Nearly two years after the trial in Vergara v. California first began, the case is set to move forward as judges from a state appeals court hear arguments Feb. 25.
The plaintiffs – nine students in five California public school districts – argue that five laws governing teacher dismissal, tenure, and “last in-first out” layoff policies deprive them of their right to a quality education, in violation of the state’s constitution. Those policies disproportionately harm minority and low-income students, they say.
After a two-month trial in early 2014, Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor, declaring those laws unconstitutional. Treu delayed the portion of the ruling banning the imposition of those laws pending appeals.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the appeals court arguments.
What are the plaintiffs’ arguments, and who is supporting them?
Attorneys representing the students argued that California’s constitution, as interpreted in past cases, requires the state to provide a quality education. The five laws in question deprive students of that equal education, and poor and minority students are more likely to be assigned low-performing teachers, the plaintiffs argued.
Specifically, they said California’s two-year time period for tenure was too short to adequately evaluate new teachers. The cumbersome dismissal procedure made it too difficult to fire ineffective teachers who harmed students, they said. “Last in-first out” layoff policies forced districts to ignore teacher quality and students’ best interests.
Parents, students, teachers, superintendents and other school officials testified on their experiences under the law. Researchers testified about the harmful effects of an ineffective teacher on students’ test scores and long-term earning potential as adults.