Attorneys representing eight schoolchildren are suing California because they say the state's laws on teacher tenure, layoffs and dismissal violate students' constitutional right to an education by protecting ineffective teachers.
The suit, filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, is backed by a nonprofit education reform group called Students Matter. It names the state, Gov. Jerry Brown, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the California Department of Education, the state Board of Education, L.A. Unified and Alum Rock Union School District as defendants.
Five of the eight students attend L.A. Unified schools, while the remainder attend schools in Pasadena Unified, Sequoia Union High School District, and Alum Rock Union School District.
The suit blames five California laws, dubbed the "Challenged Statutes," on teacher tenure, seniority-based layoffs, and the dismissal process, for denying administrators the flexibility to staff their schools effectively.
File: Teachers, parents and supporters rally as the Los Angeles Unified School District board meets to consider budget cuts and layoffs, which include adult education, preschool and elementary school arts programs, in Los Angeles on Tuesday Feb. 14, 2012.
Nearly 20,000 preliminary pink slips have been issued to teacher statewide as of today, the state's legal deadline for giving notice to educators, according to an estimate by the California Teachers Association.
"When you issue thousands of layoff notices for educators, you are hurting students," said Dean E. Vogel, president of the CTA in a statement today. "The wave of education layoff turmoil brought on again by state cuts is rolling through classrooms and the families of our students. When you continually lay off teachers, you break the bonds of learning, and you send the message that education is not a priority in our state."
Vogel said there have been more than $20 billion in public education cuts to schools and community colleges in the past four years. California ranks 47th in per-pupil spending, about $3,000 below the national average of roughly $11,600, according to the latest Quality Counts report from Education Week.
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Students taking a test.
There are lot of studies coming out these days that look at the impact of a teacher on their students, including one recently released by Harvard and Columbia economists.
This week an Oakland, Calif.-based organization added to the mix, The Education Trust — West published findings of a two-year long study examining the nation's second-largest school system: Los Angeles Unified School District. The organization took the district's raw teacher data and created their own value-added model using experts to analyze how teachers affect students and how they are currently dispersed among schools.
Its findings have been the talk of multiple briefings over at LAUSD headquarters, said board president Monica Garcia today.
Some key findings from the 17-page report include:
- The top 25 percent of teachers can dramatically accelerate student learning — an English-Language Arts teacher gives the average student an extra six months of learning and a math teacher an extra four months — compared to the bottom quarter of teachers.