Photographer: David McNew/Getty Images

California Teacher Tenure Is Left Intact by State’s High Court

  • April appeals court ruling that upheld laws remains in place
  • Silicon Valley entrepreneur says focus will shift to lawmakers

California’s lifetime job security for public school teachers was left intact by the state’s highest court.

The court decided Monday not to weigh in on an appeals court ruling in April that found the state’s tenure system doesn’t violate students’ right to an education under the California constitution. The appeals court reversed a 2014 ruling by a Los Angeles judge who found the state’s tenure laws left low-income and minority students disproportionately stuck with “grossly” ineffective teachers and breached their fundamental right to equality in education.

The lawsuit was brought against California by a group of nine students backed by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch and attorneys from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP. It marked the first time advocates of education reform went to court, rather than to state lawmakers, to overhaul tenure laws.

“While we are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision to not grant review, we are grateful to the courts for shining a much-needed spotlight on these shameful laws and the enormous harm they inflict on thousands of children every year,” Welch said in an e-mailed statement.

While it was up to the state of California to defend the constitutionality of the statutes, the state’s two largest teachers unions joined the case and argued the lawsuit was part of a broader effort to undermine organized labor. They contended smaller classrooms and adequate resources were more relevant to improving public education than attacking teachers.

The case is Vergara v. State of California, S234741, California Supreme Court (San Francisco).

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