Monday, July 28, 2014


Recent NEWS of Interest to California Teachers

Posted July 25, 2014
California asks judge to finalize teacher tenure ruling; Brown declines comment on appeal
[Associated Press / Daily Reporter, 7/23/14]
The Associated Press (AP) reports in the Daily Reporter that California Attorney General (AG) Kamala Harris has filed a request, without indicating whether the state will file an appeal, asking the Los Angeles County Superior Court to clarify some points in the tentative decision and issue a final opinion in Vergara v. California, the recent teacher tenure case.
See NSBA’s summary of Vergara from June 10, 2014:

Posted July 24, 2014

LAUSD v. Superior Court—Court of Appeal agrees with LAUSD to keep teacher data private
[California Appellate Report, 7/23/14]
Data regarding student performance, disaggregated by teacher, may be kept away from the public, pursuant to the Public Records Act, according the this appeal. Read the Cal App Report blog:
The decision in LAUSD v. Superior Court can be found at:

Guidance shows light at end of teachers’ bleak tunnel 
[Cabinet Report, 7/24/14]
Much of the disproportionally high rate of teacher turnover in hard-to-staff schools serving high-poverty students can be attributed to a lack of quality induction programs for beginning teachers, according to guidance released earlier this month.

Posted July 23, 2014
Agreement reached on ‘willful defiance’ bill 
[EdSource, 7/23/14]
After several months of negotiations, Gov. Jerry Brown and advocates for less punitive disciplinary policies have compromised on a bill that would limit schools’ ability to suspend or expel students for “willful defiance,” according to Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, who is sponsoring the bill.
Read AB 420:

Posted July 21, 2014
Vergara ruling becomes campaign issue
[EdSource, 7/17/14]
State Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Marshall Tuck this week launched a petition calling on his opponent, incumbent Superintendent Tom Torlakson, not to appeal a lawsuit ruling that struck down statutes giving California teachers firing protections and rights to tenure and seniority. The move indicates Tuck views the decision in Vergara v. California as an election issue that can work in his favor.

State of the Teachers' Unions: Money and Membership
[Education Week, 7/2/14]
The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers remain powerful players in the K-12 policy arena. With nearly 4 million members in total, they are deeply engaged in elections and in policy. (Five of the unions’ state affiliates have merged.)

Harris v. Quinn: Decision Silences Workers’ Voices
[CTA blog, 7/1/14]
In the 5-4 decision, the high court ruled that eight Illinois home health-care workers cannot be required to contribute union bargaining fees.

Posted June 28, 2014
Erwin Chemerinsky: Scapegoating California teachers
[Orange County Register, 6/25/14]
Laws providing for job security for teachers are not to blame for educational problems in California or elsewhere. There is little evidence that lessening job protections for teachers would do anything to make education better. In fact, it might make education worse by making teaching a less attractive profession.

Borenstein: Educators failing to report child abuse to police as law requires 
[Contra Costa Times, 6/28/14]
Teachers should instruct our children, not prey upon them. Educators should help purge abusive employees from our schools, not protect them. 

Posted June 26, 2014
Bill aimed at speedier teacher firings among those signed by Brown 
[Associated Press / EdSource, 6/26/14]
Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed legislation aimed at speeding the dismissal of public school teachers for gross misconduct, a bill in reaction to a sex abuse case at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles. However, it unfortunately complicates some other attempts by districts to fire teachers.
See a critique by the Contra Costa Times, “Gov. Jerry Brown should veto flawed teacher discipline bill” [6/20/14]:

Aren’t California tenure policies in fact unreasonable? Plus 4 more Vergara questions asked and answered
[Washington Post, 6/19/14]
Here are five key issues explained by Kevin Welner, the director of the National Education Policy Center, an attorney and a professor education policy at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Appeals tie up teacher misconduct cases 
[Cabinet Report, 6/19/14]
Two years after teacher misconduct scandals rocked Los Angeles Unified and sent a surge of complaints to state regulators, a new spike threatens to degrade the educator oversight system as credential-holders accused mostly of criminal offenses fight to retain their licenses. 

Brownstein: Why the Vergara Decision Isn’t Enough 
[National Journal, 6/18/14]
A California court struck down laws that put adults before kids in public schools. But that won't close the achievement gap. 

A silver lining in the Vergara decision?
[Washington Post, 6/11/14]
A decision by a California judge on Tuesday to strike down — pending appeal — five state statutes that provide job protections to teachers has deeply troubled many teachers and teacher activists concerned about the effect on the profession should the ruling stand. Here is a detailed look on what might be a silver lining in the ruling for those concerned about equity in public education.

Moraga School District agrees to pay largest ever per student molestation settlement

[Contra Costa Times, 6/18/14]
Seeking closure for a scandal that devastated a school community, the Moraga School District has agreed to pay $14 million to two women suing them over a teacher's sex abuse, in what is apparently the nation's largest molestation settlement per student.

