« Teachers Are Not Miracle Workers | Main | Is Reading a Lost Skill? »

Will the Vergara Ruling Backfire?

When a Superior Court judge ruled in Vergara v. California that the state's teacher tenure laws were unconstitutional because they disproportionately deprive poor and minority students of a decent education by leaving ineffective teachers in place, the verdict was hailed as a victory for the plaintiffs.  But if the ruling stands, it has the potential to invite litigation with entirely different goals ("Silver Linings Casebook: How Vergara's Backers May Lose by Winning," University of Maryland Law Journal, Volume 15/Issue1).

I'm not a lawyer, but it's not hard to imagine new lawsuits that challenge the disparities in working conditions between teachers in affluent and impoverished school districts, inequities in class size, differences in funding formulas etc.  In other words, teacher effectiveness does not exist in a vacuum.  It is the result of many factors beyond the control of teachers. Therefore, these differences could be cited as evidence of harmful practices, which would put school districts on the defensive.

Future plaintiffs can't have it both ways.  If they want ineffective teachers to be removed from the classroom because of the harm they do to their students, then they are going to have to show that disparate outcomes may be caused by unequal conditions. They can't pin all the trouble on teachers alone.  

Equally troubling is that the courts have become involved in an issue that rightly should be the responsibility of the state Legislature ("Must the courts improve California's schools?" Los Angeles Times, Jul. 8). This abdication means that taxpayers are left up in the air while matters wind themselves through the judicial system. In short, the Vergara decision will have unintended consequences.

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.


Most Viewed on Education Week



Recent Comments