California public school students file suit to nix tenure law, saying it keeps bad teachers in classroom

By Julie Watson

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Jan. 26 2014 3:39 p.m. MST

The California teacher unions say they support improving teacher evaluations and streamlining the dismissal process. But those changes should be the work of the Legislature not the courts.

Laura Lacar, a high school teacher in the ABC School District, fears the law could expand beyond what happens in the classroom.

"It would be very scary to me, if this lawsuit succeeds, to think that I might not have a job next year, not for anything I'd done in the classroom, but because my principal didn't like me, or my clothing, or something I'd said."

Declaring the laws unconstitutional will allow the Legislature to craft legislation that does work, the lawsuit's attorneys say.

Karen Martinez, who lives in San Jose, said her daughter, Daniella, who is a plaintiff, reached the third grade unable to read before a teacher helped her.

"I'm hoping with all my heart that we win this case, so California can change a system that is clearly failing so many children," Karen Martinez said. "To me, it's common sense: appreciate and reward the teachers who are doing great, and hold accountable the teachers who are failing our kids."

Terry Moe, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution who has researched teacher unions and their impact on public education, said there's a long way to go even in states that have adopted new laws.

"Unions can make life difficult for administrators in coming years," he said. "The political pressure on the ground is strong. It's going to be really difficult to follow through on these new laws and put a dent in teacher tenure and really do away with the role of seniority."

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