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Beatriz Vergara v. State of California

California Superior Court
Case No.: BC484648 (2014)


Facts

The California Education Code contains a permanent-employment statute, dismissal statutes, and a last-in-first-out (LIFO) statute. The permanent-employment statute grants tenure to teachers who are reelected for employment for a third year in a California public school. The decision to reelect a teacher for a third year must be made by March 15 of the second year. Recommendations on reelection must be given to the appropriate authority even earlier. However, California’s induction program lasts for two years, and a teacher’s performance under the program cannot be fully evaluated before the end of the two years. The performance under the induction program determines whether a teacher is recommended for full credentialing. Therefore, a school could grant tenure to a teacher who subsequently becomes non-credentialed. Only four other states have tenure periods of two years or less. Forty-one states have a period of three years or longer, and four states have no tenure system at all. Under the dismissal statutes, California schools must go through an extensive process to dismiss teachers with tenure. This process takes two to 10 years and costs schools $50,000 to $450,000. Some grossly ineffective teachers are not dismissed because of the burden of this process. Approximately 1 to 3 percent of California teachers are grossly ineffective. Finally, under the LIFO statute, if layoffs are necessary, teachers are dismissed solely on the basis of seniority. Schools are not permitted to consider the effectiveness of a teacher in determining which teachers are dismissed. Low-performing schools, which have a higher concentration of minority and high-poverty students, are more likely to have grossly ineffective teachers through the combined effect of the LIFO statute and the dismissal statutes. Nine public school students sued the State of California (defendant), claiming that these statutes violate the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Treu, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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