News Releases

Civil Rights Groups, Researchers, Legal Scholars, and Top Educators Urge Reversal of Deeply Flawed Vergara Ruling

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  September 16, 2015 

Contacts: For CFT: Fred Glass 510-579-3343
For CTA: Frank Wells 562-708-5425

For Information on the Civil Rights Groups Brief:
Jennifer Bezoza or Candice Francis, (415) 543-9697, ext: 232


Amicus “Friend of the Court” Briefs Filed Today
Spotlight Harm to Students and Failings of Decision

LOS ANGELES — Some of the nation’s top legal scholars, education policy experts, civil rights advocates, award-winning teachers, school board members and administrators filed five amici curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs with the California Court of Appeal today. The filings shine a spotlight on the numerous and major flaws that would harm students in last year’s decision striking down important due process rights for California educators, as well as other laws governing hiring and layoffs of state educators. The briefs strongly criticize the Vergara ruling on both legal and policy grounds, urging that the decision be reversed.

Prominent civil rights organizations including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Equal Justice Society, Education Law Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Advancing Justice-LA filed powerful briefs. These organizations argued that a lack of adequate funding, and certainly not the challenged statutes, is the primary cause of educational inequity, and that in order to close the achievement gap, disadvantaged schools and students must have the support and resources they need to succeed. Arguing that money and race influence competition for qualified teachers and the ability of districts to enact proven reforms like smaller class sizes, the organizations urged the Court to reverse the “…plaintiffs’ attempt to lay blame at the feet of the tenure system for disparities that are the product of other factors, including chronically inadequate funding for education.”

Some of California’s most-honored teachers—including 2012 National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki, and 2014 California Teacher of the Year and national nominee Timothy Smith—wrote of the importance of due process and how these laws ensure they are able to teach without fear of discriminatory, politically-motivated, or baseless termination, and how the laws support the risk-taking often necessary to be an outstanding teacher. They also stressed how striking down the challenged statutes would likely worsen teacher turnover in already disadvantaged school districts. The educators were joined in their brief by the American Association of University Professors, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, and the Korematsu Center for Law & Equality.

More than ninety top national education researchers and scholars, including Diane Ravitch, Richard Ingersoll and Eva Baked, took the decision to task for failing to establish any causal link between the challenged statutes and any alleged problems the suit purports to address. These experts argued that current laws play a key role in the recruitment and retention of quality teachers, in a job market where teaching is unfortunately often becoming less and less attractive as a career option for university students. The researchers were also highly critical of the plaintiffs’ proposal to rely on standardized test scores and the “value-added method (VAM)” of interpreting those scores as the major criteria for teacher layoffs due to budget cuts. “VAM scores have been shown to be unstable and to fluctuate dramatically from year to year, so that a teacher could appear very ineffective one year and then very effective the next,” they wrote. “The trial court ultimately failed to consider the possibility that relying solely on VAMs as a way to administer reductions-in-force could drive teachers away from the profession and exacerbate the teacher shortage.”

Past and present school board members, as well as school administrators, filed a brief that argued making teaching a more attractive profession is in the best interest of students. Vergara would make teaching a less desirable profession and would exacerbate a growing teacher scarcity, especially in light of the fact that it is just one among many ongoing orchestrated attacks on educators. Among supporters of the appeal were Kevin Beiser, board member of the San Diego Unified School District; Joan Buchanan, former state lawmaker and trustee of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District; and Steve Zimmer, board president of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Perhaps most devastating to the decision was the brief by some of the top legal scholars in the country, among them Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and Catherine Fisk of UC Irvine Law School, Charles Ogletree of Harvard Law School, and Pam Karlan of Stanford Law School. These experts said there was simply no basis in the law for finding the challenged statutes unconstitutional or that any causal link had been demonstrated between the statutes and a diminished education for any student. They argued that striking down the statutes could in fact make things worse for students. They wrote, “In this case, the trial court substituted its judgment about desirable education policy and the best way to improve education for students without regard to the harms its policy choice might cause and without regard to the evidence or the law about the cause of educational inequities and the likelihood that the court’s injunction would redress it. The trial court exceeded its role in our constitutional system and its ruling must be reversed.”

Attorney General Kamala Harris, representing the State of California as defendant; and the intervening parties, California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers, had filed separate appeal briefs earlier this summer. The amici curiae briefs filed today, as well as a complete list of signatories, can be seen here.

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The 325,000-member CTA is affiliated with the 3 million-member National Education Association. The California Federation of Teachers is the statewide affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, and represents more than 100,000 faculty and school employees in public and private schools and colleges, from early childhood through higher education.

