June 13, 2014

JAMES TARANTO: Vergara, Cloward and Piven: Judicial activism bites the left.

A judge handed “a groundbreaking win” Tuesday to “attorneys who argued that state laws governing teacher layoffs, tenure and dismissals harm students by making them more likely to suffer from grossly ineffective instruction,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Judge Rolf Treu stayed his ruling in Vergara v. California pending appeal, but if it stands, the Times avers, “the effect will be sweeping across California and possibly the nation.”

The teachers union response was priceless. . . .

It’s reminiscent of Otter’s oration in “Animal House”: “Isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? . . . Isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America.”

Of course the plaintiffs in the case are not attacking “teacher and student rights”; they argue that students’ constitutional rights trump teachers’ rights under the employment statutes at issue, which Judge Treu termed “uber due process” (“overdue,” the English equivalent, not quite capturing the meaning). . . . The argument in Vergara is clear enough: By forcing schools to favor incompetent senior teachers over capable junior ones, the statutes deprive the incompetent teachers’ students of their right to an education. And because districts with large proportions of poor or minority families have a higher proportion of incompetent teachers, the state fails in its obligation to provide education on equal terms.

The California Supreme Court had applied the same legal premises to hold unconstitutional funding disparities among districts and one district’s decision to end the school year six weeks early owing to a budgetary shortfall. Vergara doesn’t break new legal ground so much as apply precedent in a way that threatens the education establishment. It’s a case of judicial activism coming back to bite the left.

Read the whole thing.