By Steve Smith / Labor’s Edge Blog
This morning (Thursday, February 25th) in Los Angeles, civil rights icon Dolores Huerta joined teachers and parents to appeal the flawed ruling in the Vergara case that would undercut public education to the detriment of the state’s 6 million students.
Stating that Judge Treu’s decision striking down five California Education Code provisions “is without support in law or fact,” the speakers predicted that Treu’s numerous errors will be clearly visible to the appeals court, and the earlier Superior Court judgment will be overturned. Treu’s decision was stayed pending appeal. But if upheld it would cause great harm to public education.
Huerta, renowned civil rights leader, founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, talked about the importance of teachers’ having a strong voice for students and described how the backers of the Vergara case, a group deceptively named Students Matter, misrepresented details of the case in an attempt to get her support.
I strongly believe in providing all children with equal access to a quality public education, and that starts with having educators who have the professional rights to stand up and speak out for the students in their classrooms. All my life I have worked to fight discrimination, uphold the rights of workers and improve social and economic conditions for our students and their families. I am not going to stop now by aligning myself with an organization that blatantly misrepresents the facts and pushes an agenda to strip workers of their rights for the financial gain of its backers. Students Matter is attempting to deceive the courts and public opinion in the same way they attempted to deceive me and it’s time to tell the truth.
Gaby Ibarra, who has been teaching fifth grade at Niemes Elementary School in the ABC Unified School District in southern California for 19 years, told reporters she feels outraged that this baseless suit demonizes teachers and proposes to destroy her right to due process.
My students need me to be secure in my classroom in my knowledge that I have the freedom to teach in the way that I know is best. My rights in the classroom are what protect the right of my students to a good education. Rather than demonizing teachers, we should be talking about integrating art and music in the curriculum, hiring more nurses and librarians, lowering class sizes, providing more resources for our schools, and about parents and teachers working together more effectively. This suit does none of these things. It does not fix the problems we know are there, and attempts to fix problems that don’t exist.
Martha Sanchez whose children attend Los Angeles Unified School District schools believes current laws ensure her students have the best opportunity to succeed in school.
As a parent I believe my children receive the best education possible when their teachers have clear employment rights. No teacher should have to worry about arbitrary administrator decisions or political whims to know they will have their jobs each year. Any lawsuit that tries to remove those rights, claiming that this is the reason why students don’t have the best education possible, was written by people who either don’t know what happens in schools or who wish harm to public education.
The California Federation of Teachers and California Teachers Association joined Governor Jerry Brown in submitting appeals, as did State Superintendent Tom Torlakson. Those appeals expose deep and numerous flaws in the lower court ruling, among them that there is no evidence the challenged laws have caused harm or inevitably would cause harm to anyone, that the court blatantly ignored evidence proving these laws improve the quality of public education for California students, that the court intruded on an inherently legislative function, and that the student plaintiffs recruited to front the case have absolutely no standing to bring suit.
Some of those students attended charter and pilot schools that aren’t even governed by these laws, and the teachers they complained about in their testimony had very good evaluations; one was the Pasadena Unified School District Teacher of the Year. Prominent civil rights groups, national education policy experts, school board members from across the state, and top legal scholars have also filed their own briefs urging reversal of the earlier ruling.