Posted June 15, 2014
New ruling on California teacher tenure sparks call for change
[Los Angeles Daily News, 6/15/14]
Though a judge’s recent decision to throw out tenure and other protections long afforded to California’s teachers could take years to play out, school reformers are hoping the ruling inspires education leaders to take matters into their own hands. 

John Deasy: 3 LAUSD teachers should have been fired without a hassle
[Los Angeles Daily News, 6/15/14]
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy has said there are about 350 teachers in his school system that, if given the chance, he’d fire immediately, but can’t because the administrative process for dealing with the cases is too cumbersome.

Posted June 11, 2014
LEAs experiment with alternative teacher evaluations
[Cabinet Report, 6/11/14]
Much of the nation is engaged in some new form of teacher evaluation, encouraged by billions of dollars in grant money from the Race to the Top competition or by the promise of a waiver from key mandates imposed under the No Child left Behind Act. But typically those efforts are limited to grades three through eight, when state assessments in reading and math are conducted for federal accountability purposes. A new study out from the U.S. Department of Education looks at how eight unnamed school districts expanded the evaluation process to all teachers using a variety of alternative systems.

Posted June 10, 2014 and on following date:
California Judge Strikes Down Teacher Tenure in Vergara Case
[Breitbart News / KPCC / Politico / New York Times, 6/10/12]
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has struck down teacher tenure as unconstitutional, ruling in the highly-anticipated Vergara v. California case that such protections "disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students." Judge Rolf Treu found that laws granting tenure after two years, prioritizing seniority in layoffs, and making it difficult to fire teachers violate state constitutional guarantees of adequate public education.
The 16-page ruling can be seen at:

California Teacher Tenure Found to Violate Student Rights [Bloomberg News, 6/10/14]: A nice broad look at the possible implications:
Trial Court: The Evidence is Compelling. Indeed it shocks the conscience.”  The plaintiff’s “Students Matter” “Victory” page:
Schrag: Vergara ruling’s strong words in the end will make little difference [Peter Schrag in EdSource, 6/11/14]: From the start, the Vergara case was more significant for its political implications than for the possible benefits it would gain for the poor and minority students on whose behalf it was purportedly brought.
Fuzzy Math [Slate, 6/11/14]: The guesstimate that struck down California’s teacher tenure laws. The trial judge cited a statistic that sounded damning: According to a state witness, between 1 and 3 percent of California’s teachers could be considered “grossly ineffective.” 
Vergara Verdict Flawed, Like Lawsuit Itself [CTA website, 6/10/14]:
Also read the NSBA’s article from March 31, 2014, in which they cite closing arguments with much of the language that found its way into the (contested) final opinion of Judge Treu:
[Students Matter, 6/10/14]: They have a “Victory” page that celebrates the decision with language from the trial court decision.
Mark Walsh in EdWeek’s School Law Blog (6/10/14):
Dan Walters (Sacramento Bee, 6/11/14) calls this a “sociopolitical bomb”:
Is this the end of teacher tenure in California? [SF Chron, 6/11/14]:
Judge strikes down all 5 teacher protection laws [EdSource, 6/11/14]:
[NSBA Legal Clips, 6/12/14]:
California Education lawyer Michelle Ball comments on her blog (6/13/14):
Case Summary:

Your professional rights are on trial
[CTA website, 6/10/14]
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ruled the deeply misguided Vergara vs. State of California lawsuit may proceed to trial, denying motions by CTA, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and the state of California for summary judgment. However, the judge said the decision to deny the request to dismiss the case in no way indicates the trial’s outcome.

Vergara v. California: The Most Important Court Case You’ve Never Heard Of
[Daily Beast, 5/29/14]
This school year, parents learned a tough lesson: The only force on behalf of the public interest is an interested public. And sometimes the students show us the way.

Vergara teacher tenure case: point counterpoint
[LA School Report, 4/8/14]
Edweek has done a nice job providing opposing perspectives on the potential outcome of the Vergara v. California case, a lawsuit challenging the state’s teacher tenure and job protection laws. Read the two articles at:

Posted June 8, 2014
California ahead of most states in abolishing harsh disciplinary policies 
[EdSource, 6/5/14]
A report released this week by The Council of State Governments Justice Center calls on school districts across the nation to hold themselves accountable for a positive school climate as well as test scores.

ACLU sues California claiming low-income districts fail to provide adequate instructional time in violation of state constitution
[NSBA Legal Clips, 6/3/14]
The Los Angeles Times reports that the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Counsel, and others have filed a class action suit in Alameda Superior Court on behalf of students from seven of the state’s most disadvantaged schools. Cruz et al. v. State of California charges that the California Department of Education has failed to meet its obligation to ensure that all California students receive a minimum level of instructional time, predominantly affecting those who are minorities and from low-income families.
Read the complaint:

Posted June 1, 2014
LAUSD's 'teacher jails' shut down 
[Los Angeles Daily News, 5/27/14]
Los Angeles Unified School District shut down its "teacher jails" Tuesday, freeing educators to stay at home on paid leave, instead of at a district office, during investigations into alleged misconduct.

