Lawsuit challenges New York teacher tenure laws

classroom

NEW YORK (AP-Modified) — An education advocacy group has filed a lawsuit arguing that New York’s teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional because they violate the state Constitution’s guarantee of a “sound basic education” by making it difficult to fire bad teachers.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in State Supreme Court on Staten Island against city and state education officials. The plaintiffs are 11 students whose parents belong to the New York City Parents Union.

A message seeking from comment from the city’s Education Department was not immediately answered.

Last week, six family from across New York State, including one from Rochester, announced their intentions to file a similar lawsuit challenging the state’s teacher tenure laws in Albany, calling the law “ineffective” and saying it keeps dangerous teachers in the classroom.

In a statement, Carla and John Williams of Rochester said, “We want the best for our kids – and that starts with a great education and great teachers in the classroom. But our daughter simply isn’t getting the instruction and learning she needs, and our school leaders and local elected officials aren’t taking steps to support effective teachers. The reality is that this lawsuit is a last resort. We are acting because leaders in Albany have not.”

Dozens of states have moved in recent years to weaken or throw out their seniority policies.

Last month, a judge ruled that California’s tenure protections for public school teachers were unconstitutional after nine students sued the state saying tenure and seniority policies made it virtually impossible to fire bad teachers. The judge found California’s laws governing teacher firing and hiring infringe on students’ rights to an equal education. Part of the ruling also overturned three laws outlining the procedures school administrators must follow before they can fire teachers for incompetence or criminal activity.

Two weeks after that ruling, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation making it easier for school districts to fire abusive teachers by creating a separate, expedited firing process for teachers accused of egregious conduct, including sexual abuse and certain drug crimes. Such dismissals would be decided by an administrative law judge, rather than two teachers and a judge.

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