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Authors

Michael Lynch

Abstract

(Excerpt)

This Note does not scrutinize the Superior Court’s analysis of California Constitutional law; instead, this Note contemplates a federal challenge to California teacher employment protection statutes. Unlike the California Constitution, the United States Constitution does not literally include, and has not been interpreted to include, a fundamental right to a quality education. However, the Supreme Court in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez opened the door to constitutional challenges to educational statutes under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment if the plaintiffs possessed two distinct characteristics: (1) their financial status prevented them from paying for a desired benefit; and (2) they suffered “an absolute deprivation of a meaningful opportunity to enjoy that benefit.” Therefore, for the students in Vergara to be successful in federal court, they would have to prove (1) that grossly ineffective teachers are located in predominantly lowincome neighborhoods where it is too costly to remove them and (2) that their presence in the low-income school districts has created “an absolute deprivation of a meaningful opportunity” to receive an education.

Part II of this Note discusses the Vergara opinion in greater depth and examines the legal precedent discussed to assess the likelihood of a Supreme Court challenge in the future. Part III of this Note examines some of the relevant empirical data related to the interplay between race, income, and teacher performance. Examples from across the country are used to explore whether overly protective employment statutes have a disproportionately negative impact on minority students. Next, part IV will take a look at the Supreme Court’s reluctance to recognize education as a fundamental right, and the barriers to a federal constitutional challenge to the California laws. However, in Part V, this Note argues that the Vergara case demonstrates a sufficiently egregious deprivation of educational benefits to allow for a federal Equal Protection Claim to succeed. In this part, the Rodriguez “loophole” is explained and the idea of “denial of education” is developed and applied to the facts of the Vergara case. Finally, in Part VI, this Note suggests modifications to teacher employment statutes that would break the stronghold of grossly ineffective teachers on lowincome school districts and honor the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

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