California’s powerful teachers unions have successfully fended off a legal effort, brought on behalf of vulnerable public school students, to force the state’s education system to prioritize student well-being over special privileges for state employees. The New York Times reports:
A California appeals court ruled on Thursday that the state’s job protections for teachers do not deprive poor and minority students of a quality education or violate their civil rights — reversing a landmark lower court decision that had overturned the state’s teacher tenure rules.
The decision put a roadblock — at least temporarily — in front of a national movement, financed by several philanthropists and businesspeople, to challenge entrenched protections for teachers, championed by their unions.
This is obviously good news from union members, who enjoy tenure-for-life protections unavailable to comparable workers in the private sector, and who all-too-often seem to value the job security of even the worst teachers over making sure that each student gets a quality education. And it’s bad news for students, particularly students in low-performing schools, who tend to be stuck with those teachers year after year.
We aren’t lawyers at Via Meadia, so we aren’t prepared to say that this decision is wrong as a matter of law; the appeals court is certainly correct that “our job is merely to determine whether the statutes are constitutional, not if they are a ‘good idea'”. And no matter the outcome of the case (lawyers for the plaintiffs say the will appeal Vergara v. California to the state Supreme Court) it has performed an important service in generating publicity surrounding the egregious injustices that union bosses have inflicted on California’s students. The question is whether it will be enough to move voters to take matters into their own hands and stand up for students at the ballot box.