Trial Court Finds California's Teacher Tenure Rules Unconstitutional

Benjamin Sachs

Benjamin Sachs is the Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry at Harvard Law School and a leading expert in the field of labor law and labor relations. He is also faculty director of the Center for Labor and a Just Economy. Professor Sachs teaches courses in labor law, employment law, and law and social change, and his writing focuses on union organizing and unions in American politics. Prior to joining the Harvard faculty in 2008, Professor Sachs was the Joseph Goldstein Fellow at Yale Law School.  From 2002-2006, he served as Assistant General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Washington, D.C.  Professor Sachs graduated from Yale Law School in 1998, and served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. His writing has appeared in the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law Review, the New York Times and elsewhere.  Professor Sachs received the Yale Law School teaching award in 2007 and in 2013 received the Sacks-Freund Award for Teaching Excellence at Harvard Law School.  He can be reached at [email protected].

A superior court judge ruled today that California’s teacher tenure statutes violate the state constitution.  The judge held that “the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students” and thereby deprive these students of equal educational opportunity.  Although the judge’s order (a “tentative decision”) is somewhat difficult to follow, the gist of the ruling is that California’s tenure statutes make it difficult to discharge ineffective teachers, and that ineffective teachers are disproportionately found in low-income and minority school districts.  If the opinion survives appeal, this would obviously be a major development with serious implications for teachers and teachers’ unions.  The judge’s order is here, and the NYT coverage is here.  Stay tuned for the appeal.

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