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Politics Prof. David Menefee-Libey Offers Insights on Vergara v. California

Prof. David Menefee-Libey

Prof. David Menefee-Libey

Prof. of Politics David Menefee-Libey, an expert on the politics of urban public reform, has been closely following Beatriz Vergara et al v. the State of California, challenging teacher tenure and job protection rules. He has been blogging about the case, with Charles Kerchner, for Education Week. Earlier this week, L.A. Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu found several California’s teacher tenure rules unconstitutional.

In their June 10 Education Week blog, Menefee-Libey and Kerchner note:

• “The equity argument in Vergara will have national implications for K-12 litigation. Judge Treu's decision was mostly about equity…. But he took particular interest in the disproportionate harms these laws did to the most vulnerable.

“As the judge's decision gets national attention, it may give heart to progressive attorneys and organizations considering lawsuits. Some have predicted that the floodgates of litigation will open. Goodness knows there are a lot of targets for potential equity lawsuits out there, including lawsuits over the increasing racial segregation of California and U.S. schools.”

• “When you climb down inside this brief opinion, you discover that the court's objections to laws could mostly be fixed quite easily…. It seems to us that the state legislature could quite easily tweak the voided laws to make them constitutional under Judge Treu's ruling.”

• “Now Students Matter will be challenged to explain what should be enacted in place of those laws. So far, Students Matter has had an easy target in a handful of statutes that the defendants should have corrected years ago. But Students Matter is after bigger game. Supporters of the case, such as Roy Romer and Marlene Canter, who responded to our earlier post, suggested that a successful outcome would "encourage the creation of a modern teacher career structure."

In yesterday’s Education Week blog post, “In the Aftermath of ‘Vergara’, Politics is Everything,” Menefee-Libey and Kerchner note, “As the case gains national attention, we can see that the specifics of the ruling itself-and the legal issues involved-are far less important than the politics of it…. It's early in the game, but at this point, we think the corporate reformers have the advantage and are playing the game with more sophistication. The teacher unions, in our view, are playing into their hands so far.”

Menefee-Libey is the coauthor (with C.T. Kerchner and L. Mulfinger) of Learning from LA: Institutional Change in American Public Education (2008), which was named a 2009 “Outstanding Academic Title” by Choice and was the sole winner of the “2010 Outstanding Publication Award” from the American Educational Research Association’s “Districts in Research and Reform” Special Interest Group.

They are also the authors of “Institutional Change in Urban School Districts,” in The Transformation of Great American School Districts: How Big Cities are Reshaping the Institution of Public Education  (W.L. Boyd, C.T. Kerchner and M. Blyth, eds., 2008). Menefee-Libey is the author of “Neoliberal School Reform in Chicago? Renaissance 2010, Portfolios of Schools, and Diverse Providers,” in Between Public and Private: Politics, Governance, and the New Portfolio Models for Urban School Reform. (K.E. Bulkley, J.R. Henig, and H.M. Levin, eds., Harvard Education Press, forthcoming).