Four plaintiffs challenging Minnesota’s teacher tenure laws filed a notice of appeal Monday after a Ramsey County District Court judge dismissed their lawsuit in October.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of four parents argued that state laws protect ineffective teachers and keep low-income and minority students from attaining a quality education. The lawsuit originally filed in April suggested that state laws are safeguarding ineffective veteran teachers.
Partnership for Education Justice and Students for Education Reform Minnesota backed the suit, which was the third of its kind in the nation.
"Like all parents, the plaintiffs in this case want their children's rights upheld," Jesse Stewart, attorney representing the plaintiffs, said. "The constitution in Minnesota guarantees a quality public education for children. We are appealing so that we may return to the district court and show how these laws operate to deprive far too many schoolchildren of this right."
Judge Margaret Marrinan rejected the suit on the basis that a clear connection could not be made between academic achievement and due process for teacher tenure laws. Minnesota education leaders applauded the judge’s decision in October.
Education Minnesota believes the appeal is another attempt to silence teachers. The union composed of 86,000 educators is not involved in the lawsuit but released a statement where its President Denise Specht said the due process lawsuit is a distraction from the real problems facing schools.
“Due process protections are earned by Minnesota teachers after they have passed a lengthy probationary period and have met certain performance expectations,” Specht said in the release. “These laws don’t prevent bad teachers from getting fired. They prevent good teachers from being fired for bad reasons. Tenure laws protect teachers who speak out about the learning conditions in their schools.”
Partnership for Education Justice has argued that ineffective teachers oftentimes end up in low-income schools and schools with predominantly minority students because those schools have the hardest time filling teacher vacancies. The plaintiffs will file the appeal on Feb. 8.
“These laws are the teachers’ First Amendment,” Specht said. “Educators will protect their voice in decisions affecting their students. We will watch carefully as this case moves through the appeal process.”