LOS ANGELES, Jan. 27, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Trial begins today in the highly anticipated education equality lawsuit, Vergara v. California. The groundbreaking lawsuit, filed in May 2012 on behalf of nine public school students from across California, is being heard in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. The presiding judge is the Hon. Rolf Michael Treu.
Opening statements, which will preview evidence that will be presented at trial, is scheduled to begin Monday morning. Plaintiffs' opening statement will be delivered by their lead co-counsel Theodore J. Boutrous of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, and will be made available to media in real-time. Immediately following opening statements, Plaintiffs will call their first witness. Witnesses expected to testify within the first three days of trial include Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy, renowned Harvard economist Nadarajan "Raj" Chetty, and the Director of Labor Strategy at Oakland Unified School District, Troy Christmas.
An online real-time live stream of the daily proceedings in Vergara v. California will be made available at no cost to credentialed members of the media through Courtroom View Network. The trial is expected to last several weeks.
"I'm excited to finally have this chance to stand up for what is right and to speak out on this issue that has such an effect on students like me every day," said Plaintiff Beatriz Vergara, who, along with her sister Elizabeth and seven other schoolchildren from five California school districts, is challenging five statutes in the State's education code that threaten the educational opportunities of all California students. "Since I was little, my mom told me that a good education is the foundation of a good life. With this case, I want to help make the system better so that all students—no matter where they come from or what challenges they face—have an opportunity to truly learn and succeed."
The California Supreme Court has long recognized that equal opportunity to access quality education is a fundamental right guaranteed by the California Constitution. However, five specific laws in the California Education Code create a system that forces administrators to push passionate, inspiring teachers out of the school system and keep extremely ineffective teachers in front of students year after year. These laws, which violate California children's fundamental, constitutional right to equality of education, include:
- "Last-In, First-Out" Layoff Statute: The "Last-in, First-out" or "LIFO" law forces schools to make layoff decisions based solely on seniority, with no consideration for teachers' impact on students. Through this law, schools are getting rid of passionate, motivating newer teachers every year, and keeping ineffective teachers instead, just because they have seniority.
- Permanent Employment Statute: The permanent employment or "tenure" law forces administrators to grant permanent employment to teachers after only 18 months—before new teachers even complete their induction programs and before administrators are able to assess whether a teacher will be effective long-term.
- Dismissal Statutes: The dismissal laws go far beyond teachers' constitutional due process rights. The process for dismissing a single ineffective permanent teacher requires years of documentation, costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, and still rarely results in dismissal. In the past 10 years in the entire state of California, only 91 teachers have been dismissed, and the vast majority of those dismissals were for egregious conduct. Only 19 dismissals were based, in whole or in part, on unsatisfactory performance.
"The needs of students should always come first. Every student deserves a quality education, which begins and ends with an inspiring, passionate, and most of all effective teacher," said Plaintiffs' lead co-counsel Boutrous. "We have a responsibility to ensure that the fundamental right to a quality education guaranteed by the California Constitution is protected for every student in every neighborhood and every community."
Over the course of the trial, Plaintiffs will demonstrate that the challenged statutes significantly harm students by violating their constitutional right to equality of education.
"Equality in education isn't a privilege limited to the wealthy few. It's a right that must be protected for everyone," added Marcellus McRae, also serving as lead co-counsel for Plaintiffs. "We have amassed mountains of evidence showing just how harmful these laws are to students. Today, Plaintiffs will have the opportunity to begin bringing all that evidence to light."
The Defendants in the lawsuit include the State of California, the State Department of Education, and the State Superintendent. In May 2013, the state's two largest teachers unions, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers, joined the case as Intervenors seeking to defend the challenged statutes. Since the case was filed, Intervenors have made arguments outside the courtroom that fail to address the merits of the case and seek to distract from the lawsuit's premise of protecting and ensuring a quality education for all California students. An overview of Intervenors misleading arguments, and a direct response from Students Matter, the sole sponsor of Vergara v. California, can be found on the Students Matter website.
"Every student deserves an effective education—and that means an effective teacher," said David F. Welch, founder of Students Matter. "We have a responsibility, whether or not we have children in school, to ensure that state law guarantees that right to every student in our state regardless of zip code. Good teachers should be protected and students must come first—always."
In addition to Boutrous and McRae, Plaintiffs in Vergara are represented by former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, who together with Boutrous recently argued Hollingsworth v. Perry in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, successfully invalidating California's ban on same sex marriage, Proposition 8.
Students Matter, a national non-profit organization dedicated to sponsoring impact litigation to promote access to quality public education, is the sole sponsor of Vergara v. California. Students Matter's Advisory Board consists of innovators, education advocates, and child advocates, including Russlynn Ali, Chair, Emerson Education Fund; Ben Austin, Executive Director, Parent Revolution; Maria Casillas, Former President, Families in Schools; Dave Welch, Founder of Students Matter and President, Infinera, Inc. Learn more at studentsmatter.org.
SOURCE Students Matter