Court examines case "Vergara vs. California" on education of minorities
Original article can be found in Spanish on EFEUSA-Fox News Latino
By Aitana Vargas
Los Angeles, Feb. 25 (EFEUSA). After four years of legal battle, a Los Angeles Court today analyzed the case “Vergara vs. California”, which calls into question whether state laws that have for decades protected the jobs of teachers are a detriment to the quality of the education low-income and minority students receive
The defense, led by the teachers unions, tried to persuade the District Two California Court of Appeal to reverse the ruling that, in 2014, handed a victory to nine public schools students, of which five are Latino.
In a provisional decision published in 16 pages in 2014, Judge Rolf M. Treu found that some of the protections of California teachers violated students’ rights and are “unconstitutional”.
“The challenged statutes pose a real and appreciable impact on the fundamental right of students to educational equality and impose a disproportionate burden for minority and poor students,” said the judge in his writing in 2014.
The accusation, with students in the foreground, is led by the “Students Matter” non-profit organization, created by an entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, David Welch, and partially financed by the philanthropist Eli Broad.
In statements to Efe, a plaintiffs’ lawyer, Marcellus McRae, was confident that the appeal court will reaffirm a decision which he described as “historic” and claiming the inalienable rights of students.
“The decision (by 2014) confirms that you don’t need money to have rights. You don’t need money to make them respect you. Under the law, (whether Latino or African American) you are a first-class student. You have the same rights as others, you come from where you come from and regardless of your parents’ education,” said the lawyer.
“And that is a very powerful message,” he stressed.
During today’s hearing, a plaintiff’s attorney, Theodore J. Boutrous, noted that dozens of witnesses and evidence put forth during the trial confirmed that minority and low-income students do not have equal access to education and quality teachers.
In the Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, the likelihood that Latino students have one of the five percent poorest trained teachers is 68 percent higher than a white. The figure for African-Americans regarding the white student is 43 percent.
The defense, led by groups such as the Equal Justice Society and the Southern Poverty Law Center, argued that “lack of funds” of schools is the root of unequal access to education, and denied that lack of access is due to poor teacher training.
“The plaintiffs failed to prove that the laws that challenge the employment rights of educators actually damage and produce ineffective teachers or deprive the student of his constitutional right to an education”, said Keith Wurster, attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Court of Appeal’s decision has the potential to affect some 3,344,431 Hispanic students from State schools, according to data from the academic year 2014-2015.
Among the plaintiff students is Julia Macías, whose mother, Evelyn Alemán, lamented that in Los Angeles and California “politicians are strongly influenced by the unions”, because the unions finance political “campaigns.”
Alemán said that since second grade she began to detect problems in teaching offered to her child at a school in Woodland Hills.
“If we had listened to the teacher, we would have put Julia in a class for developmentally delayed students. Julia would not now be at ‘high school’ in honors classes”, said the Latina mother.
The parent of the student, José Macías, insisted that while the legal battle continues, there will be a “situation of uncertainty” in the classroom that requires urgent solutions.
“Every year we worry because we don’t know what type of teachers you will be assigned to my daughter Julia and my other daughter. Every year is like a lottery. It could be you get an effective teacher or an ineffective teacher”, explained the parent.
Of the estimated 275,000 active teachers in California, between 2,750 and 8,250 are highly ineffective, according to one of the experts testified during the trial.
The arguments of the plaintiffs have the backing of much of the California electorate.
According to a survey of USC Dornsife/LA Times, 82 percent of California voters oppose teacher tenure based on tenure as detrimental to teacher effectiveness.
The California Court of Appeal will announce its decision in the next 90 days, which surely will have a domino effect in other parts of the country.