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Teachers worry over student lawsuit Vergara vs. California

9:00 PM, Jan 7, 2014   |    comments
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Dunedin, Florida -- Local teachers are concerned to hear about a lawsuit in California where nine students are suing the state over state statutes that allows for ineffective teachers to keep teaching.

A group called Students Matter has filed the lawsuit Vegara V. California claiming five statutes are keeping good teachers from being allowed to teach. It claims tenure, dismissal statutes and late-in, first-out statutes are allowing for "grossly ineffective teachers to keep teaching". They also argue their needs to be more of an evaluation process.

INTERACTIVE TIMELINE: Vergara vs. California case

Florida teachers in Pinellas County -- like Dunedin High School's AP History teacher Brandt Robinson -- believe what the Students Matter group wants in California, Florida already has and it is failing students.

"If there are problems with poverty -- and there is no question there is -- if there are students struggling to get that quality education -- and there is no question there is -- then the bigger question is what is driving that?" asked Robinson. "And how can we improve the situation? What the Students Matter group does is really demonize and oversimplify the issue, and to me what makes it more perverse is they are using students as plaintiffs."

Florida teachers fought to keep their state statutes like tenure and dismissal statutes for years, but recently they lost to yearly evaluations, probation, and end-of-year exams that students take. And how they perform, is what determines a teachers' evaluation performance. 

Robinson is concerned other states will look to California as an example to follow if the Students Matter group wins. It's trial is set for Jan. 27.

"If this "works" in California then the temptation would be, 'well, let's find out what they are doing and replicate it, whether or not it is leading to the improvements in education,'" said Robinson. 

County School Teachers Association Executive Director Bruce Proud said the provisions those students in California want to strike do not exist anymore in Florida, and it was a mistake to get rid of them.

"I think this is just a continuation of national efforts to undermine public education and provide funding into the private sector," said Proud.

Proud has worked in education for 35 years. 

"I think it allows for arbitrary, capricious, dismissals of teachers without any evaluation. In my opinion, they have undermined the effectiveness of teachers by not providing them with the resources they need to properly evaluate, to provide for leadership, and provide for autonomy for teachers to teach."

"I think that is only a fair process to have some due process, whether or not there is justification for dismissal, rather than, 'I don't seem to like you. You don't seem to be a right fit for my viewpoint for what needs to happen,'" he continued. "There are teachers right now being dismissed without any evaluation, without any cause, without any justification. I really don't think it should be easy to dismiss someone." 

10 News tried reaching out to the Students Matters group for a comment. Our calls were not returned.

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