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State teacher unions file appeal in Vergara case, calling it ‘baseless’

LA School Report | May 1, 2015



Student plaintiff Elizabeth Vergara at a press conference

Student plaintiff Elizabeth Vergara at a press conference

* UPDATED

The state’s two teachers unions — the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers — filed their appeal today in the landmark education case they lost last year, Vergara v. California.

The lower court ruling declared unconstitutional state laws that govern teacher seniority, dismissal and layoffs.

The unions called the lawsuit “baseless,” saying it does little to help academic achievement of the most vulnerable students — those from minority and low-income families.

“This suit was never about helping students,” CTA President Dean E. Vogel, said in a statement. “As educators we believe every student has the right to a caring, qualified and committed teacher and that is why we are appealing the judge’s misguided decision.”

Repeating the unions’ response following the decision, Vogel said Judge Rolf Treu “completely ignored all evidence demonstrating the laws challenged in this case help ensure students have quality and caring teachers in their classrooms, and did not consider the impact of a severe lack of funding and growth in poverty which are some of the most important factors impacting student achievement.”

Students Matter, the organization that brought the Vergara suit, issued a statement in reponse to the unions’ announcement of their appeal.

“In their briefs, the State and teachers unions recycle many of the same flawed arguments that the court considered and rejected at trial, and fail to rebut any of the trial court’s findings that California’s teacher tenure, dismissal, and layoff laws violate the constitutional rights of students throughout California,” the Students Matter statement said. “We look forward to responding to the arguments presented in these briefs, and are confident that the appellate courts will affirm the Vergara judgment and protect the constitutional rights of California’s students.

The unions contended that during two months of trial, the plaintiffs and their expensive attorneys failed to produce a single student who had ever been harmed by these laws, while teachers, principals, school board members, superintendents, and nationally recognized policy experts offered dozens of examples of how these laws have helped and continue to help millions of California students.

CFT President Joshua Pechthalt said, “Wealthy anti-union advocates like David Welch, the funder of this suit, are obscuring the real problems of public education, which are best addressed by restoring funding to programs that ensure student success. It is not coincidental that the law firm he retained is one of corporate America’s leading anti-worker, anti-union firms.”

The appeal targets what the unions described as “numerous flaws” in last year’s ruling, including their contentions that:

  • There is no evidence the challenged laws have caused harm or inevitably would cause harm to anyone.
  • The court blatantly ignored evidence proving these laws improve the quality of public education in California.
  • The court intruded on an inherently legislative function.
  • The student plaintiffs recruited to front the case have no standing to bring suit.

The State of California, the principle defender in the case, filed a separate appeal later in the day.


* Adds response from Students Matter.

 

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