Campbell Brown teacher tenure lawsuit likely to combine with N.Y. group’s case

Lawyers in New York working with former CNN anchor Campbell Brown on a legal challenge of teacher tenure have agreed to consolidate their case with an earlier complaint filed by a group of public school parents that also seeks to change job protections for teachers.

The move would combine efforts from Brown’s new Partnership for Educational Justice with the New York City Parents Union, a better-established advocacy group.

The parents union filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court in early July seeking to amend tenure laws so that seniority is not the sole factor considered when teacher layoffs occur. The group wants competence to be considered when administrators make decisions about which teachers to retain. They also want to streamline the dismissal process when a teacher is identified as incompetent. But the group clearly stated it supports tenure.

Brown’s group filed a separate lawsuit in Albany later in July that challenged all of New York’s job protection laws for teachers, including tenure, on the basis that they violate the state’s constitutional guarantee of a “sound, basic education” for all children.

Brown, who has stirred controversy with her effort squarely challenging teachers unions, says her group is launching a multi-state campaign to get rid of tenure across the country.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a motion to the court on Aug. 7 asking that the cases be combined because of their similarities. The motion to combine the suits is scheduled to be heard in a Staten Island court on Sept. 3.

In a letter Friday to Judge Thomas P. Aliotta of the New York Supreme Court, lawyer Jay Lefkowitz, who represents the plaintiffs in Brown’s case, said they have no objections to consolidation.

But it is not clear how closely the groups will collaborate.

Mona Davids, president of the New York City Parents Union, said her group’s goal differs from that of Brown’s group.

“We have very different reasons for filing this lawsuit,” Davids said. “We want to improve [educational] outcomes for all our children. We don’t need to get rid of tenure. We also want to work on improving our neighborhoods.”

Lyndsey Layton has been covering national education since 2011, writing about everything from parent trigger laws to poverty’s impact on education to the shifting politics of school reform.
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