Statement from Los Rios College Federation of Teachers on Shooting at Sacramento City College

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Friday, September 4, 2015

Fred Glass, 510-579-3343, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or Cherri Senders, 818-884-8966 ext 1104; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“We want to express our support for our colleagues at Sacramento City College following the tragic shooting of three students on campus that resulted in one fatality. We extend our sincere condolences to those students and their families. Both the Los Rios Faculty Union and Senate leadership agree that we need to remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure campus safety and will work collaboratively to discuss further steps in light of yesterday’s tragic occurrence.

“Our hearts go out to our colleagues at Sacramento City College in this trying time. Additionally, we would like to acknowledge the collaborative and quick-thinking efforts of the college President, Kathryn Jeffery, faculty and staff, and Los Rios Police. Their poise and diligence deserve commendation.”

Dean Murakami, President
Los Rios College Federation of Teachers, Local 2279

Brian Robinson, President
Los Rios District Academic Senate

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The CFT represents over 25,000 faculty in thirty community college districts, and 120,000 educational employees at every level of the education system, from Head Start to UC. More info: www.cft.org.

Chancellor’s task force calls for new accreditor to oversee state’s community colleges

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Friday, August 28, 2015

Fred Glass, 510-579-3343, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rogue agency ACCJC handed a serious setback by report

Today the California Community College Chancellor’s office released its long-awaited task force report on accreditation and the practices of the Accrediting Commission for Community Junior Colleges (ACCJC). Validating the view of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) that this rogue commission needs reform or replacement, the task force heavily criticized the way the commission does business, capped with a recommendation that California find a new accreditor.

“The ACCJC has lost its way,” said Joshua Pechthalt, CFT president. “We need a commission with the best interests of students, faculty and public higher education at the center of its work. The ACCJC has other priorities. It forces colleges to waste faculty and staff time and taxpayer money on bureaucratic minutia irrelevant to the classroom. It makes reckless and ill-informed decisions behind closed doors that harm the lives of thousands of Californians. And in the process, it is unconcerned if it is breaking the law. This report sharply underscores that accreditation is too important to be left in the hands of ACCJC.”

The report, compiled by a blue-ribbon panel of California community college experts, including college presidents, administrators, elected trustees, and faculty, found that:

• The ACCJC’s level of sanctions imposed on colleges was “inordinately high” compared with other regional accreditors
• The “California Community College system and its member institutions have lost confidence in the ACCJC”
• The colleges and the system need to transition to another accreditor.

Background
Two years ago, the CFT filed a complaint with the US Department of Education regarding ACCJC’s failure to comply with multiple accreditor standards. The department issued a letter detailing the ACCJC’s lack of compliance with fifteen accreditation standards required for continued recognition as an accreditor. This opened the door to increasing scrutiny of the agency:

• The San Francisco City Attorney filed a suit against ACCJC that resulted earlier this year in a state Superior Court ruling that the agency broke four laws in its ill-considered decision to shutter City College of San Francisco.

• A report issued by California’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee in June of last year harshly criticized the agency for its CCSF decision, for its absurd levels of secrecy, for its disproportionate rate of sanctions compared to other accrediting agencies, and uneven treatment of the colleges it oversees.

• Earlier this year, the State Community College Board of Governors opened the door to a new accreditor, removing language from Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations that had given the ACCJC sole authority over accreditation of the state’s community colleges.

• Legislators, too, have come to recognize the level of problems generated by the agency. A bill sponsored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-SF), AB 1397, to make the ACCJC more transparent and accountable is now on the state senate floor, the last hurdle before it moves to the governor for a signature.

“The members of the task force recognize that the ACCJC has ignored or dismissed similar reports in the past, and expect a similar reaction this time,” said Joanne Waddell, faculty union president at the Los Angeles Community College District, and a task force member. “The difference now is that more people are aware of the problematic nature of the agency, and the specific recommendation that the agency be replaced as accreditor in California underscores the urgency of the matter. We hope this report helps legislators and policymakers to take appropriate steps.”

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The CFT represents over 25,000 faculty in thirty community college districts, and 120,000 educational employees at every level of the education system, from Head Start to UC. More info: www.cft.org.

San Francisco Archdiocesan teachers ratify new contract agreement with the Archdiocese of San Francisco

For immediate release: August 20, 2015

Contact: Gina Jaeger, 415-378-1201, or Lisa Dole, 415-299-2084

San Francisco, CA—Yesterday a majority of members of the San Francisco Archdiocesan Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2240, voted to ratify a new contract agreement between the faculty union and the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

The close vote, 90-80, reflected divisions among faculty and the broader community after the Archdiocese administration proposed new language that would have declared teachers to be “ministers,” language that, if implemented, would have placed the teachers outside the protections of the National Labor Relations Act.

Negotiations commenced last October 2014, and continued for an unusually long period. Discussions with the administration continued until July.

