Unions breathed a sigh of relief when the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition in to rehear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, reports Louis Freedberg on EdSource. The court had issued a 4-4-opinion in March upholding mandatory “agency fees” for non-union members.
“If the plaintiffs – Rebecca Friedrichs and nine other California teachers – had won, it could have inflicted a potentially devastating financial blow against the CTA, and by extension all public employee unions,” writes Freedberg.
Plaintiffs will have to file a new lawsuit in a lower court to get back to the Supreme Court.
Unions won a victory in April in Vergara v. California, a 2012 lawsuit that challenged the state’s teacher-tenure laws. However, copycat cases in New York and Minnesota “have a much better chance of success,” writes Joshua Dunn, a political science professor at University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. in Education Next.
. . . the Vergara plaintiffs concocted a clever but dubious constitutional rationale against the tenure laws. They contended that California’s brief 18-month window for awarding tenure, onerous teacher- dismissal policies, and last-in, first-out requirements adversely affected minority students. This alleged “disparate impact,” they claimed, violated the state constitution’s equal protection clause. The unions suffered an embarrassing defeat when the plaintiffs won at trial—but the judge’s ruling was heavy on political rhetoric and light on legal reasoning (see “Script Doctors,” legal beat, fall 2014).
A California appellate court overturned the trial judge because “the plaintiffs only showed that the teacher- tenure protections potentially harmed all students,” not just minority students, writes Dunn.
In New York and Minnesota, plaintiffs are using the strategy pushed by teachers’ unions in suits challenging the adequacy of education funding, he writes. In New York, they have to show “the policies deprive some students of a sound basic education,” he writes, while the Minnesota suit relies on the state’s guarantee of a “thorough and uniform” education.