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Vergara Decision Stands: CA Teacher Tenure to Stay

The California Supreme Court declined to hear the case of Vergara v. California, one of the most significant teacher's tenure cases to date. This means that the state appeals court decision is undisturbed, preserving many employment rights for teachers.

Passion in the Court

The decision not hear Vergara was a contentious one as evidenced by the split in the court. An attorney who represented some of the plaintiffs in the Vergara suit told reporters that he'd never before seen dissenting statements like the ones given this last Monday in any previous Supreme Court denials.

The two dissenting justices were Goodwin Liu and Mariano-Florentino Cuellar; they both strongly disagreed with the court's refusal to grant review.

Launch Pad

Since the case was not heard by California's highest court, plaintiffs' attorneys are in a bit of a rut, though they apparently have not lost any vim or spirit. In fact, Ted Boutrous, attorney for StudentsMatter, said that the justices' opinion will be a "launching pad" for further cases. The plaintiff founder of StudentsMatter expressed disappointment with the decision but vowed that "Vergara is just the beginning."

It difficult to see how that could be the case except in spirit. Since Vergera did not raise any federal question issues, federal courts do not have parallel jurisdiction to hear the case. So, the California Supreme Court was the state's last chance.

What Was at Stake

The Vergara decision involved a number of state employment statutes that the state had argued was unconstitutional. The injured party, the argument went, was the students who suffered because seniority and tenure rules made it more difficult to fire under-performing teachers from classrooms.

Opponents of union power touted the non-hearing as a victory. Some of the criticisms are lodged at the state's protection of teachers. So far, California is one of the few states in which seniority is the sole factor in determining the order to lay teachers off. At trial, evidence was presented that indicated that anywhere between $50,000 to almost half a million dollars had to be spent to fire a teacher -- a process that could take up to 10 years.

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