Status Quo Stands as Supreme Court Stays Out of Education Fights

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The state’s teachers’ unions had a good day at the hands of the California Supreme Court yesterday but then so did the state’s taxpayers.

The state Supreme Court upheld an Appellate Court decision in the Vergara case, which concerns constitutional protections of students involving teacher tenure, retention and dismissal. Student plaintiffs claimed that they, along with many students in lower economic communities, suffered from dealing with hard-to-fire, unqualified teachers who were retained under the union supported seniority system.

The court chose not to hear the case thus upholding an Appellate Court decision that overturned a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge who had ruled in favor of the students, claiming after weeks of trial, that the harm done to minority students “shocks the conscience.”

As Los Angeles Unified School Board member Monica Garcia stated in a release following the decision, “The California Supreme Court’s refusal to review Veraga v California is a lost opportunity for both students and quality educators in Los Angeles and across our great state.”

The 4-3 vote turning down a hearing on the Vergara case comes close behind the United States Supreme Court rejection of an appeal in the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association case on a tied 4-4 vote. Friedrichs challenged the teachers unions’ dues collections rules. Had Friedrich’s prevailed the great money arsenal CTA uses to push its agenda would likely have been diminished.

By the narrowest of margins then, in two cases, the education status quo stays in place. Not a good thing for minority students or independent minded teachers.

It was also by the narrow 4-3 margin that the California Supreme Court refused to interfere with the state’s education funding system in the case of Campaign for Quality Education vs. California. Brought by public school education advocates who want more money spent on schools, the plaintiffs argued that the state constitution guaranteed quality education, which could only be achieved by a changed school funding system and increased funding for education.

In this case however, no court supported the plaintiffs. Both the Superior Court and Appellate Court rejected their argument before being turned aside by the state Supreme Court.

The Appellate Court decision made it clear that if judges decided what level of funding would satisfy an undefined “quality education” the court would be intruding on Legislative apportionment powers, “which we decline to do,” wrote the majority.

Allowing judges to settle what constitutes an appropriate level of education is fraught with undemocratic dangers, not the least of which would assuredly jeopardize taxpayers.

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