Appeals Court Hears Oral Arguments in Landmark Teacher Tenure Case

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CalChamberInCourtA three-judge panel at the Second District Court of Appeal this week heard arguments in the landmark teacher tenure case, Vergara v. California.

The California Chamber of Commerce joined other business organizations to file a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the student plaintiffs and the Vergara decision, noting that providing equal access to effective teachers in California’s public schools is critical to a thriving California economy.

The plaintiffs in the case—nine public school students from throughout California—filed their opening brief in the appeal in June 2015. The 121-page brief argues that the Superior Court’s ruling in Vergara should be affirmed on appeal in order to protect every child’s right to equal educational opportunities—a fundamental right enshrined in California’s Constitution.

The laws struck down by the trial court decision in Vergara contribute to the state’s shortfall in highly skilled workers, the CalChamber and other business groups argue, adding that California’s public schools currently leave far too many students unprepared to participate in the 21st century workforce.

CalChamber Brief

“California cannot afford to allow the inequitable distribution of teachers to impede the educational advancement of low-income and minority students, upon whose educational success our state’s future economic prosperity depends,” reads the CalChamber amicus brief. “Indeed, if the achievement gap between students of different ethnic, racial, and income backgrounds could be closed, it would enrich the American economy—of which California is the largest part—by hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Joining the CalChamber in the brief, filed September 14, 2015 and accepted by the court in November 2015, are the California Business Roundtable, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Valley Industry & Commerce Association, the Orange County Business Council and the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Several major social justice groups also filed briefs in support of the Vergara decision. The filings demonstrate the broad interest across the state in ensuring California’s public schools deliver a quality education to all—not just some—of the state’s students.

Superior Court Decision

After two months of trial, the Los Angeles Superior Court found unconstitutional California’s quality-blind teacher tenure, dismissal and layoff laws. The court agreed with the nine student plaintiffs that the laws needlessly handcuff schools, preventing them from making decisions in the best interest of kids, and disproportionately harm low-income students and students of color.

In his August 28, 2014 decision, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu wrote, “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

The State of California and the state’s two largest teachers unions appealed the trial court ruling in Vergara.

California rules require that the appellate judges rule within 90 days, so a decision should be released by the end of May. The decision will become final 30 days after that, unless one of the parties appeals to the state Supreme Court.

For more information on the Vergara case, visit www.StudentsMatter.org.

Staff Contacts: Mira Morton, Heather Wallace

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