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Why the California teacher protection lawsuit matters

In late January, arguments began in a lawsuit that may affect the education of all of California’s public school students. The lawsuit was originally filed by a group called Students Matter, which is a nonprofit advocacy organization. The claim was specifically filed in Los Angels County Superior Court on behalf of nine students. However, the outcome of the suit may affect millions of students, including students with learning disabilities.

The claim contends that current California education laws violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. Essentially, the Students Matter organization insists that law governing teacher tenure, teacher dismissals and seniority policies function practically in such ways that not all of California’s public school children are granted access to an adequate education.

If the plaintiffs in the lawsuit prevail and all of their concerns are addressed to their liking, California would need to reform teacher dismissal policies and revise seniority procedures that tend to result in a “last hired, first fired” approach.

How teachers are hired, tenured and dismissed greatly impacts the education that children receive. If excellent new teachers are cut from their positions due to ill-advised seniority issues, children suffer. If poor teachers are guaranteed teaching positions due to improper tenure policies, children suffer. On the other hand, if qualified teachers leave California for other states because they are not guaranteed tenure, children suffer too. As a result, this complex lawsuit should be treated with unique care and consideration by the legal system and by the media. Painting the issues involved as black and white helps no one.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Testimony begins in trial over California teachers' job protections,” Stephen Ceasar, Jan. 27, 2014

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