Some parents are trying to make it easier to fire incompetent teachers, but the city, state and teachers' union are trying to stop the case from going forward. Education reporter Lindsey Christ has more.
A lawsuit seeking to blow up the teacher tenure system could remake public education in New York State.
In a Brooklyn courtroom Thursday, lawyers representing a group of parents argued that job protections keep incompetent public school teachers and principals on the job, violating the constitutional rights of students to a sound education.
"The laws that promote and give tenure to teachers, that then discipline teachers when appropriate and then order layoffs when necessary, those three statutes interact in a way that basically promotes ineffective teachers and effectively gives them lifetime employment, because under the disciplinary rules, you pretty much can't fire a teacher for incompetence," said Jay Lefkowitz, a lawyer for parent plaintiffs
Education activists and parents, including former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, filed the lawsuit three years ago. The teachers union, state and city have joined to fight it, arguing teacher tenure and discipline are complex policy issues that should be decided by educators and lawmakers not the courts.
"We need a system to keep the good teachers we have in place. And tenure is part of that. And so is seniority," said Adam Ross, a lawyer for the teachers union.
Union lawyers argue that getting rid of job protections would cause a teacher shortage, by making it much more difficult to recruit and retain educators.
A similar case in California received major national attention - and scared teachers unions across the country - after a court ruled in 2014 teacher tenure violated the state constitution. But two years later, an appeals court overturned the decision and higher courts refused to hear the case.
Twice, a Staten Island State Supreme Court judge ruled the New York case should proceed. After hearing arguments Thursday and grilling lawyers, a four-judge panel of the state Supreme Court's Appellate's division will now decide whether the case should go to trial, or be dismissed.