LOS ANGELES – Teacher quality is a hot topic in the Golden State these days, especially now that the historic Vergara v. California trial is officially underway.
In the trial, California teachers unions are taking the position that poor teacher quality is due to incompetent school administrators who can’t manage their staffs properly. The unions say the cumbersome work rules and teacher tenure rights are reasonable measures that only ensure educators can’t be fired willy-nilly.
But Los Angeles schools Superintendent John Deasy testified in the lawsuit challenging the state’s teacher job protections that between the current law and the powerful teachers union, his job is virtually impossible, the LA Times reports.
“ … Deasy insisted that the contested (teacher tenure and seniority) laws affect the overall quality of teachers despite his best efforts. And dealing with ‘grossly ineffective’ instructors consumes far too much time and money,” the news site reports.
Deasy noted his efforts to improve teacher performance under the current rules have been opposed by the local teachers union.
“Deasy testified that when fewer teachers received tenure, the union staged ‘rallies about being on a witch hunt’ and, in general, resisted his efforts ‘at every turn,’” according to the LA Times.
Deasy was testifying in support of the plaintiffs in Vergara v. California, a group of nine public school students who are being represented by “rock star” attorneys for the education advocacy group Students Matter.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys claim that California’s teacher tenure and other job protection laws keep ineffective teachers in the classroom. They argue that the problem disproportionately impacts poor and minority students because those students’ schools have a disproportionately high number of ineffective educators.
The State of California and its teachers unions think school officials are the problem, not the overly lengthy and expensive process for terminating a tenured teacher.
The defendants – a group that includes the California Teachers Association – introduced data on teacher evaluations as evidence to support their case. Of the 10,843 public school educators evaluated by the Los Angeles school district last year, 2.8 percent were rated “below standard,” the Times reports.
The defendants contend more instructors are being closely evaluated than ever before, resulting in an increasing number of teachers who are fired or denied tenure.
“Their point was that Deasy and L.A. Unified (School District) have been able to address teacher quality; therefore, there’s no legal justification for overturning the challenged laws,” the Times reports.
If teacher quality was adequately addressed, then why would this group of parents and education advocates work so hard and invest so much effort to change the laws?
The fact is, current laws work great for educators and the unions dedicated to protecting them, but the laws are horrible for students and parents – the very people the K-12 system is supposed to serve.
The rules are a carefully crafted labyrinth of bureaucratic red tape and technicalities that force school officials to spend far more time than necessary dealing with misfit employees, diverting their focus from more important issues.
The system is designed, with great influence from the states teachers union, to put the “rights” of the district’s worst employees before students and taxpayers, and that’s not right.
Education advocates are praying that the judge in this important case sees things the same way.