Gov. Brown appeals ruling against teacher tenure

LOS ANGELES — Gov. Jerry Brown appealed a court ruling that struck down tenure and other job protections for California’s teachers, setting himself apart from leaders in some other states who have fought to end such protections or raise the standards for obtaining them.

Attorney General Kamala Harris filed the appeal Friday in a Los Angeles County court on behalf of the governor and the state.

The move came a day after Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu finalized his June ruling that found five laws violated the California Constitution by depriving some of the state’s 6.2 million students of a quality education. He’d earlier said the system “shocks the conscience.”

Republicans had urged state leaders not to appeal the ruling and criticized the Democratic governor’s decision Friday.

“A federal court ruled that the State of California is depriving minority children their constitutionally guaranteed right to an equal education and the governor decides to appeal? Unbelievable,” said Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar.

The governor’s one-page notice of appeal said that under the state’s constitution “the important issues presented in this case — if they are to have statewide legal impact — must be reviewed by a higher court, either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of California.”

It says that for reasons that are “unclear and unexplained” actual school districts were dismissed as parties to the lawsuit before trial, meaning the court’s decision “applies only to parties that have no role or duties under the challenged laws.”

It also criticizes Treu for failing to provide details on the legal basis for his reasoning, and simply making his tentative decision final instead of elaborating and expanding on in the ruling that was affirmed Thursday.

California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson had asked the attorney general for the appeal earlier Friday because he lacked the legal authority.

Torlakson was among those named in a lawsuit brought by nine students that argued California’s hiring-and-firing rules for teachers saddled schools — especially those in poor and minority neighborhoods — with bad teachers who effectively couldn’t be fired.

The judge has declined to tell the state Legislature exactly how to change the system, but he has expressed confidence it will do so in a way that passes constitutional muster.

However, Torlakson said Friday that the ruling isn’t supported by facts or law and is too vague to guide state lawmakers in making alterations.

The trial represented the latest battle in a nationwide movement to toughen the standards for granting teachers permanent employment protection and seniority-based preferences during layoffs.

The powerful teachers’ union in California and unions elsewhere have fought to keep the rules, arguing that they protect academic freedom and help attract teachers to a tough and badly paid profession.

Torlakson, a union ally who is seeking reelection this fall, said teachers were being blamed unfairly for failings in the educational system.

“We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full. We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children,” Torlakson’s statement said.

A challenger to Torlakson’s re-election, Marshall Tuck, said Torlakson’s appeal effort shows that he is standing “with his Sacramento funders and not with students.”

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