California Governor, Superintendent Appeal Vergara Case

California Governor Jerry Brown is appealing a recent ruling that put an end to tenure as well as other union protections in place for public school teachers.

According to the appeal filed last week, the ruling lacked detail and Judge Rulf Treu did not provide any legal basis for his final decision issued last week.  The appeal also said that “changes of this magnitude, as a matter of law and policy, require appellate review.”

Because there is only a 60-day window for appeals, Brown could not wait until after election day to file.  Any position he took will effect the outcome, be he chose to appeal to give a nod to the state teachers unions, who are among his largest political supporters.

“This ruling says that education reform should be driven by how we fire teachers,” said Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers.  “We think that completely misses the boat about what needs to happen in school,” he said, citing such issues as the proper training, mentoring and evaluation of teachers and funding for lower class sizes.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will join Brown in his appeal of the case.

“The people who dedicate their lives to the teaching profession deserve our admiration and support. Instead, this ruling lays the failings of our education system at their feet,” Torlakson said in a statement.  “Its vagueness provides no guidance about how the Legislature could successfully alter the challenged statutes to satisfy the Court,” the statement continued. “Accordingly, I will ask the Attorney General to seek appellate review.”

The state’s two largest teachers unions are expected to join the appeal as well.

The lawsuit, Vergara V. California, was filed by Beatriz Vergara and eight other students who claimed their classrooms were led by unqualified teachers who consistently let children get out of hand and told the class they would never amount to anything.  The students argued state tenure laws kept the teachers in the classrooms.

A tentative decision was made in June, ending the tenure process for elementary teachers, as well as the firing process which made educators more expensive to fire than any other state worker.  Also eliminated was the regulation making seniority the prime factor during the layoff process.  Judge Treu said the laws in question protect inadequate teachers, who are “disproportionately situated in schools serving predominately low-income and minority students.”

The final ruling last week did not elaborate or expand on that ruling.

More than a dozen states have followed since then, filing lawsuits against state laws that offer teachers permanent job placements and seniority-based protection during layoffs.