California teacher tenure law ruled unconstitutional

BERKELEY, Calif. (WABC) -- A Southern California judge ruled Tuesday that teacher tenure in the state of California is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs in the case argued that rules around tenure make it too difficult to remove bad teachers from the classroom. The judge agreed. While some educators are hailing the decision, others are criticizing it.

After the ruling, the superintendent of public instruction in Southern California, Tom Torlakson, said he is concerned that this might make it more difficult to retain good teachers. But others say they think this is exactly what school kids need.

West Contra Costa School District President Charles Ramsey says the ruling is a victory -- especially for students in his low-performing district. "Teaching's very hard. It's not a profession everybody needs to be in and it can't be a situation where they can just stay. Now, at least we're having a conversation about how we reform the issues around bad teaching," he told ABC7 News.

The ruling came after a lawsuit claiming California's teacher tenure rules deprive students of a good education because they make it almost impossible to fire ineffective teachers.

"I don't think this decision will end up having any effect," said Jim Finberg, attorney for the California Teachers Association, based in San Francisco. "Tenure serves important state interests such as fostering academic freedom. And it also provides teachers the job security they need to make a long-run investment in their schools."

"Currently, as things stand, we already lose half of all new teachers within five years and this decision is not going to do anything to address the core problems that are teachers and our students face," said 4th-grade teacher Cathy Campbell.

But other teachers say the ruling could be good, especially for students, if it pushes some teachers out the door. "If this is not the profession for you, because teaching is extremely hard, find something else. Don't make the life of a child miserable," said 4th-grade teacher Alva Carrothers.

The superior court ruling is tentative. An appeal would go to the 2nd District Court in Los Angeles and perhaps eventually, to the California Supreme Court.
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