California Educator

October 2015

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Page 41 of 63

Updates on critical cases that impact education Cases in Court C TA A N D I T S PA R T N E R S have been subjected to ongoing, well-funded and orchestrated attacks that undermine students' ability to gain a solid public school education and teachers' efforts to deliver it. They are also designed to weaken unions and stifle the collective voice of working men and women. The most prominent of these in recent months have been the legal cases Vergara v. California, Bain v. CTA and Friedrichs v. CTA. Friedrichs will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this ses- sion (see update in a future issue). An update on the other two: Bain v. CTA Filed: April 2015. Ruling: Dismissed, September 30, 2015. Bain argued that members' First Amendment rights were being violated because they were compelled to pay dues to vote in union elections, and that conditions of union membership coerced them into supporting "political or ideological" view- points they don't share. In dismissing the case, Los Angeles federal Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that it would be, in fact, unions' right to freedom of associ- ation through self-governance that would be violated if plaintiffs prevailed. He concluded that the plaintiffs failed to show that state law influenced the union's membership policies (necessary for a successful First Amendment claim). "The Bain lawsuit rests on sensational and entirely incorrect claims," says CTA President Eric Heins. "Every educator is entirely free to decline membership. Members of CTA also have the option of not having any of their dues money spent for political candidates. It's as simple as checking a box on their membership form." Only union members can vote in union elections. Educators who opt out of membership still must pay "fair share fees" that cover the cost of union efforts on their behalf. Bain v. CTA was filed in April by four teachers with support from lobbying group StudentsFirst, founded by education reform proponent Michelle Rhee, and law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which is also representing Silicon Valley millionaire David Welch and the Vergara case plaintiffs. Vergara v. California Filed: May 2012. Ruling: Five statutes in the state Education Code struck down, June 2014. On appeal. California's 2nd District Court of Appeal will hear oral arguments this fall on Vergara, following a June 2014 ruling by Judge Rolf Treu of Los Angeles County Superior Court that threw out teacher job protections such as tenure rights, due process, and rules regarding hiring and layoffs. On Sept. 16, some of the nation's top legal scholars, education policy experts, civil rights advocates, award-winning teachers, school board members and administrators filed five amicus "friend of the court" briefs. They highlight the numerous and serious flaws that would harm students in last year's decision, and urge that it be reversed. The suit was brought by a group of high school students funded by Students Matter, a Bay Area nonprofit created by David Welch and financed partly by LA billionaire Eli Broad; its advisory com- mittee includes StudentsFirst. The suit argues that the state deprives plaintiffs of a quality education due to laws guiding core teacher employment rights, which plaintiffs say keep ineffective teachers in classrooms. CTA and others contend that without these rights, it would be harder to attract and retain quality teachers, and that the rul- ing ignores all research that shows experience is a key factor in effective teaching. Prominent civil rights organizations that filed briefs, including Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Education Law Center, Equal Justice Society, and Southern Poverty Law Center, urged the court to reverse the "plaintiffs' attempt to lay blame at the feet of the tenure system for disparities that are the product of other factors, including chronically inadequate funding for education." More than 90 top national education researchers and scholars, including Diane Ravitch, Richard Ingersoll and Eva Baker, wrote that the decision failed to establish a causal link between the chal- lenged statutes and alleged problems the suit purports to address. They were highly critical of the plaintiffs' proposal to rely on stan- dardized test scores and interpretation of the scores as the main criteria for teacher layoffs due to budget cuts. Perhaps most devastating to the decision was the brief filed by some of the top legal scholars in the country, including Charles Ogletree (Harvard Law School), Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and Catherine Fisk (UC Irvine Law School), and Pam Karlan (Stanford Law School). "In this case," they wrote, "the trial court substituted its judgment about desirable education policy and the best way to improve education for students without regard to the harms its pol- icy choice might cause and without regard to the evidence or the law about the cause of educational inequities and the likelihood that the court's injunction would redress it. The trial court exceeded its role in our constitutional system and its ruling must be reversed." A ruling on the appeal is expected sometime in 2016. More information: Vergara v. California, see; Friedrichs v. CTA, see 40 Advocacy

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