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Judge strikes down system of tenure for Calif. teachers

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LOS ANGELES – A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California’s public school teachers as unconstitutional Tuesday, saying such laws harm students – especially poor and minority ones – by saddling them with bad teachers who are almost impossible to fire.

In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education.

Siding with the nine students who brought the lawsuit, he ruled that California’s laws on hiring and firing in schools have resulted in “a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.”

He agreed, too, that a disproportionate number of these teachers are in schools that have mostly minority and low-income students.

The judge stayed the ruling pending appeals. The case involves 6 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The California Attorney General’s office said it is considering its legal options, while the California Teachers Association, the state’s biggest teachers union with 325,000 members, vowed an appeal.

The judge also took issue with laws that say the last-hired teacher must be the first fired when layoffs occur – even if the new teacher is gifted and the veteran is inept.

The lawsuit was backed by wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch’s nonprofit group Students Matter, which assembled a high-profile legal team.

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