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California seeks final ruling on teacher tenure

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Gov. Jerry Brown refused to say Wednesday if he plans to appeal a Los Angeles judge's closely watched decision to strike down tenure and other job protections for the state's teachers.

Republican lawmakers and Democratic school reform advocates have been lobbying the governor to resist union pressure to challenge the ruling made six weeks ago by Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu.

The governor has not commented publicly on the case, and he maintained his silence when he was asked about it after a lunch with Mexico's foreign minister.

“We'll deal with this when we deal with it,” Brown told reporters.

He elaborated slightly, however, revealing that Attorney General Kamala Harris filed papers Monday on the governor's behalf asking the judge to finalize and justify his ruling.

In a tentative opinion issued June 10, Treu found that a handful of laws governing the hiring and firing of California's teachers unconstitutionally deprive children, especially low-income and minority children, of a quality education by allowing “grossly ineffective” teachers to remain in classrooms.

The state is seeking clarification of what was determined, Brown said.

Lawyers for the nine students who sued to overturn the laws also asked Treu this week to issue a final ruling in the case, known as Vergara v. California. The state's 19-page request, however, is much more detailed and suggests that the attorney general's office is looking at possible avenues for an appeal.

Harris' filing cites each point the judge made regarding the five challenged laws, which dictate when teachers are given tenure, subject to budget-based layoffs and dismissed for unprofessional conduct, and asks him to provide the factual bases for the findings.

Several pages are devoted to questioning how Treu concluded that the laws served no valid purpose, had subjected the nine plaintiffs to sub-standard educations, and disproportionately compromised the rights of low-income and minority children.

“Did the court determine that being assigned to a single `grossly ineffective' teacher in California, during 13 years of public school education, causes an extreme and unprecedented disparity between that student's educational experience and the educational experience of other students in California? If so what are the factual bases for that conclusion?” reads a typical passage.

Treu's preliminary decision enjoins the state from enforcing or applying the disputed laws, but he put it on hold to allow for appeals, which California's teachers unions already have said they plan to pursue.

Manny Rivera, a spokesman for Students Matter, the nonprofit group founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch that is responsible for the lawsuit, cautioned against reading too much into Harris' request, saying it provides no indication of whether the state will seek to appeal the court's final ruling.

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