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Some Vergara “Friends” Petition the California Supreme Court

July 8, 2016

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.

Below is the part of the CA ruling that likely spells doom for similarly-styled litigation that tries to argue that teacher evaluation/retention statutes should be overturned because they advance “disparities in education opportunity”:

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.” [Emphasis added.]

On May 24, 2016, Vergara plaintiffs petitioned the California Supreme Court to consider reviewing the case. As of July 05, 2016, the California Supreme Court extended its deadline to make a decision as to whether or not it would review the case– that such a decision would be made up “to and including August 22, 2016, or the date upon which review is either granted or denied.”

Meanwhile, individuals and organizations are contacting the court and offering advice (“amici curae”, or, as former Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist noted, “… a phrase that literally means ‘friend of the court’ — someone who is not a party to the litigation, but who believes that the court’s decision may affect its interest.”)

Among those “friendly” letters to the California Supreme Court is this one, dated June 13, 2016, from “amici” (“friends”) John Deasy, John White, Hanna Skandera, Steve Canavero, Mark Murphy, Kevin Huffman, Cami Anderson, Jean-Claude Brizard, and Randolph Ward– a  number of whom are current members of John White-led Chiefs for Change.

What is sad is that only 5 of the 10 are currently superintendents– including the lead dog, John Deasy.

In their bio sketches, this crew paint themselves as successful, dedicated *educators.* For example, Deasy omits his former Gates Foundation connection or his current Broad Center employment. And no mention of his frequent absence from Los Angeles schools at critical times or of those costly, scandalous iPads. (Read that dose of Deasy reality here.)

John White glosses right over the at-best tepid *success* of a state-run Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD) that is on its way back to local control without its ever having achieved a single A school and only a handful of B schools– and the last ACT composite was either 15.7 or 16.6 (it depends upon which White-promoted number one chooses.) Instead, White’s amici bio highlights his time in New York, where he purportedly “[led] that city’s efforts to turn around failing schools.”

As for Hanna Skandera: No mention of her downplayed role as surprise chair of the dangling PARCC consortium.

Then there is former Delaware ed superintendent Mark Murphy, who left that post almost a year ago, in August 2015, to “pursue other opportunities” but whose Linkedin bio reflects no “other opportunity” and still has him at the post he resigned.

Kevin Huffman is also presented as “was a superintendent”; no mention of his resigning from his position as Tennessee state ed superintendent in the face of faltering confidence from more than 50 local superintendents– coupled with his failure to live up to the Tennessee-state-run-school goal of raising the bottom 5 percent of schools to the top 25 percent of schools in 5 years.

Not even close, as Gary Rubinstein noted in May 2016: “Four years into the five year experiment, five of the six original schools are in the bottom 2.5% while one of the six is in the bottom 7%.” State-run Achievement School District (ASD) superintendent Chris Barbic resigned effective December 2015 for not remotely coming close to that top-25-percent goal. Still, in Huffman’s “amici” bio, Huffman is portrayed as having “played a central role in devising on-going plans to move schools rated in the bottom 5% for performance in Tennessee to the top 25% by 2018.”

Cami Anderson is another has-been whose bio begins in past tense for her time in Newark but with no mention of where she is now. Described by the New York Times as a “lightening rod,” Anderson resigned from Newark over a year ago, in June 2015. According to her Linkedin bio, Anderson is “founder and managing partner of Thirdway Solutions,” where she helps nonprofits and others “forge new paths” and “find new approaches.”

Anderson as Thirdway founder/managing partner is not mentioned in her “amici” bio.

If the purpose of an amicus curae is to convince the court that one has a vested interest in the outcome of a case, it seems that withholding one’s actual current professional employment in favor of promoting a bio featuring a has-been role is deceptive on its face.

So much for being a “friend of the court.”

On to the next has-been: Jean-Claude Brizard, who was run out of Chicago almost four years ago, in October 2012 (and replaced by Barbara Byrd Bennett, who three years later, in October 2015, plead guilty to a kickback scheme and is now in prison.) In September 2015, Brizard took a job as an educational consultant with Cross & Joftus.

As for the remaining two names: Steve Canavero is a charter promoter from Nevada, and Randolph Ward, who has been San Diego superintendent for ten years, since August 2006– and who is the only *superintendent* out of all 10 who is actually currently a California superintendent making this *friendly* appeal to a California court. (Note 07-08: Ward is apparently no longer involved in the affairs of the district he supposedly leads. See comments to this post.)

And what, exactly do these folks want?

Here is a snippet:

The Court of Appeal’s decision, if permitted to stand, will hamstring the efforts of California’s education leaders and practitioners to act in the best interest of students and will perpetuate the deprivation of California’s low-income and minority students of their fundamental constitutional right to equal educational opportunity. The future of California’s education system, which educates over 12 percent of the nation’s elementary and secondary public school students, has an impact far beyond state lines.

If California educates such a large proportion of America’s students, you’d think that there would be more than one current California superintendent included in the amici list.

Moving on.

The Amici continue:

As one of the largest in the country, California’s education system– and the laws that regulate that system– have great influence on the policies and practices followed in other states. The outcome of this case, therefore, can be expected to have far-reaching repercussions and shape the national conversation regarding teacher effectiveness policies, including in the states in which the education leaders submitting this brief have been most active.

I must say, I like how this corporate reform cadre creatively dodges the glaring fact that half are no longer superintendents– and not even employed with school systems.

After the amici state and restate the influence of California’s policies on the rest of the nation, they state that California is only one of four states to award tenure in less than three years. So, if California is so influential, wouldn’t this awarding of tenure in less than three years be actively spreading to other states?

