Education

Calif. lawsuit attacks teacher employment rules

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lawyers for seven California schoolchildren are suing the state in an attempt to overturn five laws that they say violate their constitutional right to a fair education because they protect bad teachers.

When a school district lays off teachers, it's the newer ones that who actually must leave first. The teachers call it "last in, first out." This lawsuit wants to change that. The lawsuit intends to do away with a seniority-based system for teachers used in school districts in California.

Karen Martinez and her daughter, Daniella are one of the families suing the state and their school district, Alum Rock Union.

"If you are starting to lose your passion for what you went to school... if I go to work and I don't do my job, I lose my job, so why should it be any different?" said Martinez.

The sponsor of the lawsuit is Students Matter -- a non-profit education reform group. They're also suing the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"It prevents school administrators from hiring and retaining the most effective teachers and unfortunately it forces school administrators to leave the worse teachers, the small handful of grossly ineffective teachers in our classroom teaching our children," said Joshua Lipshutz from Students Matter.

Marisa Hanson is with the California Teachers Association. She says teachers are held accountable if they don't perform.

"In my district you are evaluated. If they are finding that they have issues with the teacher, you are put on remediation and if you don't pass the six evaluations that year, you are put on dismissal. So the process does exist, it just need to be followed," said Hanson.

Despite the criticism, the Alum Rock Union School District has seen API scores go up, 57 points in the past three years. The API measures proficiency in reading and math.

In a statement school superintendent Jose Manzo said, "Much of this improvement can be attributed to our hard working teachers who come to work each day determined to make a difference."

Still, Martinez says the district and its teachers can do better.

"Teachers have teachers unions, but my children have a mom who is going to fight for them and a dad who is going to ensure that their education is solid," said Martinez.

This law has been challenged before recently by Sacramento City Unified and San Francisco Unified School District. In both cases the judges upheld the law.

The issue here becomes that the districts are unable to challenge these decisions because they don't have the money because of the budget cuts. We'll see how this one goes.

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Tags:
lawsuit, school layoffs, education, lyanne melendez
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