By Dana Feldman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California laws granting tenure and other job protections to public school teachers hurt students and are unconstitutional, a court ruled on Tuesday in a decision likely to change the way educators are hired and fired in the most populous U.S. state.
The ruling by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge is a victory for education reform groups who sued on behalf of nine students, saying that five laws meant to protect teachers' jobs are unfair to poor and minority students by putting them at a disproportionately greater risk of being taught by less-effective teachers.
The ruling enraged representatives of the state's powerful teachers unions, who vowed to appeal it.
"This decision today is an attack on teachers," said Alex Caputo-Pearl, president-elect of United Teachers Los Angeles. "An attack on a right to a hearing, due process, seniority. All are under attack."
A spokesman for education reform group Students Matter, which backed the lawsuit, called the verdict historic. The group had argued in part that the protections have the unintended consequence of making poor and minority students more likely to have grossly incompetent teachers, because it is difficult to fire them and many are transferred to schools in disadvantaged areas.
"The current tenure and dismissal policies in California serve neither students nor educators, but we now have an opportunity to right that wrong," said spokesman Felix Schein. "The Court’s decision is a resounding call to action to rethink these policies."
(Reporting by Dana Feldman; Writing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)