Laurence Tribe On Vergara And Its Larger Issues

Writing in USA Today Laurence Tribe doesn’t pull punches.

My support for curtailing teacher tenure and last-in, first-out layoff rules when they put the needs of adults before children is not a departure from my progressive roots. Rather, it is a natural and common-sense outgrowth…

During my career, I’ve written and litigated on behalf of progressive causes such asmarriage equalityreproductive freedom and gun control. I doubt you could find a more fervent defender of teachers and collective bargaining….

But the right to unionize must never become a right to relegate children to permanent second-class citizenship. The outdated California laws the court struck down make no sense for the teachers they were intended to protect, or for the students whose learning is the very reason for the education system’s existence…

Progressives should be part of the solution. We can’t succumb to simplistic defenses of the distorted teacher protection schemes. We must confront the demonstrable effects of these laws. The future of public education and of the teaching profession can be brighter only when we place students’ rights first and foremost on our list of priorities. 

10 Replies to “Laurence Tribe On Vergara And Its Larger Issues”

  1. Sounds like he didn’t evern read the case. One of the teachers labeled ineffective wasn’t even protected by tenure and nobody made a move to fire him. How about equitable funding? Sounds like a Civil Rights issue to me.

  2. So we live in a world where a couple of blog commenters, one of whom is a troll too chickenshit to even put his name to his nonsense, have a better grasp of these legal issues than Laurence Tribe?

  3. Laurence Tribe is the last word on all things legal and there is no room for opposing viewpoints? And we also live in a world a so called education reformer would rather name call someone a “chickenshit” than address the points under discussion. Very classy Rotherham. Instead of name calling address the issues: A. Why did no one attempt to terminate the ineffective teacher in the Vergara case who was not protected by tenure? B. Why is the lack of equitable funding in education not an equally important Civil Rights issue?

    As Michael Hiltzik int he LA Times wrote:
    “Among the remarkable features of Judge Treu’s ruling is the absence of any understanding of how to provide better teachers to students more consistently, or even how to measure quality. He seems to think it’s a simple matter of pointing at “bad” teachers and running them out the door. . . . Eviscerating the due process protection of teachers on the job won’t guarantee quality; it will only give administrators more leeway to harass or promote teachers for any reasons they choose.” And to add, administrators, who made no attempt terminate a “bad” teacher, are no more competent than teachers

    The decision is a simplistic solution to a complex problem. It attempts to eliminate an obstacle, but fails to lead to a solution. However, it does open the door to viewing education in its totality as a Civil Right. If quality teacher are a Civil Right then equal funding is also quality facilities. The fact of the matter is that the evidence in this case was very weak. See this article by Kevin G. Welner.

    He isn’t Laurence Tribe but he is a respected legal scholar. Please stop name calling and deal with the issues.

  4. Triche – No one said he was the last word or that it’s not reasonable to disagree with him – and as I’ve written here and elsewhere it’s debatable what will happen on appeal. The legal issues and substantive merit of these policies are two somewhat distinct issues.

    What I did say is that calling Tribe dishonest or saying it ‘sounds like he didn’t read the case’ is ridiculous. And while the comment on anonymous commenting wasn’t aimed at you, you seem to try to share thoughts to have a dialogue, most of the anonymous commenting here is as pathetic as it is cowardly.

  5. What surprises me is the fact that this Harvard professor failed to mention the part of the Vergara decision that really will impact the education of poor children. This decision found that all children have a constitutional right to equal educational opportunities. Oh, what a smart parent and a clever lawyer can do with that!

    In our country, affluent children attend public schools that are awash with local property money, generous donations, experienced teachers, parent volunteers, beautiful libraries etc. etc. Parents obtain this world-class education for their children by buying into the “best” (richest) community that they can afford. In sharp contrast, poor children are generally herded into crowded city schools where “extras” (like libraries) are unavailable and teachers are often inexperienced. This is the true “status quo” of education in America and I’ll bet Professor Tribe knows it too.

    I can’t wait until the first parent from L.A. Unified takes a look at the quality of education in nearby Palos Verdes and says, “Hey, my child has a constitutional right to an education that is equal to what those kids get.” And then hires a lawyer.

    And various tragedies at schools have reminded us that most teachers would give their lives to protect the children in their care. Many people (myself included) believe that strict teacher protection laws prevent districts from dismissing excellent teachers for various unethical reasons (why tenure was instituted in the first place).

    My name is Linda Johnson.

  6. “Sounds like he didn’t evern read the case. One of the teachers labeled ineffective wasn’t even protected by tenure and nobody made a move to fire him. ”

    Isn’t that true, Mr. Rotherham?
    Why can Mr Tribe or you mention that?
    I call that dishonest.
    But, the ferocity of your tantrum is the usual response of someone who is wrong, and has been publicly exposed as such.

    It’s OK to lie, or sling false accusations like teachers prevent the police from arresting teachers accused of child abuse or even preventing prosecutors from filing charges. There’s nothing wrong with putting out erroneous information on state schools.

    As for chickenshit, you are too mild.
    I prefer the epithet hurled at Bob Dylan on August 28, 1965 at Forest Hills by an outraged folkie.

  7. It would be nice if someone would explain to how an ineffective teacher not entitled to due process and who nobody made an effort to terminate supports eliminating due process for more teachers. It doesn’t seem to logically follow. If administration made no attempt to rid the system of this ineffective teacher, how can we be assured other ineffective teachers would fair any differently. Logic would suggest that the problem is ineffective administrators, not due process rights. I worked at a school in New Orleans and we had a teacher who was famous for her incompetence. She also had no due process rights. No attempt was made to terminate her, but she was having an affair with the principal. At the same time a very good teacher was terminated to make room for the principal’s paramour. In the real world that is why teachers need due process rights.

  8. More on the dishonest debate tactics of the reformers:
    But let’s be clear: Campbell Brown and her reformy crew are not arguing in good faith. Because anyone who engages in this level of mendacity is not interested in having a meaningful debate; they wouldn’t stoop to such tactics if they were. I understand that a weak argument is, by itself, not a sign of bad faith. Some present weak arguments because they don’t think clearly about what they’re saying. Some present weak arguments because they are largely ignorant on the topic of which they speak. Some present weak arguments because they desperately want to avoid confronting more important issues. But Brown’s argument here is so outrageously foolish that the only way she could not see her incoherence was if she was being willingly obtuse. That, to my mind, is just as bad as being a willing sophist. Fellow travelers, at some point we’re going to have to face an uncomfortable truth: while many on the reformy side are people of good faith, some are not. Some will do anything and say anything to get what they want, facts and reason and logic be damned. It isn’t impolite to point this out; in fact, I’d say it’s absolutely necessary. – See more at:

  9. Laurence Tribe at the GOP debate:
    GOP front-runners Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz invoked the name of constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe during Thursday night’s GOP debate in South Carolina.

    Tribe has recently questioned Cruz’s eligibility for the presidency because he was born in Canada. But at the same time, Tribe has become an unlikely hero for many Republicans opposing President Obama’s far-reaching climate rules.

    Tribe has testified before Congress against the president’s regulations and has argued in federal appeals court against the centerpiece of the Obama climate change agenda, the Clean Power Plan.

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