CSBA Disappointed by Court’s Refusal to Hear Vergara Appeal; Will Continue to Support Efforts to Increase Equity and Strengthen Teacher Quality
SACRAMENTO, Calif., (August 22, 2016) – In a decision with negative consequences for efforts to ensure that all students have access to a quality teacher, California’s Supreme Court declined to hear Vergara v. the State of California today. The decision means the dismissal of the case by an appellate court stands and student advocates will have to work through the legislature to change laws that contribute to the concentration of underperforming teachers in low-income schools.
The Vergara case gained national attention in May 2012, when nine plaintiffs – all California public school students – challenged California law granting teachers permanent status, governing dismissal of teachers for unsatisfactory performance and determining the order in which districts may lay off teachers. The plaintiffs alleged that the statutes led to the retention of ineffective teachers and that poor and minority students, in violation of their constitutional rights, were more likely to receive one of those teachers.
In March 2014, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu concluded a two-month trial by ruling that these laws interfered with the students’ rights and declaring the existing teacher protection statutes unconstitutional. In May 2016, an appellate court reversed that decision, a ruling which holds now that the state Supreme Court has declined to hear the case.
Prompted by research which shows that teacher quality impacts student achievement more than any other in-school factor, CSBA’s Education Legal Alliance contributed to the Vergara case on two occasions. After receiving feedback from a committee of school board members and the organization’s Board of Directors, CSBA wrote an amicus brief presenting an argument for improved statutes governing permanent teacher status, layoffs and dismissals and also filed an amicus letter urging the California Supreme Court to take the case on appeal.
“Educational equity is one of the most critical issues facing California and teacher quality is an important part of ensuring that every student, regardless of background, has a fair opportunity to succeed,” said California School Boards Association President Chris Ungar. “Most teachers do an outstanding job, but we must take every measure possible to ensure that underperforming teachers are not concentrated at schools where they are teaching our poorest and most vulnerable students. Although poor and minority students did not get relief through the courts today, CSBA will continue to advocate for students within the current legal framework and push for changes to existing law that will provide more equitable access to high-quality instruction.”
CSBA is a nonprofit association representing nearly 1,000 PreK-12 school districts and county offices of education throughout California.