On Tuesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the Vergara vs. California court case. Essentially, the judge stripped teachers of due process and ruled that tenure is unconstitutional. The lawsuit was brought up, ostensibly, by nine students from poor economic areas of California who felt that poorly performing teachers, who were protected by tenure, hurt their educational progress. In reality, it was the brainchild of so-called education reform organizations like Students Matter and Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, with the high-powered legal team for the plaintiffs funded by tech billionaire David Welch.
PoliticusUSA’s Rmuse covered the basics of the decision on Wednesday, pointing out the corporate elements at play and showing that this is really nothing more than a union-busting measure by ‘reformers’ who are dead set on profiting off of standardized testing materials and privatized education. The dream of Rhee and her minions is to push charter schools into inner-cities and other poorer areas of the country. Knowing that these schools will likely not be able to keep up with rigid, across-the-board testing standards, they can have local and state administrators further defund these schools even more and have them lose their accreditation. That is when the corporate hawks come into the areas with the charter schools, fully prepared with Common Core textbooks and learning materials via Silicon Valley, and paid for with vouchers from the state via taxpayer money.
The American Federation of Teachers bemoaned this decision, as they know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. AFT President Randi Weingarten released the following statement on Tuesday:
“While this decision is not unexpected, the rhetoric and lack of a thorough, reasoned opinion is disturbing. For example, the judge believes that due process is essential, but his objection boils down to his feeling that two years is not long enough for probation. He argues, as we do, that no one should tolerate bad teachers in the classroom. He is right on that. But in focusing on these teachers who make up a fraction of the workforce, he strips the hundreds of thousands of teachers who are doing a good job of any right to a voice. In focusing on who should be laid off in times of budget crises, he omits the larger problem at play: full and fair funding of our schools so all kids have access to the classes—like music, art and physical education—and opportunities they need.
“It’s surprising that the court, which used its bully pulpit when it came to criticizing teacher protections, did not spend one second discussing funding inequities, school segregation, high poverty or any other out-of-school or in-school factors that are proven to affect student achievement and our children. We must lift up solutions that speak to these factors—solutions like wraparound services, early childhood education and project-based learning.
“Sadly, there is nothing in this opinion that suggests a thoughtful analysis of how these statutes should work. There is very little that lays groundwork for a path forward. Other states have determined better ways—ways that don’t pit teachers against students, but lift up entire communities. Every child is entitled to a high-quality education regardless of his or her ZIP code. And no parent should have to rely on a lottery system to get his or her child into a good school.
Now that the reform movement picked up a big victory with this court decision, these billionaire-funded ‘reformers’ are prepared to run this same case in other states across the nation. Already, similar lawsuits are in the works in Connecticut, New York, New Mexico and New Jersey, just to name a few. With this verdict already handed down, it seems likely that we’ll see similar verdicts in the other suits. Teachers’ unions will be weakened substantially, and the profession itself will become less appealing for many college graduates, especially if we see the rise of charter schools, with fewer protections for its employees and lower pay.
Reformers like Rhee have stated over and over that they are just trying to fight for students. That they aren’t really against teachers, they just want to hold them accountable. The fact is, though, they really aren’t doing anything to help students. All they’ve done is demonized teachers and created a hostile environment for them. They’ve been able to snow a number of progressives and Democrats, including our Secretary of Education and President, by presenting a ton of data that shows that, surprise, students in poorer areas with higher crime rates tend not to do as well as students in wealthier school districts. Of course, the suggestion isn’t to look into ways to improve those areas economically or provide more resources to school districts already struggling due to the economic situations of their residents. No, instead, the solution is to lay all of the blame squarely on the shoulders of teachers and their unions.
Somewhere along the line, it became perfectly acceptable to call teachers overpaid, lazy and worthless. There is nary a more thankless job than to be a teacher in an inner-city school. You are provided little resources. The majority of your kids are from struggling homes. It is likely the school district has taken away nearly every type of extra-curricular program that could potentially keep students engaged a bit more. And you are forced to teach a very specific curriculum in the hopes that the student boy’s test scores meet an arbitrarily decided outcome. For that, you’ve just been told you should have no job security whatsoever. You should always be looking over your shoulder, stressed out more than you already are.
If these so-called reformers were really concerned about students first and foremost, they would look towards fully funding all school districts. They would advocate more forcefully for programs that help end poverty. Instead of trying to create a more stressful work environment for teachers and tying their performance to test scores that are clearly biased towards economic prosperity, they’d stand up for teachers and look for ways to provide them with more resources and greater job security to create more stable learning environments for children. Rather than push for more school closures in poor, urban areas due to low test scores, creating further racial segregation for minority students and creating overcrowded schools, the reformers would advocate for existing public schools to remain open and perhaps more to be built, all with proper funding.
If we are truly serious about education reform, we need to look at the social and economic issues that affect students in public schools. The fact is, nearly half of all public school students live in or near poverty. By tying school funding largely to local property taxes, all we’re doing is making sure that the poor kids receive sub-standard resources in comparison to those in wealthier areas. Doing something to bridge that inequity would go a long way to help poorer kids in poverty-stricken areas focus more on education. Of course, the reformers aren’t really serious. The endgame is the widespread use of public money for privatized education. This will go hand and hand with certain tech companies providing teaching and testing materials to all schools, centered around Common Core and standardized testing.
As is always the case, follow the money.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).