Battle over teacher tenure heads to L.A. court - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Battle over teacher tenure heads to L.A. court

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A landmark education case makes its way to a Los Angeles courtroom arguing how to weed out bad teachers by bringing the battle over tenure to a judge.

Monday was the first day of trial for Vergara v. California that calls attention to teacher tenure, seniority and the cost it takes to fire a teacher.  

Nine California students from the L.A., Oakland and other parts of the Bay Area school districts argue they are not getting a quality education. 

However, critics say the fight for student success belongs in the classroom and not in the courtroom.

"The folks who want to improve education through the court system that is not the success," said Jim Groth.

He's been a teacher for 4 decades and is a teacher in Chula Vista. Groth is also a board member for the California School Teachers Association who opposes the lawsuit.

"Teachers do not have a job for life," said Groth.

The Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent testified it is tough to fire low-performing teachers.

"I have witnessed ineffective instruction that is correct and they are still employed.," said John Deasy.

However, Kate Elliot, a senior in the Sequoia Union High School District in the Bay Area says under California law her low-performing teacher in her San Carlos middle school district is protected.

"Instead of learning our subject we sat in class coloring and watching Youtube videos. It was extremely frustrating to show up to class and everyday wanting to learn and not having a teacher wanting to teach," said Elliot.

Elliot's teacher is still teaching in the classroom. The nonprofit Students Matter represents the students and says teacher tenure and seniority laws are keeping inefficient teachers in the classroom.

After two years a new teacher earns tenure and it's much harder and expensive to fire a teacher.

"The evidence will show that tenure rate has dropped significantly and many districts employ affirmative policies to make sure that no teacher falls through the cracks," said N. Elias, attorney for California Federation of Teachers.  

Locally teachers say it's about bringing the community, teachers and parents together to fight for children's education.

"What's really sad about this case is that it's really not about students. It's about billionaires and special corporate interests," said Groth.

Despite northern California millionaire David Welsh's status and who is also writing a big check for the lawsuit, students say this case is about their future.

"I believe knowledge is power," said Pomona high school junior, Raylene Motorola.

Reports show in the past ten years in all of California only 19 teachers have been fired for unsatisfactory performance.

The non-jury trial will continue for 19 days.

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