Top Stories: Dave Welch Talks About Teacher Tenure Trial
Earlier this year, a group of nine students challenged the state public school system in court, claiming that California’s tenure laws inhibit students’ abilities to receive the education they deserve. Although the trial is now over, the decision has yet to be released. As public schooling is a universal concern, the case, Vergara v. California, has garnered national interest.
The case was organized largely through the efforts of Students Matter, a non-profit organization that “works to protect the rights and access to education for students.” Here at M-A Bear News, we got the opportunity to talk to the organization’s founder, David Welch, about the Vergara trial.
David Welch, though not an educator by career, has taken a special interest in education in recent years. Being the father of three, he believes that “outside of love,” allowing students access to education is “one of the key things you can give your child.” Mr. Welch feels that public education is a pillar of our society, although it has become an increasingly unstable one in recent years.
Mr. Welch explained that “if you were to sit down with a clean whiteboard and design an education system which was there to serve the benefit of the child, you would not have come up with this system in your wildest dreams,” so he has taken action to revise the imperfect system that exists now.
Vergara v. California, which was filed in May of 2012, went to court in Los Angeles on January 27th of this year. The case argues that the tenure laws in California “limit the access to the highest quality teachers.” Mr. Welch believes these laws therefore deny students a right granted by the state Constitution, and thus should be struck down.
The trial lasted two months exactly and now awaits a decision, which is set to be announced this summer. In order to have the laws in contention repealed, the plaintiffs had to prove two things: First, whether these laws harm students, and second, whether the harm inhibits students from their Constitutionally guaranteed right to equal access to quality education.
Both parties agreed that there are incompetent teachers in schools across California, but the union argued many factors contributed to this other that the State’s tenure laws. Since the state believes that poor teachers are not the sole factor, they believe the laws are not unconstitutional. Mr. Welch, on the other hand, feels that job security for teachers is not the priority; “the system needs to make decisions based on the outcome of the child.”
On the final day of litigation the judge brought attention to the two portraits that hung in the back of the Los Angeles courtroom. The two paintings were of former United States Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren and California Supreme Court Justice Donald Wright, each of whom helped define a landmark case in education equality. In a compelling speech, the judge spoke of Warren — who wrote the decision for Brown v. Board of Education — and Wright — who presided over the Serrano cases in California — with great reverence, honoring their respective stands on equal opportunities for students. While his closing statement was not a decision, it bodes well for the plaintiffs that the judge internalizes the importance of justice in the education system.
The decision is to be released some time in the next 90 days, although it appears that the state is prepared to appeal the case to the California Appellate Court if the Los Angeles Superior Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs. While the decision is pending, the case has become a central point of discussion across the country; California is not the only state dealing with unjust tenure laws, and the nation has taken notice of the Vergara case. While Students Matter has sought legal revision, the publicity of the case has brought about important discussion on public education across the country. Still, amid national press, David Welch focuses on guaranteeing children fair access to competent teachers, so even if the court rules against the plaintiffs, he will take any measures necessary to ensure that students have the right to a quality public education.