Major court decision on teacher tenure

A court has struck down California’s teacher tenure and seniority system. The Los Angeles Times reports on Tuesday’s decision: "The tenure and seniority system that has long protected California public school teachers, even ineffective ones, was struck down Tuesday in a court decision that could change hiring and firing policies nationwide. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu said that the laws governing job security were unconstitutional because they harmed predominantly low-income, minority students by allowing incompetent instructors to remain in the classroom."

Economist Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institution writes at the New York Times: "The California court, noting that education is a fundamental right of California youth, struck down the law that requires administrators to make essentially lifetime decisions after a teacher has been in the classroom for just 16 months and has yet to complete an induction program. Similarly rejected were statutes that make requirements for removing a tenured teacher so onerous and costly that it is seldom attempted. Legislatures will likely respond to the court decision by lessening (but not eliminating completely) the burden of dismissing an ineffective teacher. The teachers unions will undoubtedly claim that is an attack on teachers. It is not. It is simply an attempt to restore some balance in the system."

And the Associated Press has a good overview, noting: "The judge stayed his decision to allow for appeals that are likely to reach the California Supreme Court. If upheld, it would not directly affect the laws in New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania or eight other states that like California base budget-related teacher layoffs solely on classroom seniority or in the six more where tenure drives the decisions about which teachers are let go."

Nonetheless, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the ruling "a mandate" to fix flawed tenure and seniority laws.

Indeed, Minnesota’s tenure system is as flawed as any in the nation. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) gave Minnesota laws a failing grade earlier this year on "exiting ineffective teachers." Only nine other states received an "F", one of which is California. NCTQ noted one of Minnesota’s key policy weaknesses: "Ineffective classroom performance is not grounds for dismissal, and tenured teachers who are dismissed have multiple opportunities to appeal."

Which is precisely why teachers’ union Education Minnesota fights so hard to preserve the status quo.

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