By Young Kim, Op-Ed for The Orange County Register
April 28, 2016
In April, a California appeals court overturned the 2014 ruling in Vergara v. California that declared that a number of California policies deprived students of their constitutional right to an education, striking down teacher tenure, as well as layoff and dismissal laws.
In a unanimous opinion that overturned Vergara, the Second District Court of Appeals wrote: “The court’s job is merely to determine whether the statues are constitutional, not if they are ‘a good idea.’” The judges also stated that the laws being questioned were not necessarily responsible. At the core of their ruling, they blamed the administrators, and not the laws that hurt disadvantaged students.
I was disappointed in this ruling and the judges’ reasoning behind it. The administrators cannot be blamed for statutes that make it extremely difficult to get rid of grossly ineffective teachers.
Countless studies have shown that the most important in-school factor for student achievement is having an effective teacher in front of every classroom. Yet, the outdated laws we have in place prevent that and provide no flexibility for administrators to take action.
Take a look at the dismissal laws that require two to 10 years to get rid of an ineffective teacher and force districts to spend up to $50,000 in order to fire them. This requires extensive evaluation and an enormous amount of time for administrators who are already busy running a school. This law is structured in a way that discourages administrators from taking the necessary actions to fire grossly ineffective teachers.
The same thing can be said about granting teachers tenure. After 18 months, districts are forced to decide whether or not to give a teacher a “job for life.” That doesn’t provide teachers enough time to master their craft and doesn’t give administrators enough time to evaluate a teacher’s performance.
Then there is “Last In, First Out,” where administrators are forced to lay off their most recent hires, with no deliberation over teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom. Once again, districts have no choice on who to keep and who should stay – it is all based on seniority, and that means letting go of some great teachers.
The bottom line is that dismissal laws, tenure and “Last In, First Out” are all inflexible state mandates that collectively deprive our students of a quality education.
Knowing this, we cannot rely on the courts to end the failing status quo. This is something we need to reform through the legislative process. We have the tools to do it, but we need the majority party to get on board.
Together, we can enact meaningful reforms that will produce and support effective teachers, create great classrooms and ensure that every single child receives the best education possible.
I will continue to stand with students and parents to fight for a high quality education for all. With great teachers and quality schools, there is no limit to what our children can achieve.
Young Kim, R-Fullerton, represents the 65th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress, Fullerton, La Palma and Stanton.
This Op-Ed was published in the Orange County Register