The national debate about teacher tenure is the focus of a trial set to begin Monday in a fifth-floor Los Angeles courtroom, pitting a Silicon Valley mogul with a star-studded legal team against some of the most powerful labor unions in the country.
The central question: Should it be easier to fire teachers?
David F. Welch, a 53-year-old founder of an optical telecommunications manufacturing firm, is challenging tenure, seniority and other job protections afforded public school teachers under California law.
He says that those policies allow the state’s worst educators to continue teaching and that those ineffective teachers are concentrated in high-poverty, minority schools, amounting to a civil rights violation.
His challenge is aimed at a core mission of the labor unions that represent 400,000 educators in the state: to protect jobs. It also sets up what could be a lengthy, expensive — and perhaps nationwide — fight over employment practices for teachers, which date back more than a century.