Campbell Brown is working with six parents to challenge New York teacher tenure laws, in a lawsuit that will be similar to the landmark lawsuit recently won by students in California. The six parents will testify that New York laws preventing schools from firing teachers have harmed their families.
The California case, Vergara v. California, successfully sued the California government over laws that protected ineffective teachers and disproportionately affected minority students. The Los Angeles Superior Court deemed those laws unconstitutional and declared that the evidence of their damaging effects "shocks the conscience."
Both cases specifically attack rules that prioritize seniority over teacher performance, and complex dismissal procedures that can make it all but impossible to fire bad teachers. In some cases, schools would need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to revoke an inadequate teacher's tenure. Additionally, teachers can earn tenure in New York after only three years.
Brown told the cast of Morning Joe about one of her clients, "A mom in the Bronx who has got a teenage son, and she sees two paths for her son--she is one of our plaintiffs--and one of them is jail and one of them is school. And if her school is failing her, she feels a level of desperation that none of us around this table have ever felt."
The New York education system is in dire shape, with 69% of students in grades three through eight failing state proficiency tests.
The New York case may be more difficult to argue than Vergara, but Brown remains hopeful: "In terms of our chances, I hope that they are good. It's a different legal argument here in New York than it is in California because the constitutional language is different in New York. The case law supporting it is different in New York. So I think legally, we may have a slightly higher hurdle getting as far as they did, but there's so many factors that go into this and getting beyond a motion to dismiss and getting to discovery."
Unions in California are working to appeal Vergara, and New York unions are already lashing out against Brown's case. Brown has not yet heard a reaction to her case from New York's mayor or governor.
Mika Brzezinski expressed surprise that New York, where education reform is a hot topic, has not yet done anything to address these problems. "It's politics, I mean it really is, pure and simple, I think, at the local level," Brown told her.
Published under: Campbell Brown , Unions