Editorial: Don't back down on teacher evaluations

This file image shows teens sitting in a This file image shows teens sitting in a classroom and raising hands to answer aquestion. Photo Credit: iStock

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A groundbreaking court decision 3,000 miles away could, in time, have a revolutionary impact on education in New York.

A Superior Court judge in Los Angeles ruled that California's system of easily earned teacher tenure, with its "last in, first out" layoff policies and burdensome dismissal procedures, is unconstitutional.

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Experts say Tuesday's decision, which teachers unions vow to appeal, is almost certain to be followed by legal challenges elsewhere in the hope of forcing reform to tenure and dismissal procedures in education. This is the way the wind is blowing nationally: against the entrenched rights of unionized teachers and toward the reforms students need to succeed. The lawsuit was funded by tech entrepreneur David Welch, who says he's willing to pay for the same legal battle in other states, including New York. Such leaders, with Bill Gates at the forefront, are fighting to improve education not because it will line their pockets, but because they know firsthand that our education system isn't giving enough kids, particularly those in poorly performing schools, the skills needed to succeed.

The lawsuit was pressed by a high-powered team including Ted Olson, a premier legal strategist and former U.S. solicitor general. Olson, a conservative who worked in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, also led the fight against California's ban on same-sex marriage. He knows how to use the courts to spur the radical change that many state legislatures can't broach.

Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, the legislative session in Albany will wrap up next week. Union efforts to throw yet another monkey wrench into teacher evaluations are at full throttle. The Assembly is a lost cause on this issue, but Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Senate need to stand firm against unions that have been open in their defense of the status quo. Teacher evaluations can improve education. Impossible dismissal processes, like New York's, hold it back.

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