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The state of education: A necessary slap

| Sunday, June 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A ruling that teacher tenure and layoffs by seniority violate the California Constitution deals a sharp, much-needed blow to laws and practices that put the interests of teachers before those of students.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu compared Vergara v. California to the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education racial-segregation case. He wrote that Brown was about the right of students “to equality of the educational experience” and Vergara is about their right to “quality of the educational experience.”

He ruled that California violates public school students' constitutional right to equal education by granting teachers tenure — after just two years — that makes firing even the worst practically impossible; by disregarding effectiveness with “last in, first out” teacher layoffs; and by disproportionately assigning ineffective teachers to predominantly minority and low-income schools. He said the “compelling” evidence “shocks the conscience” — but self-interested teachers unions quickly vowed they'd appeal anyway.

Their appeal deserves to do what too many students trapped in classrooms with bad teachers do: fail. That would encourage similar challenges elsewhere — Pennsylvania grants teachers lifelong tenure after three years — by Student Matters, the group funded by a Silicon Valley millionaire that backed Vergara's nine student plaintiffs. Judge Treu's ruling gives hope to parents, students and taxpayers nationwide who rightly believe their interests outweigh those of teachers unions.

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