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Calif. Governor Appeals Vergara Ruling on Teacher Tenure

By guest blogger Madeline Will

California Gov. Jerry Brown has appealed the court ruling that struck down the state's teacher-tenure laws, a day after the ruling was finalized.

The state's attorney general, Kamala Harris, filed the appeal on Friday on behalf of the Democratic governor and the state.

On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu finalized his June ruling that struck down state laws on teacher tenure and dismissal. The Vergara v. California decision says that those laws unfairly saddle disadvantaged students with weaker teachers and infringe on those students' right under the state constitution to an equitable education. The ruling is a victory for the plaintiffs, nine California students and their families.

Earlier on Friday, California's State Superintendent Tom Torlakson urged the attorney general to appeal, saying the ruling unfairly faults teachers and is too vague, with no guidelines on how the legislature can alter laws to satisfy the court.

Teachers' unions are also appealing the decision, saying that this will make it harder to attract and retain young teachers. Judge Treu had ordered a stay on the ruling until all appeals are finalized.

The one-page appeal from the state criticizes the decision for its brevity and lack of detail regarding the factual and legal bases for the ruling.

"Changes of this magnitude, as a matter of law and policy, require appellate review," the notice reads.

The decision is a slim 16 pages, and the judge did not elaborate on or add to the tentative decision when finalizing it. William Koski, a Stanford University law professor who studies education issues, said that is surprising for "a case of this magnitude."

In other court cases involving educational constitutional issues, he said, there's usually a more lengthy finding of facts in the decision. A recent parallel, he said, is the 400-page opinion a Texas judge issued regarding the state's school finance system.

Stephen Sawchuk's Education Week article analyzes the debate and questions swirling around the Vegara decision.

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