‘Vergara’ offers an opportunity

Teachers need job protections against potential abuse from their supervisors, and students have the right to have reasonably competent teachers educating them. The Vergara case can be a major part of this goal.

Judge Rolf Treu affirmed his preliminary decision last week, stating that the current employment protection rules for teachers hurt students, especially minorities.

The judge did not say that teachers do not deserve a system that prevents unfair dismissals, or that teachers are an obstacle to learning. He also did not say how to improve teaching. Instead, he indicated that a two-year probationary period for teachers is too short, that laying off teachers based on seniority because of budget cuts hurts students and that having it be too burdensome to dismiss a teacher—which has happened—even puts students at risk.

The idea of analyzing and making changes to these aspects is not an attack on teachers. For example, in the San Jose School District, officials and the local teachers’ union agreed to make changes in the areas mentioned in Vergara, as well as in others.

The State Board of Education and Superintendent Torlakson rejected the agreement under pressure from the statewide teachers’ union, which demonstrated that it is “defending” teachers even against their will. In this case, global labor policy seems more important than the educational environment that teachers in San Jose want to create in their classrooms.

It is not right for the details of education policy to be put together in a trial, instead of in the legislature. Unfortunately, good intentions to make major changes came up against union opposition in Sacramento.

We think that it is fair and necessary to have an appeal process for Treu’s ruling. However, believing that defeating the ruling will make everything all right is a mistake. The Vergara lawsuit is not frivolous; it questions issues that must be tackled. The best thing for students would be for teachers to play a leading role in these changes, instead of defending an indefensible reality.