The tentative agreement includes a salary increase of seven and a half percent over three years, maintenance of health care, and new contract language safeguarding employee rights related to personal conduct. The language makes clear that questions regarding teacher conduct on and off the job are subject to the collective bargaining grievance procedure, and are not the sole province of administrative fiat. The language was vetted through California Federation of Teachers attorneys, ensuring compliance with protective labor laws.

“The negotiations have been an arduous process, testing the resolve of our executive board and membership,” said union president Gina Jaeger. “But union democracy provided a firm foundation for our discussions. I am very proud of our union for standing tall in support of dignity and fairness. Now it is time to heal after a tumultuous year.”

Jaeger added that now that the long negotiations have finished, teachers will able to return their focus to education, “in particular providing our students with a supportive and accepting community where they can thrive.”

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AFT Local 2240 represents faculty in four high schools under San Francisco Archdiocesan jurisdiction, including Archbishop Riordan, Sacred Heart Preparatory, both in San Francisco; Marin Catholic in Kentfield; and Junipero Serra in San Mateo. CFT represents 120,000 educational employees at every level of the education system. More info: www.cft.org.

Accrediting Commission Again Denies Due Process

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Thursday, August 6, 2015

Contact: Cherri Senders, 818-422-2787, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Commission Fails to Consider Evidence Presented by City College of San Francisco

Sacramento – Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) again failed to provide due process when it announced yesterday, Aug. 5, that it had summarily rejected City College of San Francisco’s request for reconsideration of ACCJC’s flawed 2013 sanction disacrrediting the college.

“This latest action by the ACCJC clearly demonstrates it is unqualified to serve as an accreditor of California's public community colleges,” said California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt.

California Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow ruled earlier this year that the ACCJC had violated both state law and federal regulations and needed to provide CCSF with the due process it was denied. The judge ordered the commission to reconsider its earlier misguided decision.

ACCJC’s action comes despite the evidence compiled by hundreds of City College employees and students responding to the trial judge’s finding that ACCJC had failed to give City College notice of 11 new "deficiencies" not found by the ACCJC-appointed team, which visited City College in Spring 2013. The team had recommended a lesser sanction.

“City College did its part and answered ACCJC's notice with extensive evidence and arguments. Yet, in its reply, the ACCJC does not make any effort to reconcile the response of the College to the initial explanation by the Commission,” said President Pechthalt.  In spite of this action by the ACCJC, City College remains open and accredited pending a decision in January of 2017 after further evaluation.

City College of San Francisco faculty union AFT 2121 President Tim Killikelly also criticized the ACCJC’s decision saying: “Yesterday’s predictably unfair decision again violates the college’s due process and highlights the need for serious accreditation reform in California. Something needs to be done about the ACCJC.”

A bill from Assembleymember Phil Ting (AB 1397) will impose new standards for accountability and transparency in accreditation. The bill passed the Assembly and is advancing in the State Senate with bipartisan support.

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The CFT represents over 25,000 faculty in thirty community college districts, and 120,000 educational employees at every level of the education system, from Head Start to UC. More info: www.cft.org.

State Community College BOG Votes to Extend City College Special Trustee Appointment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Monday, July 20, 2015

Contact: Cherri Senders, 818-422-2787, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

CFT continues to call for the return of school’s democratically-elected Board of Trustees, shift focus to accrediting commission

On Monday, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors voted to extend the appointment of a Special Trustee to oversee City College of San Francisco.

“The continued appointment of the Special Trustee to oversee City College of San Francisco flies in the face of a democratic process,” said CFT President Joshua Pechthalt. “The people of San Francisco elected the Board of Trustees to govern City College, and anything that takes that power away from the people and their elected representatives is an insult. We are extremely disappointed with the Community College Board of Governors’ decision to reappoint a Special Trustee for City College. The people of San Francisco should decide who governs the college, not an appointed body.”

The initial reasoning for a Special Trustee for City College came out of a 2013 diaccreditation decision from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Since then, a Superior Court judge has ruled that the ACCJC broke the law in that flawed process. There is no justification to continue with a Special Trustee for City College.

“The approval of the Special Trustee is completely unnecessary for City College of San Francisco,” said AFT 2121 President Tim Killikelly. “It's been over two years now and local control needs to be returned to the democratically elected board. The board of governors needs to shift its focus to the real problem at hand – the ACCJC – and find real solutions to the continuing accreditation nightmare for all the community colleges in California.”

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The CFT represents over 25,000 faculty in thirty community college districts, and 120,000 educational employees at every level of the education system, from Head Start to UC. More info: www.cft.org.

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If you are a reporter or have a media inquiry, please call This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Communications Specialist at 510-523-5238.