They may be the nine children who have done the most for education in US history. Kate is a senior from San Carlos. Brandon is a senior from Oakland. Julia is an 8th grader from the San Fernando Valley. Daniella is a 7th grader from San Jose. Elizabeth is in the 11th grade and her sister Beatriz is in 10th grade and they are from Pacoima. Herschel is a fifth grader from Encino. Raylene is a junior from Pamona. And Clara Grace joins the group of kids that did something extraordinary.
How do children as young as to be in fifth grade change education in America? They fought for a quality education in California. Beatriz Vergara and the other children sued the State of California and won exactly a year ago on June 10, 2014. Vergara versus California alleged that the laws in California for teacher tenure, dismissal, and LIFO or the last teacher hired is the first teacher to be laid off if layoffs happen. All the statutes were found to be unconstitutional. The case is under appeal.
The tentative decision illustrates the stark differences between the state bureaucracies and special interests, compared with the general public. The state of California was joined by the California Teachers Association (Union) to defend the statutes being challenged. The interest represented by the defendants is simply this… “Educations is for adults”.
The state bureaucracy and the unions use the statutes for employment, contracts, consulting and money for adults. The plaintiffs, their parents and guardians, the attorneys for the plaintiffs and the courts look at education through the lens of serving children with a learning experience guaranteed by the constitution. In other words… “education is to serve children and prepare them for their future”.
Wyoming has the same issues. You can see it at the Wyoming Department of Education, the State Board of Education and the legislative committees where consultants, the union and the bureaucracy are making the presentations. It is rare to have a parent or a teacher involved in the process.
The legal case in California lasted two years. The testimony that appears to have carried the most weight in the decision was made by the state and the union witnesses. These witnesses testified that the quality of education was directly related to the quality of the teacher. The statutes being challenged clearly made it difficult to manage that quality and thereby prevents children in California from having equal opportunity in their education. The defense won the case for the children with their own testimony.
Much of the case is actually online and available for review and it is worthwhile to look over the decision, the briefs and video of the arguments. Please share the case with people interested in improving education here in Wyoming. Here are some of the places to visit:
- Marcellus McRae presents closing arguments (video 56 minutes) – This is a powerful presentation for the plaintiffs. Download the video, connect the HDMI cable to the big screen, get the popcorn and replace your Matlock with McRae.
- studentsmatter.org – the site of the nonprofit that helped litigate the case.
- Video for the case – Many videos of the case arguments and testimony. There are also videos of the children and press conferences after the decision was reached.
- Tentative Decision – Sixteen pages and a pretty good easy decision to read.
The reasons to know this case and how it may impact education in Wyoming are in the numbers. Statewide proficiency in 3rd grade reading is 61.96%, with one Wyoming district’s proficiency in 3rd grade reading 12.24%. How would better teachers matter to that district? Will Wyoming make it easier to put better teaching into that school district?
Thoughts to ponder on this first anniversary of Vergara versus California.