Recent Decision Striking Down California Teacher-Tenure Laws Sparks National Debate

On June 10, 2014, a California state trial court judge held that California’s laws that govern teacher hiring, firing and tenure violated the California Constitution’s guarantee that all children will receive an education. The judge found that preventing dismissal of ineffective teachers disproportionately affected low-income and minority students, ultimately undermining the children’s ability to succeed in school. Citing Brown v. Board of Education and California Supreme Court decisions, the judge held that these disparate effects must no longer be tolerated.  This trial court decision undoubtedly will be appealed.

Although this decision does not directly impact Indiana laws or Indiana schools, it is widely expected to ignite a national discussion concerning the current regime of protections afforded teachers by statute and through collective bargaining agreements. Indeed, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised the ruling as a national “mandate” to fix the problems plaguing the public education system. “This decision presents an opportunity for a progressive state with a tradition of innovation to build a new framework for the teaching profession,” Duncan said. Secretary Duncan added, “Every state, every school district needs to have that kind of conversation.”

Indiana’s Constitution, similar to California, recognizes a right to a public education without tuition for all children. As a trailblazer in education reform, Indiana recently adopted changes that increased accountability for schools and teachers. The California decision may bring pressure for additional reforms.  Indiana, as well as other states, probably will face similar lawsuits.

The Education Group at Bose McKinney & Evans can help ensure your organization is informed and ready to manage any labor and employment issue that may arise in 2014.  Please contact Chuck Rubright or Jon Mayes with any questions or concerns.

About Jon Mayes

I am an attorney in the Education Law Group of Bose McKinney & Evans LLP where I advise schools inlegal issues such as property transfers, public records requests, and general legal matters. I have significant experience in the labor and employment context, advising public employers on dismissals, internal investigations, handbook drafting, and compliance with federal and state laws (e.g., constitutional provisions, Title VII, ADA, FMLA, FLSA, ADEA, and Indiana wage payment laws).
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