Posted May 22, 2014
Teachers quit, parents withhold money over Catholic school morality clause 
[Oakland Tribune, 5/22/14]
Catholic school teachers under the Diocese of Oakland are quitting and parents are withholding donations over new faith and morals contract language teachers at 54 schools must sign that references their private lives.
Read the East Bay Express coverage of this issue:

Bishop O'Dowd Program Director Refuses to Sign Oakland Diocese's New 'Morals' Code
[East Bay Express, 5/13/14]
In recent weeks, the Diocese of Oakland has increasingly come under fire for requiring teachers in East Bay Catholic schools to agree to a new "morals" code in their contracts — a controversial revision that covers expected behavior in their personal lives. 

Interest grows in schools where teachers run the show
[Cabinet Report, 5/21/14]
With more than 60 so-called 'teacher-powered' schools operating in 15 states, charter advocates in search of new models of success tout in a new policy brief the growing interest nationally in schools designed and run exclusively by teachers.

Posted May 19, 2014
North Carolina's Anti-Tenure Law Is Unconstitutional, State Court Rules
A North Carolina superior-court judge has ruled that a 2013 law dismantling the state's system of granting "career status" for teachers is unconstitutional, the Associated Press reports. 

Posted May 17, 2014
The Need for a Test to Help Courts Make Sense of Off-Campus Student Speech
[EdJurists, 5/16/14]
Education law blogger Spencer Weller seeks a “community of legal scholars … to develop its own test that appropriately differentiated between off-campus speech that is completely protected by the First Amendment and off-campus speech that should result in on-campus consequences.” In this blog he summarizes some of the different “tests” that have been suggested.
Benjamin Ellison’s Notre Dame Law Review article (vol. 85, no. 2, p. 809, 2/1/2010) on the subject, “More Connection, Less Protection? Off Campus Speech with On-Campus Impact,” can be found here:

Lawsuit: Catholic school boys competed for up-skirt photos of female teachers
[Contra Costa Times, 5/15/14]
Sexual harassment of teachers by students is rampant at Serra High, a teacher claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday against the prestigious all-boys Catholic school, describing a sordid “boys will be boys” atmosphere where kids competed to get upskirt videos of their female instructors.

Haney: San Francisco’s new dress code removes causes of needless conflict 
[EdSource, 5/14/14]
With all the challenges that we face in getting students to feel welcomed, comfortable and safe at school, why we would we set up new barriers that push some students away, particularly students of color? 

Posted on May 14, 2014:
Teacher on leave after allegation of mock hanging 
[Los Angeles Times, 5/13/14]
An Orange County charter school teacher has been placed on leave after allegedly singling out an African American student to demonstrate a hanging during a class trip. 

The Ninth Circuit Departs from Tinker in Upholding Ban on American Flag T-Shirts in School
[Justia, 5/12/14]
Professor Ronald Rotunda discusses the 9th Circuit case holding that a public school could permit students to wear t-shirts bearing the Mexican flag while banning students from wearing shirts with an American flag. He argues that the reasoning runs counter to the logic of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District and its progeny, and effectively sides in favor of the “heckler’s veto.”

Supreme Court's Next Potential Religion Case: Public School Graduation at Church
[School Law Blog, 5/8/14]
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld prayers before town meetings, it is ready to decide whether to take up another establishment of religion case, this one involving a public school graduation ceremony held at a church. And it is getting fresh advice about what it should do with the latter case.

Oakland Diocese requiring educators to conform to church teachings
[San Francisco Chronicle, 5/9/14]
Educators at East Bay Catholic schools must sign a new contract Friday with the Diocese of Oakland pledging to conform to church teachings outside the workplace - leaving some, particularly non-Catholics, wrestling with a professional and moral dilemma. 

8th-grade teachers to undergo training after Holocaust assignment 
[Los Angeles Times, 5/8/14]
Rialto Unified school officials say all eighth-grade teachers will make a mandatory visit to the Museum of‎ Tolerance before the end of the school year in response to a public outcry to a writing assignment asking students to consider whether the Holocaust actually happened. 

Posted April 26, 2014:
The lawsuit's called Vergara, but the name you should know is Welch 
[KPCC, 4/25/14]
Welch is the man behind Students Matter, the advocacy group that recruited nine public school students to sue the state of California, saying teacher job protections harm their ability to get the 'adequate' education they are promised in the state constitution. 

