Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Steve Zimmer, who was on a jet and traveling when the ruling was released, said in a statement late Thursday: “Today’s important court decision allows us to return with laser focus to the real question facing our public education system: how will we recruit, train and support a new generation of teachers who will give their lives to the ideal that the American dreams of every child can come true in the schools of our state and our nation.”
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten heralded the decision in the context of the state’s teacher shortage: “It is vitally important that every single child, particularly the kids who brought this case, receive a great public education. That starts with recruiting, retaining and supporting teachers, not blaming educators for societal problems or stripping away their voice.”
The director of Education Trust-West, Ryan J. Smith, said the decision was a setback for students of color and low-income students. He pointed out that in California, 1.5 million black and Latino students do not meet standards in math or English.
“The continuing debate over the Vergara case is a linchpin to continue the conversation about the need for real equity in education,” Smith said in a statement. “The case forces California to publicly confront the inequitable reality so many of our students face in schools across the state.”
However, National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia declared the decision a victory for students and called the case “political.” “Now we must return to working on real solutions to ensure all of our students succeed. Only when teachers, school boards and administrators work together can we ensure that there is a great public school for every student.”
Dave Welch, the founder of Students Matter that is supporting the students who filed the case, said, “We have set the expectation in California that students will inevitably get bad teachers. We simply expect students to go to school and for an entire year not learn.”
Ben Austin, the policy and advocacy director for Students Matter, said, “The political tectonic plates of public education have shifted as a result of Vergara and they aren’t shifting back.” He added, “The facts are plain as day. We can’t ignore the harm being done to our children and to our best and brightest teachers.”
Joshua Lipschitz, a lawyer in the Vergara case, told 74 partner LA School Report that the judges affirmed that there were severe problems in the laws governing teachers, but their decision was completely wrong. He said this gives the state Supreme Court “a good chance to make the right decisions and help students” and to “answer difficult questions in this battle over equal protection.”
The plaintiffs have until May 24 to file a petition for review, and then the state Supreme Court has 60 days to decide if they are going to take the case or extend the review period further. It could take six months to a year once they grant the review to actually hear their appeal.
The state’s high court would be the last stop, as the case would not go to the U.S. Supreme Court because it deals with state law, Lipschitz said.
“The California Supreme Court can stand as a leader to the nation, and we really, really, really believe they will take it,” Boutrous said.
Disclosure: The Minnesota lawsuit mentioned in this article is supported by the Partnership For Educational Justice, a nonprofit founded by 74 Editor-In-Chief Campbell Brown, and Students for Education Reform Minnesota. Both groups, as well as The 74, receive funding from the Walton Family Foundation.