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Judge: Lawsuit Targeting N.Y. Teacher Tenure May Continue

A Staten Island judge Thursday allowed a challenge to the state's teacher-employment rules to go forward, ruling against the state, New York City, and teachers' unions that had filed motions to dismiss the case. The ruling is a particular blow for the unions, which had sought to prevent the case from advancing to the trial level.

The lawsuit, Davids v. New York, is a consolidation of two similarly themed court challenges. Inspired by the 2014 Vergara v. California ruling, the New York lawsuit argues that the state's complex rules make it too easy for teachers to be granted tenure; that seniority-based layoffs privilege experience over effectiveness; and that the dismissal process is too byzantine, all of which lower education quality—in contravention of the state's guarantee of a "sound, basic" education for all students.

"This Court ... will not close the courthouse door to parents and children with viable constitutional claims," Judge Philip Minardo said in his decision.

The decision doesn't adjudicate any of the actual claims the plaintiffs have brought. All it does is say that that they have the standing to challenge the rules.

Still, it's notable that the judge's decision essentially affirms the notion that the courts, not just the state legislature, should have some say in education policy. (To date, most education equity cases have focused on finance, not on these kinds of policy details.)

New York State United Teachers, the statewide teachers' unions, said almost immediately that it would appeal the decision.

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