Teacher Employee Rights and Student Equal Protection Rights Collide: California Teacher Tenure Laws Ruled Unconstitutional

At one point quoting Brown v. Board of Education, a California state court judge found that California's teacher tenure rules violated the state constitutional right to education and the equal protection rights of minority and/or poor students.

"LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that teacher tenure laws deprive students of their constitutional right to an education, a decision that hands teachers’ unions a major defeat in a landmark case that overturns several California laws that govern the way teachers are hired and fired.

'Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students,”'Judge Rolf M. Treu wrote in the ruling. 'The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”'

The ruling, which declared the laws governing how teachers are hired and fired in California to be unconstitutional, is likely to set off a slew of legal fights here and in other states, where many education reform advocates are eager to change similar laws. 


The plaintiffs argued that California’s current laws made it impossible to get rid of low-performing and incompetent teachers, who were disproportionately assigned to schools filled with poor students. The result, they insisted, amounted to a violation of students’ constitutional rights to an education."  (link)

The decision cites a study that calculates the cost of a single year of teaching by a "grossly ineffective" teacher was $1.4 million in students' lifetime earnings per classroom.  Another cited study calculates there are between 2,750 and 8,250 "grossly ineffective"  teachers in California classrooms.

Importantly, many other states, including New York, also have a state constitutional right to education that will likely provide a basis for similar challenges to teacher tenure rules.