Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the American Federation of Teachers convention in June in Los Angeles. (Damian Dovarganes, AP)

By Howard Blume
August 29, 2014

Gov. Jerry Brown filed an appeal Friday of a ruling that struck down traditional job protections for teachers.

The state’s two largest teacher unions are expected to follow suit in the case of Vergara vs. California. A tentative ruling, announced in June, became final this week, starting a 60-day window for an appeal.

The decision, by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu, threw out the state’s tenure process for gradeschool teachers. It also stripped instructors of rules that made dismissing them more difficult and expensive than firing other state employees. And he eliminated regulations that made seniority the primary factor in deciding which teachers to lay off.

Treu accepted the argument of plaintiffs that these rules resulted in a lower-quality teacher work force, damaging the education of students, especially low-income or minority students.

The outcome of the trial “is a victory not only for our nine plaintiffs, but also for students, parents, and teachers across California,” said attorney Theodore J. Boutrous, who represented the students who brought the case.

Treu didn’t ban these job protections in all forms, but absent a successful appeal, his ruling would leave teachers without them pending action in the Legislature.

The litigation was pursued under the banner of Students Matter, a Silicon Valley group founded by tech entrepreneur Dave Welch and also supported by other philanthropists active in education policy.

The group had urged the governor to let the ruling stand and had taken encouragement from Brown’s silence on the issue. Brown was under pressure to appeal from teacher unions, who are among his biggest political backers.

The notice of appeal cited several issues, including that “changes of this magnitude, as a matter of law and policy, require appellate review.”

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