For me, this victory for a bunch of high school students against California teachers unions and the government was more of a shocker than Cantor's loss. Politicians come and go, but this victory against entrenched teacher unions has the possibility of changing educational sclerosis in many states. Campbell Brown has the details.
The case began with courageous students, because they had to endure the nightmare: grossly incompetent teachers, mainly in poor and minority schools, protected by state laws. And when the court ruling thundered down Tuesday, the impact was profoundly clear: Students, you win.Of course, there will be bigger battles as the unions appeal this in every possible venue. But they will be forced to argue in court that the rights of ineffective teachers to keep their jobs trumps the education of poor, minority students. It's the truth, but teachers unions don't like to have their selfishness exposed. And you can expect that any state that has both teacher tenure that makes it difficult to fire ineffective teachers plus clauses in their state constitutions guaranteeing students an equal right to education to soon face similar challenges. As the WSJ writes,
Sweeping and unambiguous, the outcome of Vergara v. California is more than one decision in one big state, although even that much is significant given the shudders it will cause. It is an indictment of laws in any state that protect inferior teachers at the expense of students — and a powerful inspiration for other families nationwide who will turn to the courts out of desperation.
It is precisely because of its spillover national implications that this case has had so many people watching, and they all just became witnesses to history. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu said the evidence of the deleterious effect of ineffective teachers on students is so compelling that it “shocks the conscience” — a line that instantly gave voice to countless parents.
The court found that the nine student plaintiffs and their team had proven both of their points. One, that California’s laws directly cause students to be unreasonably exposed to grossly ineffective teachers. And two, that poor and minority students, in particular, are saddled with those teachers. The ruling was so complete that the judge declared every state law in question unconstitutional:
-California teachers are permitted to earn lifetime employment after a mere 18 months in class, well before they could truly earn that status or even be properly evaluated for it. The upshot, said the judge, is that “both students and teachers are unfairly, unnecessarily and for no legally cognizable reasons (let alone a compelling one) disadvantaged.”
-The dismissal process for grossly ineffective teachers in California is so complex and costly that it does not work; many districts do not even bother trying. That leaves thousands of underperforming teachers knowingly remaining in front of students. The judge blasted the system as so problematic that it turned dismissal into an illusion.
-California’s “last-in, first-out” law gives top priority in a time of layoffs to ineffective teachers if they have seniority while better teachers with fewer years are sent packing. The judge called that a lose-lose situation, supported by logic that was “unfathomable.”
These incompetent teachers have "a direct, real, appreciable, and negative impact on a significant number of California students," as the judge noted. A single year with a grossly ineffective teacher costs students $1.4 million in lifetime earnings per classroom. L.A. students taught by the bottom 5% of teachers lose 9.54 months of learning in a year compared to those with an average teacher. Shocking the conscience is right.
Judge Treu said he examined the case under strict scrutiny constitutional standards since "substantial evidence" including a report by the state's Department of Education indicate that the challenged policies "disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students." Strikingly but appropriately, he invoked the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that the opportunity of an education "is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms" (his emphasis).
The state and California Teachers Association are sure to appeal, not least because Vergara could become a template for lawsuits nationwide that could topple the scandal that is the public-school status quo. Notably, Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised the decision as "a mandate to fix" educational inequities and opportunity to "build a new framework for the teaching profession."
If state governments don't act, disadvantaged students now have a claim to petition the judiciary to protect their rights as much as in the days of Jim Crow.
So why do people think that Obama is so smart? He sure hasn't acted that way recently. Maybe it's because he's stopped pretending to be the moderate sort of guy who could bridge the partisan gap. The inner Obama has been released and it's not a pretty sight.
Jim Geraghty reminds us of many examples in how current events are demonstrating how dysfunctional an overlarge government can be. There are many examples I hadn't even heard of. And these dysfunctions have demonstrated how little attention liberals pay to cause and effect. They seem to have a total disregard for consequences of their actions. This story of all the children who have crossed the border since Obama announced that his government would stop deporting those under the age of 16 is a clear example of such a casual disregard of consequences.
Obama is described by friends and confidants as being increasingly frustrated as his second term drags on. His frustration stems from an inability or refusal to get to the heart of his governing problem: Obama’s liberal worldview depends upon the federal government to be an effective, efficient, and trustworthy tool for implementing his vision of progress, but the bureaucracy he sits atop has its own vision: a bigger, more expensive, less accountable version of the status quo.