The Sad, Misinformed Campaign of Campbell Brown To End Tenure Rights of Teachers
Mona Davids Fools No One, as Her Foolhardy Lawsuit Against Teacher Tenure Gains Thousands of Opponents
The Frivolous Case of NYC Parent Mona Davids v Tenure
Take a look at what's happening in Colorado, also below.
|Natalie Mendoza, 8, seen here with parents Angeles Barragan and Armando Mendoza, is |
named in a new lawsuit challenging
EXCLUSIVE: Second lawsuit challenging teacher tenure to be filed by group of New York families
In a suit to be filed in Albany on Monday, seven families will charge that their children are underserved in schools due to incompetent teachers — who only kept their jobs because of tenure rules that violate the kids' constitutional right to a sound education. The suit is backed by the politically connected journalist-turned-education advocate Campbell Brown.
|Plaintiff Nina Doster, of Queens, poses with children (from left) Patience, Micah and King.|
The families, including five from some of the most impoverished communities in the city, claim their children were underserved in school due to incompetent teachers who only kept their jobs because of tenure rules that violate kids’ constitutional right to a sound, basic education.
The lawsuit will be filed in Albany and is backed by the politically connected journalist-turned-education advocate, Campbell Brown.
“There’s no reason why my kids should not be reading on grade level. The law should be changed,” said Nina Doster, 33, of South Ozone Park, Queens. The mother of five is a plaintiff in the suit and also a paid organizer for the StudentsFirstNY advocacy group.
“Every child should be subject to the best education and teaching in every classroom,” she said.
Brown and her new reform group, Partnership For Educational Justice, argue that the current tenure, seniority, and dismissal protections make it almost impossible to fire bad teachers in New York State. They also say that the layoffs policy in which most recently hired teachers are the first to be fired deters the best new educators.
The lawsuit details the frustration of Tauana Goins, who says a teacher at Public School 106 in Far Rockaway, Queens, called students “miserable” and went so far as to call her 8-year-old daughter “a loser.” The girl became so scared she regressed academically, her 27-year-old mother says.
Another kid named in the suit, King Doster, 6, said his teacher at P.S. 140 in Springfield Gardens, Queens, claimed she was “too busy” to help him learn to read.
Yet another, Natalie Mendoza, said her kindergarten teacherslept through class in a rocking chair at P.S. 94. in the Norwood section of the Bronx. That same teacher allegedly gave Natalie good grades despite her being unable to read. The teacher told Natalie’s mom, Angeles Barragan, not to worry about her daughter’s academic struggles because “it was just kindergarten,” according to the suit.
“My daughter wasn’t learning to read,” said Barragan, 48, whose daughter may have to attend second grade for a third time. “I went to observe the class and I saw that the teacher was just sitting in a rocking chair and the parent volunteers were the ones who were doing the teaching.”
Brown hailed the plaintiffs as pioneers.
“I stand in awe of these parents and their commitment to demanding that the system change,” Brown said. “As a mom I think we should evaluate every education law or policy by first asking, ‘Is this good for children?’”
The suit, which will include two families from Rochester, is the second legal challenge of teacher tenure. The first was brought by the New York City Parents Union and filed in Staten Island Supreme Court. It’s possible the two will eventually be combined.
Brown has enlisted the powerhouse law firm Kirkland & Ellis to handle the case, which is working pro bono. It is among the largest firms in the country and played a prominent role in defending California’s controversial parent trigger law, which allows parents to force major changes at failing schools if they are able to gather signatures from 51% of parents.
She hopes to facilitate similar suits in any state that has similar protections for unionized teachers.
The complaint does not name the allegedly incompetent educators, but argues that tenure laws lead to bad teachers, a claim supported by some research.
But observers say it will take much more than just education horror stories to win the case.
Brown “has to prove inequity, inadequacy and causation — that the different legal constellation in New York causes the learning issues that we see throughout the state,” said David Bloomfield an education professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center.
The lawsuit is inspired by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s ruling in June that declared teacher tenure violates students’ civil rights to a quality education. The ruling in the case, Vergara v. California, was endorsed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan. It is under appeal.
Brown has received guidance from David Welch, the Silicon Valley billionaire who funded the Vergara case. She will not disclose the names of donors funding her current effort.
The teachers union would not comment on the lawsuit, but has defended tenure as a way to ensure educators’ due process before being terminated.
In 2010, Colorado State Senator Michael Johnston took credit for a piece of legislation called Senate Bill 191, which he said would produce "Great Schools, Great Teachers, Great Principals." Its main feature was tying teacher evaluation to their students' scores, which counted for 50%. But it included other time bombs. One allowed districts to lay off teachers for various reasons. Now seven teachers and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association is suing.
One of those who lost her job was Cynthia Masters, a special-education teacher in a K-8 school. She was one of only 3,000 to lose their job.
"In the four years since the law was passed, nearly 3,000 DPS teachers have lost their positions due to what the district calls "reduction in building," or RIB for short. The reasons that teachers are RIBed vary: Some lose their jobs because their schools are "turned around" or closed. Others are cut because school enrollment drops. In Masters's case, she was RIBed due to a decrease in the number of special-ed students.
Of those 3,000 teachers, 1,240 had at least three years' worth of positive evaluations, including Masters. And not all of them have been able to find new jobs. According to the law, still widely referred to as Senate Bill 191, RIBed teachers with three years of positive reviews — officially known as "nonprobationary" — who can't find a position within a certain time frame are put on unpaid leave, a move that both unions believe violates the state constitution......"
"Brad Bartels, an attorney with the Colorado Education Association, says these teachers are victims of DPS's brand of musical chairs. They didn't lose their positions because they were bad teachers, he insists: "They just didn't have a chair when the music stopped."
"Seven DPS teachers and the DCTA have now sued the district. (The statewide CEA is representing the DCTA in the matter.) The lawsuit is a class action, and the plaintiffs represent several different classes, including all teachers in Colorado who were considered nonprobationary prior to the passage of Senate Bill 191 and all nonprobationary DPS teachers who were RIBed and ended up on unpaid leave.
"Westword spoke with five of the seven plaintiffs and found that they have several things in common: All are older than 45 and have good teaching records. Upon losing their positions, all five applied for hundreds of teaching assignments within DPS but, inexplicably to them, received just a few interviews. Only one managed to avoid being put on unpaid leave or being forced into early retirement.
"I applied for over 700 positions in the district," says plaintiff Michelle Montoya, who got RIBed in the fall of 2010. "I thought, 'I can deal with this. I'm going to go get a job. My skills are definitely needed.' And I just never got a second interview."
Will Senator Michael Johnston live long enough to declare that Colorado now has great teachers, great principals, great schools, thanks to Senate Bill 191?