360° Coverage : California Teacher-Tenure Ruling Could Backfire On Conservatives

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California Teacher-Tenure Ruling Could Backfire On Conservatives

Jun 11 2014, 4:53pm CDT | by

Conservatives who cheered a California judge’s decision yesterday blocking that state’s public-school tenure rules should think twice before attempting to sue the teachers’ unions into submission...

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7 weeks ago

California Teacher-Tenure Ruling Could Backfire On Conservatives

Jun 11 2014, 4:53pm CDT | by

Conservatives who cheered a California judge’s decision yesterday blocking that state’s public-school tenure rules should think twice before attempting to sue the teachers’ unions into submission elsewhere.

The history of judicial intervention in public school policy is rich with examples that have horrified and angered conservatives, including forced busing programs and long-running fights over court-overseen mandates to equalize per-pupil spending. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court came within one vote of establishing a constitutional right to equal funding that could have given judges the power to dictate school funding and tax policies nationwide.

So it’s worth looking at the tentative ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu in light of what it could mean for future plaintiffs, not the assault on teacher-union perks conservatives are so excited about now.

In the surpringly concise, 16-page ruling, Judge Treu – a Republican appointee – acknowledges the “intense political debate” over school policy and said it is “not this Court’s function to question the wisdom” of the state’s laws governing teacher employment. But he nevertheless struck down laws effectively granting California teachers tenure after less than two years and requiring school districts to lay off teachers in order of seniority. He also struck down dismissal statutes that granted teachers extraordinary power to challenge firings, in what the judge dubbed “uber due process.”

All these laws, passed at the behest of the powerful unions representing some 275,000 teachers  statewide had the effect of discriminating against poor and minority students, the judge wrote. He got there by applying the doctrine of strict scrutiny under the California state constitution, a method of analysis reserved for the most serious cases of discrimination that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to use in the 1973 school-funding decision mentioned above, San Antonio v. Rodriguez.

“The evidence is compelling,” he wrote. “Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

The plaintiffs, financed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch, proved that the challenged laws “present a real and appreciable impact on students’ fundamental right of equality of education and that they impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students,” he said. The decision was based on California’s version of the 14th Amendment requiring equal protection under the laws, as well as a provision requiring the state to provide a “free school in every district.”

That phrase “fundamental right of equality of education” can be used in ways that will set conservative teeth on edge, however. For an example, look at the long-running case in New Jersey known as Abbott v. Burke.  The case, originally decided by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1985, held that the New Jersey Constitution’s guarantee of “thorough and efficient” free schools meant the system of unequal funding through property taxes was discriminatory.

The final chapter heading on this web page says it all: The case is now referred to as Abbott XX. Or Abbott XXI, since the 20th iteration of Abbott ended, like all the others before it, with an impasse between the state’s legislative and judicial branches over how to equalize school funding. Each time the Supreme Court tells the  legislature to draft a law guaranteeing “substantially equivalent funding” for schools, the legislature passes a law that fails the Supreme Court’s test. The court ordered an immediate $246 million increase in funding for the 1997-98 school year, mandated early education programs, and ordered the legislature to fund a $9.8 billion building improvement program that the Abbott plaintiffs — represented by the Education Law Center backed by the state teachers union — still complained was inadequate and unconstitutional.

When Gov. Chris Christie signed a budget in June 2010 cutting school funding by $1.1 billion, the Abbott plaintiffs went back to court, where the judges ordered a $500 million increase for the 31 poor and minority school districts covered under Abbott. This year, the plaintiffs filed another motion arguing the Christie administration hasn’t followed the court-ordered formula.

Even Arne Duncan, the Obama administration’s Secretary of Education, praised the Vergara ruling as a “mandate” to fix “laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students.”

But conservative activists who take up the cudgel of state constitutional guarantees of an equal public education should keep the New Jersey example in mind. If they succeed in breaking the teachers’ union, other activists might try to use the same tool to attack the tax bases of wealthy suburbs, crack zoning laws that have the de facto effect of creating segregated school districts and even dictate higher taxes to fund higher teacher salaries.

 
Update
10

7 weeks ago

RM47mil KWSG contributions still unclaimed

Jun 9 2014 7:54am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: About RM47 million of contributions in the Teachers Provident Fund (KWSG) still remain unclaimed, the Dewan Rakyat was told toda ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
9

7 weeks ago

Gold shop lost almost RM1mil

Jun 9 2014 3:50am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KANGAR: A gold shop owner lost almost RM1 million after after the safe on in his shop was broken into by ro ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
8

7 weeks ago

Motion to debate MAS losses in Dewan Rakyat rejected

Jun 9 2014 3:39am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: AN emergency motion to debate the losses incurred by Malaysia Airlines last year, amounting to RM1.2 billion was rejected by the Dewan R ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
7

7 weeks ago

MH370 Tragedy: Hisham: RM27.6 mil spent on 1st phase of SAR

Jun 9 2014 2:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia spent some RM27.6 million in its first phase of the search operations for missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370, said Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hi ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
6

7 weeks ago

9.1m litres of diesel seized in a month

Jun 8 2014 1:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA: The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism ministry has seized some 9.1 million litres of diesel and property worth RM58 million since mounting ‘Operasi Diesel Selatan’ in the southern states last month. ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
5

8 weeks ago

Girl, 9, awarded RM2.78m compensation for medical negligence

Jun 6 2014 4:56am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: A nine-year-old girl who suffered brain damage during her birth at a government hospital was awarded over RM2.78 ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
4

8 weeks ago

Malaysia's total trade in April up 12pc

Jun 5 2014 11:52pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's total trade in April 2014 rose by 12 per cent from a year ago to RM123.86 billion due to growing trading activities, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri M ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
3

8 weeks ago

Works Ministry to spend RM20m for upgrading works at 50 accident black spots

Jun 4 2014 11:35pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

JOHOR BARU: The Works Ministry will implement upgrading works at 50 accident prone locations in the country that have been identified this year involvi ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
2

8 weeks ago

Najib launches loan scheme for Ramadan traders

Jun 4 2014 10:24pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today launches RM45 million Ramadan Bazaar Scheme 20 ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
1

8 weeks ago

Residents bring up objection against Kidex to Suhakam

Jun 4 2014 4:49am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: A group of 20 Petaling Jaya residents held a meeting with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) over their objection against the proposed RM2.2 billion Kinrara Dama ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 

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