week's Stephen Sawchuk, who covered parts of the 33-day trial, has more on the decision in his Teacher Beat blog.

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