A Los Angeles judge has struck down California’s tenure laws for K-12 teachers, saying such protections are disadvantageous to minority and low-income students.
In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education.
Siding with the nine students who brought the lawsuit, he ruled that California laws on the hiring and firing of teachers have resulted in “a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.”
He agreed, too, that a disproportionate share of these teachers are in schools that have mostly minority and low-income students.
Washington state doesn’t have the same laws that were challenged in California but does face some of the same issues.
In Washington, for example, state law doesn’t require school districts to use seniority in teacher layoffs, although teacher contracts in many school districts do.
A 2010 study by the University of Washington found that eight of Washington’s 10 largest school districts use seniority as the only factor in determining layoffs. By the 2015-16 school year, however, state law will require that districts use teacher evaluations as a factor in any personnel decisions, including layoffs.
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Related: How gaps in teacher quality widen the gaps in student achievement (guest opinion)