NJ civil rights lawyers should sue over teacher seniority rules

New Jersey Star Ledgee:

A California judge ruled this week that a poor kid’s equal right to a quality education isn’t just a matter of funding — it’s also about the barriers to success that lawmakers have imposed on the system. This includes tenure, seniority and other employment policies that make it unduly hard to fire a bad teacher.

They’ve helped perpetuate a hierarchy in which the best teachers generally wind up at the most desirable schools, and some of the worst ones at high-poverty schools, where it can take years of bureaucracy and tens of thousands of dollars to get rid of them.

Not only is this absurd, the judge argued; it’s unconstitutional. It violates a clause in many state constitutions, including New Jersey’s, that assures students a “thorough and efficient education.” This was the same clause under which advocates sued in the famous 1985 New Jersey Supreme Court case, Abbott v. Burke, to challenge the lack of equal funding for students in the poorest districts.