Towards Moderate Teacher Tenure Reform in California: An Efficiency-Effectiveness Framework and the Legacy of Vergara,
104 Calif. L. Rev. 1503
This Note offers an efficiency-effectiveness framework for evaluating the success of school finance and teacher tenure court-ordered legislative reforms. In June 2014, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu struck down California’s teacher tenure laws as unconstitutional in the landmark case Vergara v. State. While the California Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order and the California Supreme Court declined to review the decision, I argue that lessons from the Vergara case remain relevant to explain the complex relationship between the legislature and courts in teacher tenure and school finance reform. Political factors such as disunited political leadership and interest groups, lack of political priming, and inability to use a court-created policy window suggested that any hypothetical Vergara legislative remedy was likely to be a low-efficiency/no-effectiveness paradigm similar to the New York Campaign for Fiscal Equity, with such a remedy languishing in years of endless litigation. In contrast, a better path forward would have relied on a Williams model of high-efficiency/moderate-effectiveness to seek moderate reform and resolve the Vergara litigation through settlement. Consequently, even though the Vergara case has been resolved, the efficiency-effectiveness framework remains relevant as a method of analyzing the success of future California teacher tenure lawsuits as well as teacher tenure lawsuits in other states.