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Here’s what to expect as the teacher-tenure fight heads to court

Mona Davids (left) is a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging New York's job-protection laws for teachers.
Mona Davids (left) is a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging New York's job-protection laws for teachers.
Jessica Glazer

A hearing set for Wednesday could be the jumping-off point for a long court battle over teacher tenure or spell the end of the case challenging workforce protections for teachers.

A judge is set to hear arguments in the Davids v. New York lawsuit, a legal challenge to the state’s rules for teacher tenure, seniority rights and disciplinary procedures. At stake is whether the judge will decide the case is worth a trial, which would extend the court battle, or whether the judge will dismiss the suit entirely.

The two sides have already made their positions clear. The plaintiffs have claimed that the workplace protections have allowed ineffective teachers to remain in the workplace and in turn denied children a “sound basic education.”

The state, joined by the state and city teachers unions, has argued that the courts are not the appropriate venue for arguing the merits of teacher tenure and discipline rules, which are decided by the state legislature, and that the plaintiffs have failed to show how the laws have harmed individual students.

“This action is not brought by aggrieved Plaintiffs who have been denied a ‘sound basic education,’” the United Federation of Teachers wrote in a legal brief filed in October, “it is brought by political advocacy groups attempting to drive policy that is in closer alignment with their own political preferences.”

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch jumped into those debates just two weeks ago, when she said legislators should consider extending the period before a teacher receives tenure from three years to five in a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

A decision by Judge Philip G. Minardo on the motion to dismiss could take months, according to attorneys for the plaintiffs.

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