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New York Public Schools: 11 Students Sue State Over Teacher's Tenure Laws

First Posted: Jul 07, 2014 08:58 AM EDT

Eleven New York Public School students filed a class action lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the State Thursday, claiming teacher tenure laws violated their State constitutional rights to a "sound basic education."

The plaintiffs in Davids vs. State of New York, et al., are three Latino children, two African-Americans, plus six others who attend public schools in New York City and Richmond County and whose parents belong the New York City Parents Union, a public school parent group.

The lawsuit declares New York Education law, Section 3020a and its implementation as unconstitutional. Plaintiffs claim that employment as an educator in New York State is an earned privilege and cannot be a life-long right for incompetent teachers; the process for due process protections are onerous and create disparate costs for lower-income and non-white populations; and if a teacher's performance is below minimum standard guaranteed by the New York State constitution, they should not able to retain their employment during a downsizing period based on their seniority.

"As a Black parent, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired! In New York City, the most segregated school system in the country, more than 80 percent of New York City students (mostly Black and Latino), over 80 percent, do not read, write and do math at grade level," said Mona Davids, president of the New York City Parents Union, and parent of plaintiff Mymoena Davids, in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

"Across New York State, about 70 percent of students do not read, write and do math at grade level. This is a crisis of epic proportions. New York City schools in mostly Black and Latino neighborhoods are staffed with the highest concentration of Unsatisfactory-Rated teachers. Yet, every attempt to hold teachers accountable for educating our children is blocked. Bad laws need to go. It is time to reform the law and put our children's interests. Every child must receive equal access to a high-quality education."

This lawsuit follows a landmark court decision in California in June finding tenure laws there unconstitutional.

In a report on a June 11 Delegate Assembly meeting, Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers told Delegates corporate reformers were attacking tenure as a way to privatize public education and have announced similar lawsuits in other states, including New York. He said the (California) court ruling was based on weak and faulty arguments and is going to be appealed. Mulgrew said the UFT knows the real challenges facing public schools are the high rates of poverty among students and turnover among teachers.

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