FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 14, 2016
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 URGE COURT TO DENY MOTIONS TO DISMISS CHALLENGE TO TEACHER TENURE LAWS
Forslund v. Minnesota asserts that students’ constitutional rights are violated by Minnesota’s teacher tenure, dismissal, and “last in, first out” laws
St. Paul, MN – This morning at Ramsey County Court, oral arguments were heard by Judge Margaret Marrinan on motions to dismiss Forslund v. Minnesota, which asserts that Minnesota’s education laws protect chronically ineffective teachers and arbitrarily deprive certain students of their constitutional right to a uniform and thorough education. If the court denies the defendants’ motions to dismiss, the plaintiff parents will be permitted to proceed, gathering additional evidence through discovery in support of their claims that Minnesota’s teacher employment statutes infringe upon children’s fundamental right to education by providing permanent job security to persistently ineffective teachers.
“Our education policies should provide the best possible opportunities for all students to learn,” said Tiffini Flynn Forslund, lead plaintiff and mother of three from Minneapolis. “When the law forces great teachers out of schools and allows persistently ineffective teachers remain – often in classes with students of color or students from low-income families – something is very wrong. Our claims, and our children’s constitutional right to an education, cannot be dismissed.”
“The courts play a vital and necessary role protecting citizens’ rights,” said James Swanson, attorney and managing partner at Fishman Haygood, the lead firm representing the plaintiff parents. “Students in Minnesota have a constitutionally-protected fundamental right to an education, which the courts have reinforced must be ‘uniform’ and ‘thorough.’ The challenged statutes are violating students’ rights by allowing ineffective teachers to remain in classrooms, despite overwhelming research that the quality of a student’s teacher is the key determinant in her educational success.”
“These laws are disproportionately hurting Minnesotans of color. Students of color and students from low-income families are more likely than their peers to be deprived of the opportunity for educational success because these laws protect the ineffective teachers that are most likely to be in their schools,” said Nekima Levy-Pounds, an award-winning civil rights attorney representing the plaintiff parents and president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP. “Teachers of color are disadvantaged by these laws too because they tend to be newer to the system than the average Minnesota teacher, which means that they have less job security than others, even if they’re highly effective in the classroom.”
Supported by Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ) and Students for Education Reform Minnesota (SFER-Minn), Forslund v. Minnesota was filed on April 14, 2016, by four mothers from across Minnesota. The lawsuit challenges the state’s teacher tenure, dismissal, and seniority-based layoff laws that perpetuate the state’s dramatic disparities in education outcomes and prevent efforts to improve Minnesota’s public schools for all students. The plaintiff parents filed their lawsuit after years of unsuccessful bi-partisan legislative efforts to reform unjust teacher employment statutes, despite widespread public support for changes to these laws.
Key points on the case and today’s arguments on the defendants’ motions to dismiss the case:
- In moving to dismiss the lawsuit, the defendants want to shield the state’s teacher tenure, dismissal, and seniority-based layoff laws from judicial scrutiny and insulate their unconstitutional impact from court review.
- In their complaint as well as in their opposition to the motions to dismiss the case, the plaintiff parents have asked the court to examine the challenged statutes and strike down laws that violate Minnesota students’ fundamental right to an education.
- Despite widespread public support for changes to the challenged statutes and failed legislative attempts to change unjust teacher employment policies, the defendants have cast parents’ complaints as a “political issue.” But, the violation of constitutional rights and equal protection for all Minnesota students are subject to judicial review, and the parents are respectfully asking the court to consider their claims.
All legal filings related to Forslund v. Minnesota are available at edjustice.org/forslund-v-minnesota-legal-documents.
About Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ)
PEJ is a nonprofit organization pursuing impact litigation that empowers families and communities to advocate for great public schools through the courts. In 2014, PEJ began working with families across New York to launch and support Wright v. New York, challenging teacher employment statutes that allow ineffective and harmful teachers to remain in the classroom. The Wright v. New York plaintiffs have won two separate motions to dismiss their case and are currently fighting the defendants’ appeals of these decisions. In Minnesota, as in New York, PEJ has connected families with pro bono legal representation and is providing ongoing legal and communications support while elevating parent voices through media relations.
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.