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Survey: Teachers support changes in state job protection laws

Craig Clough | January 12, 2015



VergaraThe majority of public school teachers who participated in a new survey support changes in state teacher job protection laws that were the focus of last year’s landmark ruling in Vergara v. California.

The findings were somewhat of a surprise in that the poll, conducted by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research for Teach Plus, a national nonprofit that focuses on professional development for teachers, sought responses from only full-time district public school teachers, omitting charter school teachers, private school teachers and part-time teachers.

Under California law, all full-time district public school teachers must be members of the union or pay an agency fee to the union.

The defendants in Vergara — the state, along with its two big public school teachers unions, the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) — have appealed the ruling. If the lower court ruling stands, the legislature would be compelled to rewrite the laws struck down — on tenure, dismissal and layoffs.

While the 500-plus teachers surveyed were not asked directly about the Vergara ruling, they were polled about their feelings on those three issues.

Among the key findings of the survey are:

• 65 percent of teachers believe that three to five years in the classroom are necessary before administrators can make tenure decisions. The California law struck down in Vergara required a tenure period of 18 months.

• 72 percent of teachers believe that 18 months is not enough time for an administrator to make tenure determinations.

• 92 percent of teachers believe that they should be required to demonstrate classroom effectiveness as part of the tenure decision.

• On average, teachers want performance and seniority to have equal weight in layoff decisions.

• 71 percent of teachers think layoff decisions should be based entirely or partly on classroom performance.

• 70 percent of teachers believe that district support for an ineffective teacher should be limited to 2 years.

“Teachers are very clear both on the value of tenure and on the need to modify the current system so that tenure becomes an earned, performance-based standard,” said Mike Stryer, Vice President for District and Union Policy at Teach Plus and an author of the study, in a press release. “The report presents a real opportunity for policy makers to move beyond polarized debate and have an open conversation with teachers about modernizing the current statutes.”

The survey is not the first time Teach Plus has looked to tackle the Vergara ruling. In September, Teach Plus presented a policy brief that offered ideas for new state laws should the Vergara decision stand.

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