Lawyers for California’s two largest teachers unions filed a motion in L.A. County Superior Court on Wednesday to intervene as defendants in a lawsuit that would radically alter tenure for public school teachers.
The lawsuit, known as Vergara vs. California, was filed in May, 2012 by Students Matter and a top constitutional law firm. The suit seeks to change five laws governing the teaching profession, namely the tenure provisions that give teachers wide job protections after 18 months on the job.
The California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers argued in the filing that existing defendants, including California’s Governor and State Superintendent of Public Instruction and others will not adequately represent teachers interests in the case.
California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt does not want to to do away with teacher protections now in place.
“It means that teachers should be constantly looking over their shoulder to make sure that they’re not raising key issues, they will know that their job is completely dependent on an administrator,” he said.
Marcellus McRae, one of the lawyers representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said his side will challenge the teachers union motion because the case is not about protecting teachers’ rights.
“This case is really about protecting the rights of children in the state of California to equal opportunity to access to quality education, which the California Supreme Court has recognized is a fundamental right guaranteed by the California constitution,” he said.
Current “last hired, first fired” laws, he said, disproportionately affect schools in low income areas, where many teachers have less than ten years of seniority.
Both sides are set to appear in court in May to argue whether the teachers unions should be added as defendants in the suit. A trial date is set for January, 2014.