Local officials respond after lawsuit challenging teachers unions dismissed
With the dismissal of a lawsuit that challenged protections offered to Minnesota teachers comes an opportunity to build up the teaching profession and encourage more people to seek it, said Duluth Federation of Teachers president Bernie Burnham. ...
With the dismissal of a lawsuit that challenged protections offered to Minnesota teachers comes an opportunity to build up the teaching profession and encourage more people to seek it, said Duluth Federation of Teachers president Bernie Burnham.
A lawsuit from four Minnesota parents - including one from Duluth - claimed the state's teachers union rules protect bad teachers, perpetuating its achievement gap. The lawsuit, which was against the Minnesota Department of Education and Gov. Mark Dayton along with the Duluth, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Anoka-Hennepin school districts, was dismissed Wednesday by a Ramsey County judge who said the case didn't show protections were directly connected to the academic achievement gap or students of color receiving ineffective teachers. It failed to establish a criteria for identifying an "ineffective teacher," District Judge Margaret Marrinan ruled.
"Here is our opportunity to move past this and talk about, how do we get people to want to be teachers again?" Burnham said Thursday.
For a profession that has become so prone to attacks, recruiting is hard, she said, and in some school districts support for new teachers is lacking. Duluth's mentorship program for new teachers is an example of support, she said, but "not everyone has that."
The suit alleged in part that Duluth's lowest-performing teachers are concentrated in schools serving the highest percentages of poor and minority students, citing Myers-Wilkins Elementary. It challenged the constitutionality of Minnesota laws related to teacher tenure, dismissal and school districts' use of seniority when making staffing decisions.
Duluth superintendent Bill Gronseth said he was "proud" of Duluth teachers, calling them among the most experienced in the state.
"I am hopeful we can move on from this and continue to have conversations about improving education for all students every day," he said.
Latasha Gandy, executive director of Students for Education Reform Minnesota, which supported the lawsuit along with Partnership for Educational Justice, said she was "disappointed" by the ruling.
"Leaders who say the system is working are clearly not serious about our achievement gap," she said in a statement. "If they were, they'd be fighting with us for policies that ensure only the most effective teachers are in our schools and especially that students who need the most support get excellent instruction."
Burnham said being a tenured teacher means a right to be represented.
"There is a process in place to help them become better teachers, or if it's not the right fit, to help them find their way into something else," she said, also noting the "talent and dedication" of teachers at Myers-Wilkins.
Similar cases have been brought in New York and California. In California, teachers union laws were upheld. The New York case is awaiting a decision about whether it can move forward. The Minnesota parents plan to appeal the decision.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this report.