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Judge strikes down laws protecting California teachers' jobs

A California judge's ruling that laws protecting teachers' jobs are unconstitutional will "change things in a big way," the plaintiffs' lawyer says.
By Frances Burns   |   June 10, 2014 at 3:49 PM
| License Photo

LOS ANGELES, June 10 (UPI) -- A judge, ruling in a lawsuit brought by a group of students, said Tuesday that California's law that teachers be laid off by seniority is unconstitutional.

Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu made the same finding about the laws governing the dismissal of incompetent or abusive teachers. He threw out all the laws challenged by the plaintiffs in Vergara v. California, who charged that teacher job protection tends to have a heavy impact on low-income students.

A group called Students Matter filed the lawsuit with nine students at plaintiffs. Teachers' unions argued the laws on seniority and job protection help students.

"This decision today is an attack on teachers, which is a socially acceptable way to attack children," Alex Caputo-Pearl, the president-elect of the Los Angeles teachers union, told the Los Angeles Times. "Instead of providing for smaller classes or more counselors, "you attack teacher and student rights."

The judge disagreed, saying the laws "impose a real and appreciable impact on the students' fundamental right to equality of education." Treu, who cited U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 ruling on racial segregation in schools, said the laws violate the Constitution's Equal Protection clause.

The lawsuit could have a major impact across the country.

"This is going to shake things up and change things in a big way," Ted Boutrous, a lawyer for the student plaintiffs, said after the decision was released. "It will usher in a new day in terms of educational equality and protecting the rights of students and teachers."

While many other states in recent years have made removing teachers less cumbersome, efforts to change the California laws failed to gain traction in the legislature.

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