State and school district lawyers asked a Ramsey County judge Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges state laws protect ineffective teachers.

The lawsuit, filed in April, alleges that state laws, such as the Teacher Tenure Act, grant layoff protection to teachers after three years on the job, require a lengthy procedure to fire them and set up a system where teachers with less seniority are fired first regardless of their performance, known as Last in First Out.

The plaintiffs in the case, known as Forslund vs. Minnesota, are four mothers from Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis. Their suit seeks to have state tenure and dismissal laws ruled unconstitutional, claiming they violate the state’s constitutional guarantee to a “thorough and efficient” education.

Alethea Huyser, an associate attorney solicitor general, asked Judge Margaret Marrinan to dismiss the case because it’s up to the Legislature to consider changing the tenure laws, not the court.

Huyser also argued that the plaintiffs failed to show that the tenure laws directly harmed their children.

She also said the laws require teachers to be evaluated and do give districts the ability to fire ineffective teachers.

“In short, teacher tenure laws do not encourage the hiring or retention of ineffective teachers,” Huyser said.

Four school districts included in the suit, St. Paul, Duluth, Anoka-Hennepin and West St. Paul, made similar arguments.

James Swanson, the lead attorney representing the families, rejected the argument that the case is a political issue, arguing that the laws should be reviewed by the court to determine if they are unconstitutional, as the plaintiffs allege.

He said the state is simply trying to shield the state’s teacher tenure laws.

“When the law forces great teachers out of schools and allows persistently ineffective teachers to remain — often in classes with students of color or students from low-income families — something is very wrong,” said Tiffini Flynn Forslund, the lead plaintiff, in a statement. “Our claims, and our children’s constitutional right to an education, cannot be dismissed.

Judge Marrinan did not issue a ruling Tuesday.

 

Alejandra Matos • 612-673-4028