Decision in the Lederman Case

A decision was announced in the Sheri Lederman case today, with State Supreme Court Justice Roger McDonough finding that Ms. Lederman’s rating was, as she claimed, “arbitrary and capricious.”

While this is not the slam-dunk we were hoping for (which would have been a ruling that would invalidate the use of value-added measures to evaluate teachers) it’s still great news. The ruling applies only to Lederman’s rating, with the judge stating that “he could not rule beyond the individual case . . . because regulations around the evaluation system have been changed,” but it sets an important precedent.

Bruce Lederman, Sheri’s husband/lawyer, said he believes this is the first time that a teacher’s evaluation has been overturned by a court, and says “The decision should qualify as persuasive authority for other teachers challenging growth scores throughout the country.” Additionally it provides great evidence for lobbying efforts to eliminate the use of value-added measures, something especially important as the Regents and NYSED begin their work to explore the way tests are being used for evaluations.

For more, see Carol Burris’ piece in the Washington Post.

More Good News from the Courts

A Big Win for Tenure
The California Appeals court overturned a lower court decision in the Vergara v. California case, which had previously ruled that tenure and other job protections violated students’ rights to a quality education.

This is a significant victory, especially in light of other similar lawsuits such as Wright v. New York (which is still under consideration) and a suit that was just filed in Minnesota, both of which are modeled on the Vergara case. The Vergara plaintiffs have said they will appeal the case to the State Supreme Court, so it isn’t technically over. But since the case was very weak to begin with (the plaintiffs presented no actual evidence that tenure violates students’ rights), there is good reason to believe this decision will stand.

A Win for Unions
The Vergara decision comes less than a week after a court in Wisconsin threw out Scott Walker’s “right to work” law.  The ruling held that “prohibiting [unions] from collecting fees from non-members to cover their share of collective bargaining costs constituted a ‘taking’ of private property without just compensation under the state constitution.” This is great news, but…

Walker’s “Act-10,” which gutted collective bargaining rights and eliminated tenure and other job protections, is still on the books. In fact, that law had been overturned by one court, only to be later upheld by the State Supreme Court, so it is very likely that this decision will follow the same path. Still, we can at least hope that this argument will gain traction elsewhere.

Get out and VOTE next Tuesday
As some of you may have heard, the New York Primaries are next Tuesday, April 19th.

SWRTA is not telling you who to vote for.

NYSUT is not telling you who to vote for. 

What we are reminding you, though, is that if we want to be part of the conversation; if we want public education to be part of the debate; if we want our voices to be taken seriously, then we must be involved, and we must vote.

Put it on your calendar right now.

News Update

APPR Regulations

According to a Facebook post from PJSTA President Beth Dimino, a majority of the Regents voted to make the new APPR regulations permanent. Beth also reports that “they will draft a resolution tomorrow with changes for the Senate to consider.” For updated info, see this post.

APPR Appeals

In an interview on Monday, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch announced that they will be moving toward a process that will allow teachers to appeal their rating if there appears to be an aberration in their score. Governor Cuomo has voiced his support for this as well.

As it stands, teachers have virtually no recourse to challenge their ratings (they must prove the rating was fraudulent), so this does represent progress. Of course, it’s hard to cheer too hard at this news, since it’s Cuomo and Tisch who are putting teachers in this position in the first place. It’s akin to throwing someone overboard in the middle of the ocean and then making a big show of tossing him a life jacket as you sail away. We’ll see what happens with this, but it’s hard to see this as anything more than a cynical ploy to appease critics without making any substantive changes to the the primary issues.

The main point is, the pressure that the NYSED and the Governor are feeling is pushing them to react. Right now, they are hoping that with a little smoke and some mirrors they can diffuse the situation just enough to keep things they way they want them. We need to make sure we keep the pressure on and let them know we will not accept half measures. The system is deeply flawed and harmful and it needs to go.

Big Issues in Two Long Island Districts

Last November we reported on the situation in Locust Valley, where the BOE is attempting to undercut the Triborough Law and deny teachers step increases.  There’s really no update, but as this article in the Oyster Bay Guardian shows, the situation seems no closer to resolution. The resolution of this situation has TREMENDOUS potential ramifications for all teacher contracts and, potentially all public sector unions in New York State.

You may or may not have heard rumors about the fiscal problems that the Sachem school district is currently facing, but it seems that they are reaching a fever pitch, with talk of drastic mid-year cuts. Superintendent James Nolan responded to the rumors with a statement saying, in part “no decisions have been finalized on potential sources of revenue or potential cuts to reduce expenditures. We are working in synergy with many folks to develop a short-term and long-term plan.”

According to NYSUT Regional Staff Director Peter Verdon,   “The primary factor which has brought Sachem to this point, is the culmination of the State’s punitive and flawed school funding policies – state aid cuts, failure to eliminate the GEA, the tax cap and its undemocratic super-majority requirement.  The repercussions impact all of our members in the public sector- teachers, school related professionals as well as public library employees and those working in other municipalities.

So I fear that Sachem is not merely a cautionary tale, but rather is a “canary in the coal mine.”  If legislative changes are not made we could see more situations like this in the future.  These are changes that NYSUT has sought and which we must all continue to fight for. “

Seattle Teachers Strike

School will begin tomorrow in Seattle public schools as the union reached a tentative agreement with the city. Key terms of the agreement include cost of living increases, increased pay for a longer school day, and that test scores will no longer play a role in teacher evaluations.

The Case Against Tenure

Oral arguments began this week in the “Wright vs. New York” case. This is the case in which the plaintiffs are trying to show that tenure laws violate students’ right to a sound basic education. If the results follow the Vergara verdict in California (currently being appealed), tenure protection could be stripped from all teachers in New York State.

This interview, with attorney Rich Cassagrande, does a great job of countering the plaintiff’s claims, explaining what tenure really is and showing how it benefits not just teachers, but students themselves. If you’ve ever found yourself being attacked over tenure (or even having your own doubts about whether it truly is necessary, please watch the video.