StarTribune Editorial Board
“Minnesotans generally reject the notion that seniority should be the sole factor in determining whether to retain teachers during layoffs. Polls taken during the past several years show that up to 80 percent of state residents agree that educator effectiveness should be considered in layoff and termination decisions.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 23, 2017
Partnership for Educational Justice: Melody Meyer, firstname.lastname@example.org or 646.770.7061
Students for Education Reform Minnesota: Kate Sattler, email@example.com
MINNESOTA PARENTS APPEAL DISMISSAL OF LAWSUIT CHALLENGING EXCESSIVE TEACHER JOB PROTECTIONS
St. Paul, MN—Four mothers today appealed a district court’s dismissal of Forslund v. Minnesota, which challenges state education laws providing ironclad job security to chronically ineffective teachers. The lawsuit asserts that laws governing teacher tenure requirements, dismissal procedures, and quality-blind layoff statutes, violate students’ rights by allowing ineffective teachers to remain in classrooms long after they have demonstrated themselves to be ineffective. Minnesota’s State Constitution and Supreme Court case law guarantee that all children in the state have a fundamental right to an adequate public education. The mothers’ lawsuit was first filed in April 2016. Oral argument before the Minnesota Court of Appeals, if granted, is anticipated for this spring or early summer.
Founded in 2014, PEJ is a nonprofit organization pursuing impact litigation that empowers families and communities to advocate for great public schools through the courts. PEJ is currently working with parents and students in Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey in support of legal challenges to unjust teacher employment statutes in those states. In all three states, PEJ has connected families with pro bono legal representation and is providing parents with ongoing legal, advocacy, and communications support.
About Students for Education Reform Minnesota (SFER-Minn)
SFER-Minn organizes students and families to fight for educational justice in their communities. Their members identify issues that are driving inequities in the education they receive, share their stories, and push for lasting policy change on campus, in the community, at the Capitol, and – when necessary, in the courts – to ensure every child in Minnesota receives an equitable education. Other current SFER-Minn efforts include addressing Minnesota’s broken remedial education system, promoting statewide standards and oversight for how police work in schools, and monitoring local school board performance.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 23, 2017
Contact: Melody Meyer, firstname.lastname@example.org or 646.770.7061
In Latest Court Filing, Newark Public School District and Superintendent Christopher Cerf Concede “Last In, First Out” Teacher Layoff Law Hurts Students
Newark’s court filing is attached to this email. In the filing, the district defends strides it has made to better serve students, and also makes the following selected admissions:
- NPS admits that laying off teachers without any consideration of their quality prohibits children from being educated in the constitutionally mandated manner (paragraph 14)
- NPS admits that enforcement of LIFO in Newark will remove quality teachers, which leads to lower test scores, lower high school grad rates, lower college attendance rates, and sharply reduced lifetime earnings (paragraph 104)
- NPS admits that its current practice of keeping ineffective teachers on the district payroll, including those in a pool of “educators without placement schools” (EWPS), is harmful and unsustainable (paragraphs 80-81) and that the EWPS pool would be wholly unnecessary were it not for LIFO (paragraph 89)
- NPS admits that LIFO undermines its ability to attract and retain effective teachers (paragraphs 96-103)
- NPS notes that the statutes governing termination proceedings for tenured teachers do not address the impact of quality-blind layoffs on students through the retention of low-performing teachers in times of budget cuts (paragraph 93)
In response to Newark’s answer, Partnership for Educational Justice Executive Director Ralia Polechronis said:
Click to download the plaintiffs’ complaint.
By Christopher Magan | Twin Cities Pioneer Press
“Attorneys for parents who are challenging Minnesota’s teachers union protections have asked the state Court of Appeals to overturn a judge’s October decision to throw out their case.
St. Paul mother Roxanne Draughn and three other parents filed a lawsuit last April alleging that teacher tenure and other union rules protect bad teachers and exacerbate the state’s academic achievement gap between poor and minority students and their peers.”
By Laura Waters | NJ Left Behind
“According to a press release issued today by Partnership for Educational Justice, ‘Newark’s answer includes admissions that overwhelmingly concede the allegations put forward by the plaintiffs. This filing is significant for two reasons: 1) the district admits that New Jersey’s LIFO law causes harm to students and 2) these admissions undermine the credibility of motions to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the teachers’ unions, who intervened as defendants in the case in December 2016.'”
