Teachers Sound Alarm Over 'Anti-Public Education' Ruling
In a ruling with broad implications for public education across the United States, a California court on Tuesday struck down key workplace protections for the state’s public school teachers by siding with student plaintiffs—backed by powerful political forces— who claimed such policies negatively impacted the quality of their learning.
Issued by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu, the decision sparked outrage from teachers unions and public education advocates across the country.
“Like the lawsuit itself, today’s ruling is deeply flawed,” said Dean Vogel, president of the California Teacher’s Association, in a statement about the decision. “This lawsuit has nothing to do with what’s best for kids, but was manufactured by a Silicon Valley millionaire and a corporate PR firm to undermine the teaching profession and push their agenda on our schools.”
“This suit is not pro-student. It is fundamentally anti-public education, scapegoating teachers for problems originating in underfunding, poverty, and economic inequality.” —Joshua Pechthalt, CFT president
Speaking with Common Dreams, communications director for the Chicago Teachers Union Stephanie Gadlin called the ruling “ludicrous” and “hypocritical.”
“Due process and other protections for educators is ruled unconstitutional,” Gadlin said, “yet closing schools, mandating unnecessary high-stakes testing, privatizing local school districts through charter expansion and destabilizing neighborhood school communities is good law?”
In a 16-page decision, Treu overturned key workplace safeguards and due process rights for teachers, including seniority, tenure, and other job protections. He backed the plaintiff’s argument that laws protecting tenure and seniority are discriminatory because they keep, in his words, “grossly ineffective teachers” in classrooms that disproportionately serve “low-income and minority students.”
Yet, Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, declared in a statement, “Rather than provide resources or working to create positive environments for students and teachers, this suit asserts that taking away rights from teachers will somehow help students. This suit is not pro-student. It is fundamentally anti-public education, scapegoating teachers for problems originating in underfunding, poverty, and economic inequality.”
Kevine Boggess of San Francisco-based Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth told Common Dreams that the ruling is “misleading” about the problems that students in his community face. “What we see in San Francisco is issues of civil rights and racial disparities, as well as arrests at school sites, come down to the fact that key constituents are not allowed in decision-making. The real issue is how do we improve the education system, not how do we take rights away.”
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