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Landmark Teacher Tenure Case Wraps Up

PHOTO: California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles on Thursday. Closing arguments have wrapped up in Vergara vs. California, a case that challenges the state's employment protections for teachers. Photo courtesy California Federation of Teachers.
PHOTO: California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles on Thursday. Closing arguments have wrapped up in Vergara vs. California, a case that challenges the state's employment protections for teachers. Photo courtesy California Federation of Teachers.
March 28, 2014

LOS ANGELES – The fate of California's teacher tenure laws is now in the hands of a judge.

In closing arguments Thursday, the attorneys for the Vergara vs. California plaintiffs argued the laws protect so-called bad teachers, while attorneys for the state said they're needed to be able to attract and retain quality teachers.

Kindergarten teacher Erika Jones said stripping away her employment protection laws would be demoralizing and harmful to students.

"I advocate on behalf of my students knowing that sometimes, I'm their only voice,” she said. “And with this lawsuit basically giving people power to handpick who they want to keep, who they don't want to keep – I just don't think that's OK."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of nine students who claimed laws on tenure, dismissal and layoffs by seniority protect the worst teachers.

Teachers' union officials say the suit is funded by wealthy Silicon Valley businessmen, who are anti-union, rather than pro-public education.

Whatever the judge's ruling, both sides are expected to appeal.

Joshua Pechthalt, who heads the California Federation of Teachers, said the issues raised in the case are serious and have broad implications.

"We think that the evidence is pretty clear,” he said. “These statutes are not about hurting kids, but help teachers do their job better, give teachers some security and also, give us the ability to advocate for kids."


Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA