Vergara case misses the point on improving education

Ben Boychuk’s lament for the demise of the billionaire-backed Vergara v. California lawsuit, which would have gutted teacher rights and ultimately hurt students, is misguided (“Courts stymie school reform”; Viewpoints, Aug. 26).

Boychuk sees unions that actually stand up for their members as problematic, as his comment, “CTA is the worst union in America,” indicates. He thinks the variation in schools’ Common Core testing scores shows “they haven’t figured out how to game the system, yet”; and he sneers at the statement by his son’s teacher that “I will do everything in my power to ensure your child will not fail.” Really? What would his reaction have been at the opposite sentiment?

The California Supreme Court turned down the Vergara case because it didn’t prove its assertion: that teacher rights supposedly stand between students and their constitutional guarantee to equal access to education. While we teachers absolutely agree that public education can and should be improved, the Vergara suit pointed in exactly the wrong direction: stripping us of essential rights.

Vergara pretended that the problems that these rights protect against – arbitrary actions without recourse by school administrators, favoritism in hiring and promotion, political interference in the curriculum – wouldn’t all rush back in to fill the vacuum should these rights disappear.

Here’s what else he didn’t mention: more than $10 million spent on this suit by its deep-pocketed backers, and millions more on PR to ensure its damaging anti-teacher, anti-public education message, spread widely.

Let’s be clear. This was not a student-, family- or civil rights-driven lawsuit; it was funded by David Welch, a charter school investor, and backed by billionaire Eli Broad, alongside foundations that support privatizing public education.

If they really cared about low-income students of color’s access to education, they would have supported Proposition 30 in 2012, which enabled Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula to send additional monies to school districts like mine where those students are. Instead, Welch was nowhere to be seen in that campaign, and Broad gave a million dollars to oppose Prop. 30.

What my students actually need is adequate funding so we can address the teacher shortage and support universal preschool, smaller class sizes, open school libraries, provide school nurses, counselors, and a peer assistance and review program so struggling teachers can be helped or escorted out of the profession. Anything else – like Vergara – misses the point.

Casey Carlson is a special education teacher at Soquel High School in Santa Cruz. Contact Carlson at