Science teacher suspended over 'dangerous' projects returns to classroom 
[Los Angeles Times, 4/26/14]
After many rally behind Greg Schiller, suspended over students' science projects, he resumes teaching, still could be disciplined. 

California Bill backs lessons about Obama 
[Associated Press, 4/26/14]
A bill that passed the Assembly with unanimous bipartisan support Thursday encourages California schools to teach students about the racial significance of Barack Obama's presidency. The Assembly approved AB 1912 with a 71-0 vote and no debate or discussion. It now heads to the state Senate.

L.A. Unified can keep teacher ratings anonymous, judges say 
[Los Angeles Times, 4/25/14]
A three-judge state appellate court panel tentatively found a stronger public interest in keeping the names confidential than publicly releasing them. 

Common Core now the common element in college-preparatory courses 
[EdSource, 4/24/14]
Lesson plans and teacher training programs at the K-12 level aren’t the only things being updated to reflect the new Common Core State Standards.

Posted April 20, 2014
Fight grows over wearing flag shirts
[San Jose Mercury-News / Contra Costa Times, 4/19/14]
Several conservative groups and 20 Republican members of Congress have jumped into the legal fray over a South Bay high school’s decision to order a group of students wearing American-flag adorned shirts to turn them inside out during a 2010 Cinco de Mayo celebration. 

Santa Monica teacher who scuffled with student to be reinstated 
[Los Angeles Times, 4/19/14]
Santa Monica school district officials will reinstate a teacher who was placed on paid administrative leave after video clips showed him locked in a tussle with a student in a classroom.

Posted April 13, 2014
Banks: Uproar over classroom scuffle reflects a profession under siege 
[Los Angeles Times, 4/12/14]
Groundswell of support for teacher who wrestled disruptive student to the floor shows the public is fed up with the disciplinary problems and bureaucracies that impede education. 

Posted April 11, 2014
Appeal court upholds student’s involuntary transfer 
[Cabinet Report, 4/11/14]
A state court of appeal has upheld a school district’s right to involuntarily transfer students to continuation high school even if all other means of correction have not necessarily been exhausted. 
The opinion in Nathan G. v. Clovis Unified School District (3/25/14) can be found at:

Posted April 10, 2014

Teacher removed for 'dangerous' science projects; supporters rally 
[Los Angeles Times, 4/10/14]:
A popular Los Angeles high school science teacher has been suspended after students turned in projects that appeared dangerous to administrators, spurring a campaign calling for his return to the classroom. 

Posted April 9, 2014
Student pleads not guilty in fight with Santa Monica teacher
[Los Angeles Times, 4/9/14]
An 18-year-old Santa Monica High School student who authorities say tangled with his science teacher in a classroom last week pleaded not guilty Tuesday to multiple misdemeanor charges.

L.A. Unified settles lawsuit over layoffs 
[EdSource, 4/9/14]
The agreement will provide $60 million in raises, services and staff at 37 campuses, but doesn't address whether seniority should be the basis of layoffs.
The settlement agreement in Reed v. State of California can be accessed here:

Majority of Students 'Engaged'—But Not Teachers, Gallup Poll Finds
[Gallup, 4/8/14]
The best educators know that for students to achieve meaningful, lasting success in the classroom and beyond, they must be emotionally engaged in the educational experience. This means educators must focus on students' hope, engagement, and wellbeing -- the predictors Gallup has discovered matter the most.

Research: New Hires May Be Staying Longer
[Education Week Blog, 4/8/14]
In the reversal of a trend, teachers hired during the Great Recession may be sticking it out in classrooms longer than those hired just a few years before that, according to data released today.

Posted April 8, 2014
Apple Valley teachers infringed on rights of Christian students, district says 
[Inland Daily Bulletin, 4/8/14]
For more than a year, four of the five Peterson family children have distributed plastic coins with Bible verses imprinted on them at Desert Knolls Elementary School during recess, giving them out to their friends, who in turn distribute them to their family and friends.

Posted April 6, 2014:
Parents defend Santa Monica teacher who fought with student 
[Los Angeles Times, 4/6/14]
Parents of several Santa Monica High School students are coming to the defense of a teacher who was placed on leave Friday after he was recorded on video in a physical altercation with a student.

April 1, 2014
Teacher lawsuit is settled
[Contra Costa Times, 4/1/14]
Liberty Union High School District recently settled a lawsuit brought by a teacher who said administrators were harassing her and discriminating against her. The complaint was dismissed March 19 after the district and plaintiff June Hardy agreed to a $260,000 settlement.

State must begin protecting students as much as teachers
[Op-Ed in Contra Costa Times by Tony Smith, 3/30/14]
California’s education laws currently are designed to almost unconditionally protect a group of adults — teachers — at the expense of our children.
A rebuttal from Betty Olson-Jones, “Teachers aren’t to blame for most of schools’ problems,” (CC Times, 4/6/14] can be found here:

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