California teacher tenure law unconstitutional

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tenure and other job protections for California’s public school teachers were ruled unconstitutional Tuesday by a judge presiding in a lawsuit brought by nine students.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that all students are entitled to equal education and said the current situation discriminates against minority and low-income students in placing ineffective teachers in their schools.

“Plaintiffs claim that the challenged statutes result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment, and that these teachers are disproportionately situated in schools serving predominantly low-income and minority students,” the decision said.

Rare common sense and decency from the courts. What poor students need is school choice.

Having been a teacher (who left in disgust, rather than making myself and students miserable), I’ve found the bigger issue to be ineptitude in parenting, and not just substandard teachers.

Teacher tenure laws don’t give teachers permanent jobs; the laws simply state that teachers can’t be fired without cause, and the cause has to be provable. You know, like “innocent until proven guilty.” Perhaps all employees should have this type of tenure: you can’t be fired if you are doing your job. And conversely, if you are not doing your job, you can be fired. If the reporters filing this story did some digging, I bet they’d find that the principals and other school supervisors are not doing THEIR jobs; otherwise they’d have the proof they’d need to fire the poor teachers.

Bah! The “fix” will just be to distribute the “good” teachers in a court approved manner. If everyone suffers equally, then it’ll pass muster with the courts.

It’s more than that. It’s legislatures and school districts agreeing to terms of employment that are far more generous than any average Joe might get.

And it has been abused.

Schools either fire impotent or dangerous teachers and risk being sued, or they continue to let them teach and risk being sued like in the OP. And some school districts take a third route and isolate them and waste millions in salaries, administrative, and infrastructure costs. Which do you think is the path of least resistance?


I went to a public high school that had vast numbers of different levels of courses, all satisfying grad requirements, so it was not hard to get a very good education from a relatively cash-strapped (but quite large) public school.

The issue, in my experience, is not teachers, it is home issues, overwhelmingly. Of course there are better and worse teachers, but not once in my 13 years of primary and secondary education did I have what I would objectively consider a “bad” teacher, between three districts in two states. I don’t think that’s luck. I just think the incidence of truly bad teachers is absolutely miniscule compared to what many people, often parents who will yell at the teacher because Darling Suzie Q didn’t get an A, seem to think.

Tbh I don’t think public school is broken from a teacher point of view, and I have only attended schools in two very poorly-funded southern states. If the parents value school and inculcate this value, their kids will tend to be better students and learn more. If the parents don’t value school or are indifferent or the kids don’t have parents or have horrible home lives, the kids will tend to be worse students. Also for many poor kids school is an opportunity to get to do one thing that they miss out on a lot, which is to eat.

I really don’t understand what all the fuss over teachers is about. A teacher is maybe responsible imho for 10% of what a student learns. The rest is up to the individual motivation of the student which is determined in large part, but not totally, by the parents.

If people want to have a pedagogy or curriculum debate, okay, I can get on board with that. Most teachers have little to zero say in the latter, and increasingly less say even in the former.


While I’d agree tenure doesn’t protect them from being fired, it does make it difficult (and costly) to get rid of them. By the time that facts are gathered, the teacher is put on paid administrative leave, it goes through disciplinary hearings, and finally arbitration a year or more could have passed. When the teacher is on leave they often are pulling a full salary and the district has to also pay a substitute teacher to cover the classes. I’ve seen estimates that it can cost a district 100k-150k+ to fire a tenured teacher.

I think it’s also important to distinguish between a teacher doing their job and a teacher being effective at that job. I have seen many people laid off who were doing their jobs (i.e. punching the clock and collecting a paycheck), that were not effective at the job. If a teacher is only going through the motions then they should be eligible to be laid off just like almost anyone else in the private sector.

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