Update: Rhee herself and Parent Revolution didn't file the lawsuit — they're just on the plaintiff's advisory board. Clarifications throughout.
California's teachers have long been protected by a series of state laws — lobbied into existence by powerful teachers unions — that make the ineffective ones almost impossible to fire.
Now, in the largest state lawsuit of kind, a new organization called Students Matter, advised by the key players behind the controversial “Parent Trigger” law, alleges in L.A. Superior Court that strict tenure and seniority rules are ruining the K-12 system:
“These laws force school administrators to grant new teachers 'permanent employment' after only 18 months on the job — well before the teachers' effectiveness can be determined — and force school administrators to keep teachers in the classroom long after they have demonstrated themselves to be grossly ineffective.”
Spokespeople for both the California Teachers Association and United Teachers Los Angeles tell LA Weekly that they're still reviewing the lawsuit, and won't be commenting at this time.
But the suit is likely throwing union offices into a tizzy today. It would be a huge blow to their clients, and would essentially strip cushy union contracts of all that makes them so cush. Union executives have worked long and hard to make California's teachers so untouchable, and this legal attack seeks to unravel all their hard work. See: “LAUSD's Dance of the Lemons.”
The enemy is a familiar one. The advisory board for Students Matter, the plaintiff, is a who's-who of America's biggest radical reformers and charter advocates. Here are some of the advisors, according to the Los Angeles Times:
• Students First, headed by the ever-controversial Michelle Rhee. The former D.C. chancellor has become a covergirl for the movement to take the country's K-12 system out of the hands of a government-run, self-protected monopoly.
• Democrats for Education Reform, whose California branch is headed by Gloria Romero, former state senator and author of the Parent Trigger law. The law, which lets parents seize failing schools from district admin, is still struggling for its first victory.
• New Schools Venture Fund, headed by former Board of Education President Ted Mitchell, a huge advocate for the Parent Trigger movement. When new Governor Jerry Brown first took office, he kicked Mitchell off the board in favor of more union-leaning (or at least neutral) education experts.
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has come out in full support of the new lawsuit, as well as smaller ones like it. In general, Deasy has chosen the anti-union camp during his year at the top of LAUSD, cracking down on teacher misconduct and pushing for simpler firing capabilities.
Deasy tells the Los Angeles Times today that the new suit “is aggressively going after long-term issues which have thwarted the rights of students to a high-quality education. I wish California had corrected its laws before things had to get to this level of interventions.”