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Schools chief to appeal teacher tenure ruling

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POSTED August 29, 2014 8:56 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California’s schools chief said Friday that he will seek an appeal of a court ruling that struck down tenure and other job protections for teachers.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said he has no authority to challenge the ruling by a Los Angeles judge, but he will ask the state attorney general to appeal.

Torlakson was among those named in a lawsuit brought by nine students that argued California’s hiring-and-firing rules for teachers saddled schools — especially those in poor and minority neighborhoods — with bad teachers who effectively couldn’t be fired.

On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu affirmed his June ruling that found five laws violated the California Constitution by depriving some of the state’s 6.2 million students of a quality education. He’d earlier said the system “shocks the conscience.”

The judge has declined to tell the state Legislature exactly how to change the system, but he has expressed confidence it will do so in a way that passes constitutional muster.

However, Torlakson said in a statement Friday that the ruling isn’t supported by facts or law and is too vague to guide state lawmakers in making alterations.

The trial represented the latest battle in a nationwide movement to abolish or toughen the standards for granting teachers permanent employment protection and seniority-based preferences during layoffs. Dozens of states have moved in recent years to get rid of such protections or raise the standards for obtaining them.

The powerful teachers’ union in California and unions elsewhere have fought to keep the rules, arguing that they protect academic freedom and help attract teachers to a tough and badly paid profession.

Torkalson, who has union backing as he seeks reelection this fall, said teachers were being blamed unfairly for failings in the educational system.

“We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full. We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children,” Torkalson’s statement said.

A challenger to Torlakson’s re-election, Marshall Tuck, said Torlakson’s appeal effort shows that he is standing “with his Sacramento funders and not with students.”

 

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