Campbell Brown’s 74 Noticeably Silent About Vergara Reversal
UPDATE April 16, 2016: I received a tweet from The 74 editorial director, Steve Snyder, that the 74’s acquisition, LA School Report, wrote about the Vergara reversal “within minutes of news.” And so it did. Snyder adds that The 74 even tweeted the news.
Still curious why no article on The 74 website itself, and why no word from outspoken Campbell Brown– and rewriting of the LA Times piece to delete identifying Campbell Brown and her teacher tenure lawsuit machine in copycat lawsuits.
On April 14, 2016, the California appeals court overturned the June 2014 Vergara ruling by L.A. County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu regarding the unconstitutionality of California statutes governing teacher retention. As the California appeals decision states:
In this lawsuit, nine students who were attending California public schools sued the State of California and several state officials, seeking a court order declaring various provisions of California’s Education Code unconstitutional. According to plaintiffs, these provisions, which govern how K-12 public school teachers obtain tenure, how they are dismissed, and how they are laid off on the basis of seniority, violate the California Constitution’s guarantee that all citizens enjoy the “equal protection of the laws.” … The matter went to trial. After hearing eight weeks of evidence, the trial court issued a ruling declaring five sections of the Education Code… unconstitutional and void. Defendants have appealed this judgment.
We reverse the trial court’s decision. Plaintiffs failed to establish that the challenged statutes violate equal protection, primarily because they did not show that the statutes inevitably cause a certain group of students to receive an education inferior to the education received by other students. Although the statutes may lead to the hiring and retention of more ineffective teachers than a hypothetical alternative system would, the statutes do not address the assignment of teachers; instead, administrators—not the statutes—ultimately determine where teachers within a district are assigned to teach. Critically, plaintiffs failed to show that the statutes themselves make any certain group of students more likely to be taught by ineffective teachers than any other group of students.
With no proper showing of a constitutional violation, the court is without power to strike down the challenged statutes. The court’s job is merely to determine whether the statutes are constitutional, not if they are “a good idea.”
Upon first hearing of the Vergara reversal on appeal, I thought of Campbell Brown and how she rode the wave of Vergara (as Politico reported in July 2014) to “tearfully launch” a similar suit in New York– and how Brown also (tearfully? gleefully?) announced plans to fight teacher job protections in other states:
Choking back tears, Campbell Brown announced Monday that her education reform group had formally filed a legal complaint in Albany seeking to invalidate New York’s teacher tenure laws.
“This is not going to be easy and they are so incredibly brave to be taking this on,” she said at a press conference on the steps of City Hall, with parents and children gathered around her.
Brown demurred on her role in bringing the lawsuit, saying she was “just proud to be holding the coats” of the plaintiffs on the lawsuit, which she organized.
Brown, the former CNN anchor, told reporters that her group, the Partnership for Educational Justice (P.E.J.), may file more lawsuits against teacher tenure in other states. She has also recently indicated that she views legal action against teacher tenure as a potential opening to challenge an array of other union-backed teacher protections.
So, when I read of teacher tenure lawsuits, I think of Campbell Brown and the tenure-burning torch that she lit “pre-74”. And I expected her 74 to be all over this April 2016 Vergara reversal.
And yet, there hasn’t been so much as a peep out of once-tearful Brown. No coverage from her 74. And nothing new on how that New York teacher tenure case is faring– a case that is now approaching two years old.
Not a peep.
Add to that loud silence this bit of interesting news:
When the Los Angeles Times wrote an April 14, 2016, about the Vergara reversal, an early version of the article included the following reference to Brown and her penchant for backing tenure-busting litigation:
Vergara has caused small ripple effects across the country. A similar suit supported by the Partnership for Educational Justice, an organization founded by former CNN news anchor Campbell Brown, is ongoing in New York.
On Wednesday, the organization announced another lawsuit against tenure, this time in Minnesota. There, four mothers filed suit, alleging that the state’s tenure and teacher dismissal laws are unconstitutional because they impede their children’s ability to access a constitutionally promised “general and uniform” and “thorough and efficient” public school system.
The statutes, the parents allege, “perpetuate Minnesota’s opportunity gaps.”
By April 15, 2016, all reference to Brown and her Partnership for Educational Justice as instigating tenure lawsuits had been scrubbed from the LA Times piece. Here is what remains:
Similar litigation was filed soon after in New York; and on Thursday, just before the release of the appellate decision in California, another lawsuit was filed in Minnesota.
At the bottom of the piece, one can find the tracking of updates to the article, However, no update mentions removing information from the article, just “updating”:
8:28 p.m.: This post was updated with additional information.
5:49 p.m.: This post was updated with additional comments and a quote from a national teachers union president.
4:26 p.m.: This post was updated with additional comments and background on similar lawsuits.
3:53 p.m.: This post was updated with more background and a quote from the teachers union president.
The first version of this article was published at 3:17 p.m.
Any who wish to read the earlier, Brown-included version of the LA Times article may do so on the NYC Rubber Room blog.
As for the 74:
So far, silence.
Now, it did write about the Vergara appeal in February 2016, prior to the reversal.
Too, on the day before the Vergara reversal, it broadcast Brown’s Minnesota teacher tenure suit, including a flourish regarding the lower court ruling in favor of Vergara— and the expectation that the appeals court would rule in May:
From California to New York, political and policy struggles between labor groups and education reform advocates over teacher tenure laws have slowly made their way through the courts.
The next battleground? Minnesota.
An education reform group initiated a lawsuit against the state Wednesday afternoon, alleging that its laws governing teacher tenure and dismissal violate children’s right to a quality education.
Partnership for Educational Justice, a nonprofit founded by The 74 editor-in-chief Campbell Brown, is working with Students for Education Reform Minnesota to bring the lawsuit. The plaintiffs are being represented by Louisiana law firm Fishman Haygood and Minnesota-based law firm Bassford Remele.
This marks the second suit filed by the Partnership for Educational Justice, which is also challenging tenure protections in the case Wright v. New York, a case currently before the state Supreme Court.
Both lawsuits are modeled after Vergara v. California, in which families successfully argued that tenure protections and the “last-in-first-out” rules governing teacher layoffs deprive students of their constitutional right to a basic education.
In 2014, a California judge ruled that those laws were unconstitutional. The state has since appealed that decision; a ruling is expected next month.
So much for “next month.”
Brown and her 74 must be recovering from the shock of the Vergara reversal. After all, the plaintiffs in Vergara bypassed litigating over implementation of California education statutes in an apparent go-for-broke effort the kill the statutes themselves– which would have been a real coup for organizations desiring to kill teacher job protections.
It just so happens that the referenced earlier version of the April 14, 2016. LA Times article included expert opinion on the stature-killing aim of Vergara:
In California, blaming administrators rather than the system as it is set up wouldn’t have as much of a national reach, said Mark Paige, a public policy professor at University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
“They wanted the knockout punch, and had they gotten that through sort of a systemwide strike-down, then the dominoes could have fallen in Minnesota and in New York,” Paige said. “But had they gone with a … focus it probably wouldn’t have served the objective of striking down tenure entirely.”
It seems now that those dominoes might fall in a much-less-Campbell-pleasing direction. The head-tilting LA Times edits hint at exactly that.
Coming June 2016 from TC Press: