Forslund v. Minnesota
Every child in Minnesota deserves equal access to a quality education. Minnesota families count on public schools to prepare their children for college and successful careers, yet many children are being left behind.
Not all students are being served equally by the public education system in the state – schools serving high percentages of low-income and minority students have higher concentrations of less experienced and low-performing teachers. The consequences for kids are serious; African American, Latino and children from low-income neighborhoods are working hard but falling behind. While nearly 70% of white students are meeting or exceeding grade level standards in math and English, the same is true for only about 33% of minority students.
Great teaching has the potential to level the playing field. Protecting our best teachers and replacing low-performing teachers with effective teachers is essential to ensuring that all students in Minnesota have an equal opportunity to a great public education. Unfortunately, the state’s unjust teacher employment laws stand in the way of this common-sense approach.
Working with Students for Education Reform–Minnesota (SFER-Minn), Partnership for Educational Justice has heard from hundreds of parents across the state about how this system has negatively impacted their children. In pursuit of a high-quality education for all students, we are proud to help Minnesota families challenge these laws in court to ensure that every child has the great teachers they deserve.
Roadblocks in Schools
Research shows that more than any other school-based factor – including class size and school funding – teachers have the greatest influence over student learning and achievement. Students with effective teachers are more likely to meet or exceed grade-level standards, graduate high school on time, go to college, and earn more money throughout their lives. They’re also less likely to become teenage parents.
This is why it is so important that Minnesota’s education policies enable schools to keep their best teachers and quickly and efficiently replace the worst. Changes to Minnesota’s education laws will ensure that all Minnesota families can send their children to school with teachers who will help them succeed.
Tenure Fast Track
Teachers receive tenure after only three years, even though studies show that three years is not long enough to determine a teacher’s long-term effectiveness.
Additionally, it is essentially impossible to remove a persistently ineffective tenured teacher. This has resulted in costly buyouts – more than $2 million of taxpayer money was spent in just five Minnesota districts from 2012-2015 – to get rid of ineffective teachers.
In times of budget restrictions, school districts are forced to lay off their newest teachers, even if those teachers are more effective than some of their more senior colleagues.
Through a legal challenge in the courts, we believe that Minnesota families can successfully end quality-blind layoffs and reform the teacher tenure statutes that allow low-performing teachers to remain in Minnesota’s schools.
The courts provide balance when the legislative process fails to protect the constitutional rights of Minnesotans. Partnership for Educational Justice was founded on the belief that litigation can combat the inequality & inadequacy in our education system. Families in California & New York have filed lawsuits challenging similar teacher employment laws. Twice in the past 5 years special interest lobbying successfully blocked legislation that would end some of the state’s unjust teacher employment policies, despite bipartisan support for change from more than 90% of Minnesotans.
Partnership for Educational Justice is grateful to have the support and counsel of law firms Fishman Haygood and Bassford Remele, which have assembled a team of highly motivated and education reform-minded attorneys who are donating their services pro bono.
PEJ is thankful for the Minnesota educators who have shared their stories, provided insight, and voiced their support for this lawsuit.