Student civil rights


By Paul Moomjean 06/19/2014


Children are our future. We’ve heard this expression time and time again. Yet we as a society have done very little to make real changes to protect them in numerous social arenas. Movies are filled with inappropriate language and violence. Music that sexually degrades women is accessible all over the radio. And the education system has been an absolute failure on numerous fronts, ranging from overcrowded classrooms and “teach-to-the-test” philosophies to keeping teachers that many great teachers acknowledge should have been fired years ago. But in the words of Sam Cooke, “A change is gonna come,” as California moved one step forward in helping children from kindergarten through 12th grade, when Judge Rolf Treu labeled high school tenure unconstitutional.


First off, let me say that this ruling is not about teaching in general, but instead about bad teachers. You know, the ones who show up late, leave before the students do, give barely any work, show films that have no educational value and collect a paycheck that is way above the national average. The job description is to teach a specific subject (or multiple subjects as in elementary school) in such a way as to prepare students for both the following school year and for the college experience. And teachers are making much more than the $42,000 national average of a married couple or the $36,000 of a single person.   


According to numerous sources, including the Los Angeles Daily News, the average Los Angeles Unified School District teacher makes approximately $62,000-$67,000 a year. There are some teachers making north of $80,000 in districts across the state. Fullerton’s school district starts north of $50,000, and a teacher in Ventura County will be making a solid $60,000 after eight to 10 years of service, depending on educational background. As anyone can clearly see, teachers are paid a living salary for 180-185 days of work. Their working hours are approximately from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. They get at least one class period off to prepare lesson plans or grade. They get a guaranteed lunch break. And every public school teacher gets weekends off, two months off in summer, every federal holiday off, most religious holidays off, and they can have their paycheckd cover their 10 months in classroom or stretched out over 12 months while on break.


I give you all this information because the point that is easily forgotten is that these are public servants. The state hires these people to educate our children. But due to the tenure system recently shot down, that’s the last thing the bad teachers are doing. Tenure is the basic idea that once a teacher has worked for two years in a school district he or she is locked in for life. As long as teachers don’t break any laws and show up (eventually), they have guaranteed jobs until they retire. What Judge Treu saw was a system glorifying bad workers and punishing students.


The lawyer representing the students, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., said, “By striking down these irrational laws, the court has recognized that all students deserve a quality education.” Boutrous claimed that only 3 percent of California public school teachers are highly ineffective. He went on to add, there are 8,250 bad teachers in the state teaching 206,250 students every day. Boutrous explained the loss of income possibilities for these students. Judge Treu agreed and wrote, “The potential and/or unreasonable exposure of grossly ineffective teachers to all California students in general and to minority and/or low income students in particular” is the reason for his ruling.


Our nation talks a lot about “civil rights.” We have fought for women, blacks, minorities and homosexuals, but we forget children too often. With this ruling, California has taken a step forward in protecting the civil rights of school-aged students by attempting to give them better educations. By giving schools the opportunity to fire apathetic workers and allow new teachers (young and/or old) a chance to bring life into the classroom and fight for their jobs as the rest of America does, through hard work and commitment, California will once again be at the forefront of making the nation stronger, one student at a time.

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