Teacher tenure is not unconstitutional. Well, Duh.

Just because a statute is imperfect, as plaintiffs alleged, does not make it unconstitutional. Vergara v. State of California (California Ct App 04/14/2016) upheld the constitutionality of California's teacher tenure statute, its dismissal statutes, and its reduction-in-force statute. Plaintiffs contended that California's:

  1. tenure statute forced school districts to decide whether new, probationary teachers should be granted tenure before the teachers’ effectiveness could be determined;
  2. dismissal statutes made it nearly impossible to dismiss poorly performing teachers; and
  3. reduction-in-force statute required school districts, in the event of layoffs, to terminate teachers based on seniority alone, regardless of their teaching effectiveness.

The California Court of Appeal summarized its decision this way:

Plaintiffs failed to establish that the challenged statutes violate equal protection, primarily because they did not show that the statutes inevitably cause a certain group of students to receive an education inferior to the education received by other students. Although the statutes may lead to the hiring and retention of more ineffective teachers than a hypothetical alternative system would, the statutes do not address the assignment of teachers; instead, administrators — not the statutes — ultimately determine where teachers within a district are assigned to teach. Critically, plaintiffs failed to show that the statutes themselves make any certain group of students more likely to be taught by ineffective teachers than any other group of students.

With no proper showing of a constitutional violation, the court is without power to strike down the challenged statutes. The court’s job is merely to determine whether the statutes are constitutional, not if they are “a good idea.”

This case challenged the statutes "on their face" rather than as applied, which is always a difficult task.

In any event, the take-away here is that legislatures are allowed to enact statutes that may be imperfect, but that doesn't mean they are unconstitutional.