LOS ANGELES — Teachers in California are fighting back after a Superior Court judge ruled that tenure laws, which make it difficult to fire long-serving teachers, violate students’ constitutional right to an equal education. The teachers intend to “fire” the offending judge, Rolf M. Treu, as a warning to others not to tamper with institutionalized job security.
Disappointed by the ruling, the president of the California Federation of Teachers stated his belief that “the judge fell victim to the anti-union, anti-teacher rhetoric.” Invalidating tenure puts educators at risk of unfairly being dismissed according to the political whims of administrators, say attorneys for the teachers’ unions.
“We’re not about to have our vast teaching experience judged by some administrator who hardly ever sets foot in the classroom,” says Rosie Sanger of Redwood Elementary. “So why would we allow a judge to try the same?”
Treu, who has served on the Los Angeles County Superior Court since 2001, found that the state’s tenure statues “disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students” in schools that serve as little more than holding pens for highly ineffective teachers whose jobs are protected by tenure.
Now one of those “highly ineffective” teachers is running to unseat Treu, who, as a previouslyunopposed incumbent, would have automatically sailed to re-election for a new judicial term that ends in 2021, without so much as appearing on this year’s ballot.
Treu “fully realized that his ruling might be a hard pill to swallow for some entrenched teachers,” said a clerk for the judge, “but that is his role as an examiner of the law—to make the right judgment, even if it’s unpopular.
“His job should not be at risk for standing up for his principles.”
Sanger’s only previous judicial experience has been limited to settling disputes at recess and issuing sentences to be diagrammed by her students as homework. Still, she’s intent on “teaching Treu a real lesson at the ballot box” as the teachers’ unions plan their appeal.
At press time, Judge Treu was busy cramming for the first debate to be held against Sanger in Redwood Elementary’s gymnasium next week.