Perhaps that is one fear of this amici. However, that is not what this lawsuit is really about. It is about whether “the statutes themselves make any certain group of students more likely to be taught by ineffective teachers than any other group of students.”

This crew wants the California Supreme Court to “grant review in the above-entitled case and protect the students in our country’s most populous state from the dire, long-lasting, and ultimately avoidable consequences of unequal access to the foundation of a quality education: effective teachers.”

Again, the problem is that these predominately-used-to-be superintendents do not address the issue raised by the Court of Appeals: That the statutes they want overturned do not address the assignment of teachers. (See bolded text at outset of this post.)

They want the California Supreme Court to throw out statutes that they do not like, and they want the Court to require “influential” California to replace their teacher tenure laws with laws that resemble those in other states.

Not enough of those “grossly ineffective” California teachers are dismissed, and they end up teaching in schools that are predominately populated with students of color.

But the statutes themselves do not cause this to happen. Administrators evaluate teachers, and administrators assign teachers to schools.

These guys miss it even as they try to argue that they are right. In the statement below, watch the “and.” The amici assume that the “and” is directly attributable to the statutes, but it is not:

All evidence points to the fact that it is California’s uniquely quality-blind and prescriptive teacher tenure, dismissal and layoff statutes that result in the statewide retention of grossly ineffective teachers and in the cumulative concentration of those teachers in schools serving low-income and minority students. [Emphasis added.]

In Vergara vs. California, it does not matter whether California is overrun by “grossly ineffective teachers.” (I know CA isn’t overrun by grossly ineffective teachers, but bear with me.) What matters is that any distribution of those teachers is not legislatively mandated nor is it the direct result of application of California’s teacher tenure, dismissal, or layoff statutes.

The moving parts here are acting administrators– like half of these *friends* still pretend to be.

john deasy  John Deasy

kevin huffman  Kevin Huffman

mark murphy  Mark Murphy

cami anderson  Cami Anderson

jean claude brizard  Jean-Claude Brizard


Coming July 08, 2016, from TC Press (revised release date):

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Stay tuned.



Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. While Mark Murphy hasn’t updated his LinkedIn profile, he has been very busy at America Achieves, with a very odd sounding project…

  2. What a bunch of unsavory thugs.

    The California Appeals Court made a good call in reversing Vergara, but Broad and Welch use their deep pockets, and major law firms, to continue to pursue a win so that they cannot only shut down due process for teachers, but they can deliver a death blow to the unions. I have written for many years about LAUSD, Broad, and Deasy, among many others of slimy character (see articles at City Watch Today)…but these lawsuits, developed now by Bois and Olson and other lawyers from the top firms, will be pressed nation wide since cash cost is no object.

    Deasy is a failed administrator and a failed and mendacious human being who now works full time for Broad, mainly because no one else seems interested in hiring him. He partners now with the infamous Ben Austin formerly of Parent Revolution, in continuing to do Broad’s bidding and the very dirty deeds of urging privatizers lawsuits for their own enrichment. He may yet end up in prison since the FBI and SEC investigations of his shady deals at LAUSD are still not concluded.

    Huffman, Rhee’s ex mate, and even Campbell Brown who is not part this group it would seem, and the other tools of the Masters of Wall Steet, must be paid well to sell their souls to the billionaires.

    Add to this that Great Public Schools Now, having hit the track running with so much of Eli and his clones lucre, is concurrently giving grant funding to charters in LA and is avidly working toward implementing Eli’s plan to take over 50% of the LAUSD public schools, with the intent to bankrupt LAUSD (IMO). Another piece of this cow dung situation is that Monica Ratliff who was a fighter for public schools, is now running for LA City Council, so that Charter owner Ref Rodriguez teamed with devious Monica Garcia, can now influence the BoE to rush more charters through. The next school board election will again be bought by the billionaires as was the last one where Rodriguez won.

    For the rest of the world, a note. Only a decade ago it cost about $30K to run for school board in LA. Now outside billionaires have poured multi millions into the LAUSD elections in order to buy their appointed candidates a seat at the golden table. Last year they poured about $6 M into the coffers of the charter supporters..and the union was forced to donate close to $2 M to have some clout. This is insane.

    Thank you Mercedes for once again keeping this info clearly in the forefront so the public, and teachers, can see how these bums operate.

  3. Randolph Ward is the soon to be ex-superintendent of schools for the San Diego County Office of Education. He does not actually run schools. A couple months ago, a colleague of mine was asking, “if the San Diego County Office of Education disappeared, would anyone notice?” It does provide some back office and technical support for a few small school districts in the county. Ward neither hires teachers, nor places them, nor evaluates them. In other words, the one active school leader on the letter has not been involved with running schools for more than a decade.

    I would speculate that Ward is going to land in a nice reformster slot in the next few months and that will explain his name on the friend of the court letter.

    • Thanks for the info, tultican. I added a note referring readers to comments in the text of the post.

    • Tom…read your interesting column at your blog site on our great activist/organizer ally, Dr. Larry Laurence. Larry is a treasure and a piece of California education history. His lifelong friendship with Madeline Hunter is amazing. We will be in touch when he returns from the DC event. I too have recently spent the day with him discussing how to move forward collaboratively on our California problems.. I would like to be in touch with you to see how we can interact to support Larry’s plans, and introduce some of our own perhaps..

      You can reach me at

      Ellen Lubic

  4. Jonathan permalink

    How many school reformers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Seems like the answer’s still out on that one. This group of 10 certainly hasn’t done it.

    Maybe as a friend of the court, and with your prolific and informed talents, you could draft a short amici curae outlining more fully this groups “achievements”

  5. Donna permalink

    Honest to God, just look at their ugly, ugly faces, which show on the outside how evil and greedy their hearts are. Disgusting, lying, thieving humans, each and every one of them.

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