This week a trial court in Vergara v. State of California found that several California state statutes are unconstitutional because they adversely affect students’ quality of education and disproportionately burden poor and minority students with ineffective teachers. The judge in Vergara wrote that the effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students “shocks the conscience.” The importance of teacher quality is virtually undisputed. Studies have shown that students taught by a highly effective teacher for one year can gain up to a full year’s worth of additional academic growth compared to students assigned to less effective teachers.
Of particular interest here in Minnesota was the Vergara court’s description of California’s LIFO (“last in, first out”) system, which, like Minnesota law, forces schools to prioritize seniority over performance when making teacher staffing decisions. The court wrote that California’s LIFO scheme requires “defend[ing] the proposition that the state has a compelling interest in the de facto separation of students from competent teachers, and a like interest in the de facto retention of incompetent ones. The logic of this position is unfathomable and therefore constitutionally unsupportable.”
Minnesota’s LIFO statute is equally illogical and unfair to students. School leaders should be able to keep their most effective teachers, because students deserve nothing less.