Radical Right Opens New Front in War on Schools via Calif. Anti-Tenure Ruling

 WASHINGTON (PAI)–The Radical Right, already known for its war on schools and unions – including teachers unions – through stripping workers’ collective bargaining rights, denying unions money to operate and sending taxpayer money to private schools, opened a new front: Denying teachers tenure and other legal protections.
            That conclusion comes after Right Wing advocates cheered the June 10 ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu, tossing California’s teacher tenure law, its last-in-first-out statute and its law mandating due process for teacher discipline.
            Right Wing “education reform” groups predicted Treu’s ruling would start a national anti-tenure movement.  Michigan abolished teacher tenure after Right Wing lobbying there.  Washington, D.C., under controversial former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, did so, too.
            The Right Wingers weren’t Treu’s only cheerleaders, though: Obama Administration Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former Chicago schools chancellor, hailed it.
            But Treu brushed aside the politics in his June 10 decision, saying that had nothing todo with his ruling.  Instead, he declared ineffective, incompetent teachers denied kids the equal protection of the law – the California constitution.  He also suggested no remedies, saying that’s up to the legislature in the nation’s largest state, home to one of every eight Americans.
Based on data at the trial earlier this year, Treu calculated between 2,750 and 8,250 of California’s 325,000 teachers are ineffective, unqualified or incompetent.  At one point in his 16-page ruling, Treu said those teachers have too much due process of law protection.
            Both American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel did not directly address the wider war on teachers and unions in denouncing Treu’s ruling and in saying their California affiliates would appeal it.  Both unions, however, alluded to that battle, now raging mostly in GOP-run states.
            The unions and California state officials were all defendants in the suit, brought by two Right-Wing lawyers on behalf, the lawyers claimed, of nine minority students.
            “This case now stoops to pitting students against their teachers.  The other side wanted a headline that reads: ‘Students win, teachers lose.’  This is a sad day for public education,” Weingarten said.  Treu is right that poor and minority students often fall behind others, added Weingarten, a New York City teacher whose union represents mostly teachers and staff in major cities.  But Treu’s ruling didn’t explain why, she added.
            Treu “argues, as we do, that no one should tolerate bad teachers in the classroom.  He is right on that.  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 budget crises, he omits the larger problem: Full and fair funding of our schools so all kids have access to the classes 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 proven to affect student achievement and our children.  We must lift up solutions that speak to these factors,” Weingarten pointed out.
            Treu “sided with Silicon Valley multimillionaire David Welch and his ultra-rich cronies in the meritless lawsuit of Vergara v. State of California,” NEA added in a statement.  “The lawsuit was brought by deep-pocketed corporate special interests intent on driving a corporate agenda geared toward privatizing public education and attacking educators.
            “Just like the meritless lawsuit, the ruling by Judge Treu is deeply flawed,” added Van Roekel, a secondary school teacher from Phoenix. Treu’s decision “would make it harder to attract and retain quality teachers in our classrooms and ignores all research that shows experience is a key factor in effective teaching.”