By Beatrice Dupuy | StarTribune
“Four plaintiffs filed an appeal Thursday in their fight to challenge Minnesota’s teacher tenure laws.
A judge rejected their suit in October but the parents are back to assert that state laws are protecting ineffective teachers and violating students’ rights by keeping low-income and minority students from attaining a quality education.”
By Marguerite Mingus | SFER Parent Organizer
Last fall, I attended a parent advocacy workshop hosted by Partnership for Educational Justice and Students for Education Reform – Minnesota. The flyer said that parents are too often absent from conversations about our children’s education, and I couldn’t agree more.
Many of the parents who attended the workshop were there because of concerns about their own children’s education. I know what that feels like, and I understand why it can lead to silence instead of outspoken advocacy.
For me, the tendency to remain silent started with my own experience as a student. I had good teachers, and when I became pregnant as a teenager, they were a strong and supportive influence for me. As a young mother, I let teachers take the lead in my children’s education and I thought my role was to simply reinforce whatever they said. Because of the authority that teachers hold, I would sometimes ignore my own instincts as parent, if a teacher or educator told me something different.
When my children were younger, this happened more often than I’d like to admit. For example, when my oldest son was failing chemistry, the school’s solution was to move him into an honors chemistry class. When my other son had trouble staying at his desk all day, the school kept him out of gym class, where he might have gotten the physical release that he needed to sit still for the rest of the day. I was also pushed to put him on a special education individualized education program (IEP), despite his doctor’s opinion that he was only a “willful” child, and did not have any learning disabilities or behavioral disorders.
As a parent, when you hear from teachers that your kids are a problem at school, you worry. Because teachers are the experts, you sometimes fight with your children to get them to change. And often, you feel embarrassed and ashamed that your kids are causing problems. Sometimes you feel that you lack the authority to ask questions of your school. I felt all these things.
I found myself in the same position yet again when my daughter’s teacher pulled her out of class for shouting out and being disruptive. Even though this didn’t sound like my daughter’s typical behavior – she had been a great student and always enjoyed school – I began to think my daughter was lying to me when she insisted that she wasn’t yelling or talking with other students during lessons.
Luckily for me, there was a group of parents at my daughter’s school who were going through the same thing. And once I started talking to these parents, I realized I was not alone. My self-doubt was replaced with an inspiration to act.
This was so empowering. Without the shame and embarrassment, I was more willing to look into what was really happening. I learned from my daughter that the “shouting in class” I heard about from her teacher was actually my daughter enthusiastically calling out the answers to her teacher’s questions. Together with other parents at this school, we talked to the administration and advocated on behalf of our children. In this particular case, I wasn’t satisfied with the school’s response, and so I moved my daughter to a different school where she is now thriving.
I never would have stood up for my daughter if other parents hadn’t pulled me out of my shame and frustration, and encouraged me to trust my own judgment.
I attended the parent advocacy workshop last fall because I want be part of the community that encourages parents to stop feeling alone when there’s a problem at their child’s school. At the workshop, we heard from educators and public school experts who showed us how to find valuable information about our schools online, and shared helpful strategies for productively working with teachers, principals and others to ensure that our kids are learning.
At the workshop, I saw so many parents open up and let go of their own shame about problems they might be having with their children’s schools. By showing up that day, not only did we gain access to tips and tools from educators and experts, we were also beginning to build a community of parent advocates who will stand up to make sure our kids get the best education possible.
Marguerite Mingus is a mother of four from Minneapolis.
On March 16 from 6:00-8:00pm the third workshop in a series of three titled, “Know Your Educational Rights: A Parent Workshop,” will be held in Minneapolis. This event is open to parents who are new or returning to the workshop series. Click here for additional event information and to reserve your spot. Childcare will be provided.
By Christopher Magan | St. Paul Pioneer Press
“ST. PAUL — The Minnesota House will debate legislation Thursday that could give local school leaders more control over which teachers get cut when budgets are tight or when student enrollment drops.
The legislation — Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, is its chief sponsor — aims to limit the role seniority plays when layoffs occur.
Republicans have long wanted school leaders to consider other factors when making staffing decisions, but those efforts have largely been blocked by Democrats.”