Mar 31 2014, 11:08pm CDT | by Forbes
The superintendent of the nation’s second largest public school system testified recently that California’s labor laws regarding teacher seniority run counter to the rights of students to receive a quality education.
During three days of testimony in Los Angeles Superior Court, John Deasy, head of the Los Angeles Unified School District, spoke in support of the nine student plaintiffs in Vergara vs California. He also faced a tough line of questioning from state and teachers’ union attorneys, who are defending a series of generous state laws that protect teachers from termination and reward them for their longevity in the classroom.
“I do not believe it’s in the best interest of students whatsoever,” Deasy testified. “I have been very clear at indicating that the decision about who should be in front of students should be the most effective teacher and that this statute prohibits that from being a consideration at all. So by virtue of that, it can’t be good for students.”
Not only does tenure hinder many students from receiving a quality education, it also harms teacher morale and makes it difficult sometimes to recruit new teachers, Deasy noted. Prospective employees prefer to work at a system where job security is tied to job performance, he added.
Since becoming the LAUSD’s superintendent in 2011, Deasy has worked to improve the process of removing ineffective educators. In 2011-12, his first full school year in the system, the number of dismissals rose to 99. That was nearly a 10-fold increase from just two years earlier.
While the number of dismissals has risen, Deasy testified that the district still employs too many “ineffective” teachers. Part of that is due to the process of removing such teachers, which can take up to 10 years to run its course and cost on average of $450,000.
“Districts have finite budgets,” he said. “The expense of an appeals process is one of the decisions in front of the Board of Education. Boards have to approve the extension of funds during the appeals process. Some cases have been in the millions. When you have little or no money that means you’re going backward. Millions means you could hire a teacher, or an aide or a principal and instead you’re appealing this process. So that has a weight and an effect on that taking place.”
The plaintiffs in Vergara vs. California seek to overturn the state law that give teachers tenure after just 18 months on the job. In addition, they also seek to strike laws that force school districts facing layoffs to use only length of service as the deciding factor, commonly known as “Last In, First Out.”
Laura Juran, a lawyer representing the California Teachers Association (CTA), was one of several lawyers cross-examining Deasy. She pointed to his record of terminations as proof that current laws work. The CTA is one of two teachers’ unions who joined the case as a defendant.
Attorney Jim Finburg of the California Federation of Teachers, the other union to join, asked Deasy whether other factors, such as socioeconomic status, play a larger role than teacher effectiveness in a student’s education. Deasy countered by saying while there may be a correlation, an impoverished student still can receive, and deserves, a quality education.
What do you think of Deasy’s position on California’s teacher tenure and dismissal laws? Let me know in the Comments area below.
Source: Forbes Business
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