Victory in Vergara! Statutory Rights Preserved for 277,000 California Public School Teachers

California Court of Appeal unanimously reverses sweeping injunction that eliminated job security protections for public school teachers

The California Court of Appeal today issued its landmark decision in Vergara et al. v. California et al., Case No. B258589, reversing a Los Angeles Superior Court decision invalidating five statutes governing the employment of California public school teachers. The five statutes establish a two-year probationary period for newly-hired teachers; require non-probationary teachers facing dismissal to be provided with basic due process protections; and require school districts to implement economic layoffs in part on the basis of teacher seniority. The Vergara plaintiffs sued the State of California, several state officials, and three school districts, alleging that the five statutes violated the equal protection provisions of the California Constitution by causing students to be assigned to “grossly ineffective teachers” in violation of their fundamental right to educational equality. The California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers, represented by Altshuler Berzon LLP, intervened to help the State defend the statutes’ constitutionality.

After an eight-week trial, the trial court enjoined all future enforcement of all five statutes. The Court of Appeal unanimously reversed and ordered judgment to be entered in favor of the State and the teacher union intervenors, and against the plaintiffs. The Court of Appeal held that plaintiffs’ equal protection theories were fundamentally flawed and that the challenged statutes do not violate equal protection because they do not require different treatment of any identifiable groups of students (no classification); they do not cause any school district to hire, fire, or assign any particular teacher to any particular student (no causation); they are appropriately and constitutionally implemented by school district officials throughout the state (no facial invalidity); and they do not result in disproportionate assignment of less effective students to low-income or minority students (no discrimination). As a result of this decision, California’s 277,000 public school teachers will continue to enjoy the basic job protections guaranteed by the California Legislature, to the benefit of students throughout the state.

Altshuler Berzon LLP represented the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers in the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal.