FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 23, 2017
Partnership for Educational Justice: Melody Meyer, email@example.com or 646.770.7061
Students for Education Reform Minnesota: Kate Sattler, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com 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 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.”
By Thomas Toch | Future Ed
“For most of public education’s history, teacher evaluation was an after-thought. Despite the centrality of teachers to the education enterprise and the fact that taxpayers spend a fortune on public school teacher compensation and benefits (today, upwards of half a trillion dollars), the standard evaluation model was a quick classroom check-in once a year by a principal looking for clean classrooms and quiet kids—things that didn’t directly capture the quality of teaching, much less student learning.”
‘The NJEA wants to dismiss a lawsuit that would end last in, first out layoff rules for teachers when districts must make budget cuts. In a lawsuit, six Newark parents say experience and performance should count more than seniority and tenure. The Partnership for Educational Justice supports this lawsuit. Executive Director Ralia Polechronis sat down with NJTV News Correspondent Michael Hill to talk about this.’
By Nahlee Smith | Insider NJ
“Last November I joined five other Newark women in a fight for our kids’ education. While we all come from different backgrounds and families, we have two important things in common – we are not satisfied with our City’s public schools and we are tired of being ignored.
I know that there are caring and effective teachers in Newark public schools, but for me, their hard work was overshadowed after an incident involving my youngest son. One day, he ran home after school, burst into the house and was in tears about six words that would forever change me. He showed me a picture he drew in class and said, “my teacher said this looked stupid.” While I would later learn that I was not alone – that many Newarkers share heartbreaking stories like this – I will never forget the pain, frustration, and loneliness I felt listening to my child.”
By Karen Yi | NJ.com
“NEWARK — One of the leading voices fighting to dismantle New Jersey’s teacher layoff law that protects tenured workers is amplifying its message amid Newark public schools’ looming $30 million budget gap.
The Partnership for Educational Justice organized the lawsuit filed by six Newark parents last year challenging the rule that requires layoffs be based on seniority instead of performance. On Wednesday, the PEJ released a short animated video targeting its message to parents.
‘This law is hurting kids at a constitutional level,’ said Ralia Polechronis, executive director of PEJ. ‘The issue is very timely … and critical for this coming school year.'”