The California Supreme Court refused to review a controversial teacher tenure lawsuit, granting a victory for the state’s teachers’ unions.

“This was a just decision by the CA Supreme Court,” Karen McBride, president of the Santa Barbara Teacher’s Association, said in an email. “Educators’ employment rights were upheld today as there was no connection established that these rights harm students.”

In 2014, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge struck down so-called teacher tenure laws, but an appeals court earlier this year reversed the decision. This week, the state Supreme Court — in a 4-3 vote — decided not to hear a challenge from the plaintiffs, the Silicon Valley-backed group Students Matter. The group argued such laws protect bad teachers, failing to provide equitable education for underrepresented students.

But teachers unions across the state called the lawsuit misguided and said it did not address systemic problems in education. McBride added, “Teachers work hard every day to hone their craft of teaching, to support the improvement of their teaching community, and to continually improve student learning.”

In California, educators who successfully complete their two-year probationary period are granted permanent teaching status. Once that happens, the dismissal process is lengthy and rarely completed. For years, state legislators have wrangled with bills to address the issue, but changes have yet to be made.

Attorneys for Students Matter said in a statement this ruling “shifts responsibility” back to the legislature. “Even though the Court denied the review, the words of [dissenting] Justices Liu and Cuellar will resonate across California and the nation, and hopefully help to bring about the change we so desperately need,” attorney Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. said. They pledged to continue to advocate for the issue.


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