California Superior Court Judge holds that California's teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional
Source: Findlaw – Breaking Legal Documents [By Adam Ramirez, June 10, 2014]
“California's laws on teacher tenure, layoffs and dismissals deprive students of their constitutional right to an education, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday, June 10, 2014.*
“The ruling is a serious defeat for teachers' unions that overturns several California laws that govern the way teachers are hired and fired.
“The 16-page decision (see Internet link below) may set off a slew of legal fights in California and other states, where many education reform advocates are eager to change similar laws.
‘There is ... no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms,’ Judge Rolf M. Treu wrote. ‘Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience’
“Enforcement of the much awaited ruling in Vergara v. California will be delayed pending an appeal by the lawsuit's defendants, the state and California's two major teachers unions.”
Court in New York State have addressed efforts by a number of school districts to “eliminate tenure.”
In Conetta v Patchogue-Medford Union Free School District, 165 Misc2d 329, a New York State Supreme Court Judge ruled that a school board could not refuse to grant tenure to a teacher who had successfully completed his or her probationary period because it believed that "that tenure at the elementary and secondary school level [in contrast to tenure granted to college and university faculty] was essentially guaranteed job security ... coupled with automatic salary increases."
Similarly, in Costello v East Islip UFSD Supreme Court** ruled that a school board could not refuse to grant tenure to a teacher who had successfully completed his or her probationary period.
Apparently mindful of the Conetta ruling, East Islip decided to take a different tack in an effort to avoid having to give newly hired teachers tenure upon their satisfactory completion of probation by adopting a resolution providing that all new teachers hired by the School District were to be employed under individual contracts providing for specified terms of employment.
To emphasis the point, the contracts included provisions intended to constitute "waivers" of the probation and disciplinary rights provided to teachers in the Education Law. The court noted that the characterization of the waiver as "voluntary" is questionable since there was no indication that any teacher refusing to agree to such a waiver would be hired.
The Appellate Division affirmed, holding although East Islip was correct that a teacher's rights with respect to tenure are waivable when the waiver is "freely, knowingly, and openly arrived at without the taint of coercion or duress," this does not, however, give the Board the authority to eliminate the tenure system altogether.
Citing Carter v Kalamejski, 255 App Div 694, aff'd 280 N.Y. 803, the Appellate Division explained that “the tenure system is a legislative expression of a firm public policy determination that the interests of the public in the education of our youth can best be served by a system designed to foster academic freedom and to protect competent teachers from the threat of arbitrary dismissal.” In contrast, the court observed that providing tenure by contract terminating automatically at the expiration of the contract period as proposed by East Islip was “the very system sought to be eliminated by the enactment of the tenure statutes of the Education Law and the change to a system of permanence.”***
In Conetta, State Supreme Court Judge Lockman suggested that if a school district wishes to stop granting tenure, it could make such a demand in the course of collective negotiations authorized by Article 14 of the Civil Service Law, the Taylor Law.
* The decision is posted on the Internet at:
** Costello v East Islip UFSD, Supreme Court [not selected for publications in the official reports] Affirmed 250 A.D.2d 846. See, also, Lambert v Board of Educ. of Middle Country Cent. School Dist., 174 Misc.2d 487,
*** In Yastion v Mills, 229 A.D.2d 775, the Appellate Division decided that a teacher may work on a year-to-year contractual basis and never acquire tenure even after three years of service. Orange-Ulster BOCES had appointed Yastion to a federally funded position and his annual employment contracts specifically indicated that "tenure does not apply to this position."