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UFT urges dismissal of anti-tenure lawsuits

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Citing a New York State Court of Appeals decision that found that tenure serves the public interest and protects teachers "from the abuses they might be subjected to if they could be dismissed at the whim of their supervisors," the United Federation of Teachers today moved to dismiss Davids vs. New York and Wright vs. New York, a set of lawsuits that seek to overturn teacher job protections and seniority.

The UFT brief charges that "what plaintiffs propose is that teachers risk summary dismissal for independent thought, for speaking out, for grading students in accordance with their merit rather than their parentage or sponsorship, and for a host of other perceived slights …"  

Charging that "there is no basis in law for these suits," the UFT brief says that the plaintiffs "choose to distract the Court, the Legislature, and the public from the many challenges faced by school systems throughout the State by blaming and vilifying teachers for all the ails of the educational system, real or perceived."

 The UFT has intervened as a defendant in the suits, along with its state affiliate, the New York State United Teachers. Other defendants include the State Board of Regents, the State Education Department, New York City and the New York City Department of Education. The suits were filed earlier this year by a New York City parent organization and a state group headed by former TV personality Campbell Brown. 

The cases were consolidated in September. The consolidated lawsuit is being heard in New York State Supreme Court, Richmond County, before Judge Philip G. Minardo

 Other quotes from the UFT brief are below:

  • "These proceedings reflect an inappropriate attempt by those with a special agenda to draw the judiciary into a political thicket involving political questions and public policy debates that have recently been and remain the subject of concerted and ongoing action by the legislative and executive branches of the government."
  • "This action is not brought by aggrieved Plaintiffs who have been denied a 'sound basic education;' it is brought by political advocacy groups attempting to drive policy that is in closer alignment with their own political preferences for the way they believe New York State School Districts ought to be run."
  • "At stake is an attempt to eviscerate all tenure laws (based on little more than an inconclusive anecdote and self-selected and largely outdated statistics of academic performance and teacher retention and dismissal)."
  • "This lawsuit, in essence, amounts to little more than an attempt at lobbying under the guise of  litigation. What is important to Plaintiffs and what drives this litigation is the platform it provides for media attention."
  • "Their pleadings also reflect an attempt to subvert judicial processes to distort the root causes of what the Court of Appeals has termed ‘academic failures’ ... namely, to excuse the Legislature from tackling the ‘myriad’ factors that cause academic failures (e.g., inadequate funding, class size, books and supplies, poverty or the like) by substituting a convenient scapegoat – teachers."

Among the legal grounds for dismissal according to the UFT brief:  "... the claims are neither justiciable nor redressable; they simply tender political questions that the judiciary is ill-equipped to address and should not entertain; the Plaintiffs lack standing to sue; and, finally, the due process protections termed 'tenure' do not abridge any constitutional strictures."

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