In an ideal world, Tuesday's decision by a Los Angeles judge finding the state's teacher tenure and discipline laws unconstitutional would be taken for what it is, a concise summation of the obvious. It would prompt interested parties to band together to fashion new, more fair laws that demand all kids get an equal public education.
But this is California, and that's not how we roll.
Here we protect teachers -- all teachers, regardless of competence -- as long as they have spent a whole 18 months on the job. We do this not because they are somehow an oppressed class, but because of the mighty political cash their union slings around Sacramento.
The truth is that it will take years to validate -- or maybe not -- Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu's decision. And, just like the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education cited by Treu as the basis for his ruling, we know this historic case -- known as Vergara vs. California -- eventually will be settled by nine people who also enjoy lifetime tenure -- the U.S. Supreme Court. Whatever the outcome, the decision's impact will be profound nationally.
In the meantime, the absurd political theater has commenced. Both sides are in high dudgeon regarding the others' motives as they try to influence the court of public opinion. The arrows began flying nearly as soon as the decision was announced. They won't stop soon.
But the tragedy here is that while the adults bicker, the kids who have been denied equal education will continue to suffer. Before this case is settled, thousands and thousands of kids -- largely in disadvantaged schools throughout the state -- will remain in classrooms with incompetent teachers.
Sadly, that's the near-term bottom line.
Treu said the evidence of how poor teachers affect students "shocks the conscience" and that "there is also no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms." He said current laws protect bad teachers, harm students, and disproportionately affect poor and minority pupils.
The plaintiffs were nine Southern California students who claim they are receiving inferior education because of the state's tenure and discipline rules that make it infeasible to dismiss incompetent tenured teachers. They claim the system is rigged so that poor-performing schools are the dumping ground for such teachers, The legal effort was funded by a Silicon Valley nonprofit called Students Matter that is largely funded by entrepreneur Dave Welch of Atherton.
Tuesday's decision had to be bittersweet for them because they must realize their victory is but the first battle in a long war and that the conditions that so "shocked the conscience" of Judge Treu continue to exist, and another generation of disadvantaged children is denied access to the equal education they deserve.