Huffpost Education

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Jennifer Berkshire Headshot

The *Kids* Weren't the Only Big Winners in Vergara v. California Teacher Tenure Ruling

Posted: Updated:

Reader: barely had the verdict been announced in the landmark legal case Vergara vs. Lemons when the verdict was reached. The Vergara verdict represents a huge win for the kids. My own favorite verdict came swiftly from value investor Whitney Tilson who *stopped the presses* an unprecedented quintuple times in order to announce that the Vergara decision was a *grand slam for students* and a *grim day for the Blob.* (Note: if you are regular reader of this blog, you are a de facto Blob member.) Which got me to wondering. Might there be some other beneficiaries of the Vergara victory, besides the kids that is? I'm recommending an extra lemon twist to today's featured quaff -- you'll need it.

Public Relations

Perhaps the biggest Vergara victor (other than the kids) was the public relations firm behind the case. Did I say public relations? I meant *issue advocacy that works at the intersection of strategic communications and public policy by collaborating with inspiring partners to create powerful movements that galvanize the public and leave a positive legacy of change.* In fact, Students Matter proclaimed early and often that one of the chief goals of Vergara was to position PR firm Griffin Schein, since reborn as We Are Rally, as a leader in the Students Mattering space. So pretty much just like Brown vs. Board of Education if Brown was actually a PR campaign bankrolled by a single wealthy individual.

Logical Fallacies

Another big victor: fallacies of the logical variety. Otherwise known as flaws in reasoning or *logic lemons,* these were in full bloom from the minute Judge Treu announced that court was in session. How else to explain the paradox by which teacher tenure laws apply to the state's wealthiest school districts and its poorest, but only violate the civil rights of students in the latter? Or how about the related and even paradoxier claim beloved by Students Matter fans, including Arne Duncan, that while teacher experience doesn't Matter, the inequitable distribution of experience (which doesn't Matter) is the civil rights issue of our time? See related: lemons, dance of the.

Billionaires Who Love Low-income Kids (more than the people who work with them every day)

It's been a tough time lately for billionaires who love low-income kids (more than the people who work with them every day). First, billionaire Eli Broad was unmaskedas having worked to undermine an education funding equity measure that proponents referred to as the civil rights issue of our time. Then billionaire Mark Zuckerberg didn't get many likes for his effort to reform the schools in Newark, NJ. Which is why the Vergara ruling is great news for billionaires who love low-income kids (more than the people who work with them every day). While David Welch, the Silicon Valley tech magnate who started Students Matter and seeded the Vergara case, isn't technically a billionaire, he may be soon -- if his investment in student futures pays off...

Great Teachers

No sooner had Judge Treu handed down his verdict than Michelle Rhee was rolling out a brand new website dedicated to the civil rights cause of our time: ending LIFO liferism. That's right: Rhee, who was last spotted *sitting down to talk* in the guise of a semi-remorseful robot, is back and more determined to put Students First than ever. Just who are the great teachers thatSave Great Teachers seeks to save? Hint: while *fresh,* *young* and free from the burden (and price tag) of *experience,* these great teachers are not the same as theinexperienced teachers who overwhelmingly teach poor minority students in this country. In other words, they add value -- or they would if only LIFO liferism and lemons didn't stand in the way. Or if their fiercest proponents didn't live in Bangladesh. See related: fallacies, logical; lemons, the dance of.


You know who has it even worse than teachers these days? Lawyers. Their lawyer prep programs are under attack, they owe a fortune in student loans, they lost millions of jobs in the recession and they are the punch line of a national joke. In other words, just like teachers only slightly more detestable. But things are officially looking up for our legal eagle friends thanks to what we might call Vergara 2.0. You see, the California case was only the first step in what is shaping up to be a nationwide crusade to show that Students Matter by at last putting Students First. Which is great news for the assorted teams of professionals -- see lawyers; advocates, issue -- who are the first to get paid for putting said Students First.

Dance of the Lemons

Another Vergara victor: the *dance of the lemons.* Now I don't mean the actual dance of the lemons, reader, which will soon be a thing of the past, enabling our failed and failing schools to succeed and at last send our students hurtling into the 21st century encased in rinds of college and career readiness. I'm talking about the expression *dance of the lemons,* a metaphor so lazy that it practically lolls off the tongue. Thanks to Vergara, *dance of the lemons* has new life and is already en route to a state near you. See related: fallacies, logical; logic lemons.


Reader: when I encounter a solution that will at last address the civil rights issue(s) of our time and set aright our listing public schools, I always ask myself a single, simple question. Is it possible that, in addition to addressing the civil rights issue(s) of our time and setting aright our listing public schools, said solution might also -- completely coincidentally, mind you -- just happen to cheapen the cost of teaching? Completely coincidentally, the answer these days is almost always yes. But where to spend all of the extra money that will be freed up by replacing lemons with limes???? If only we could think of something really disruptive, or at least something that allows us to say *disruption* over and over... And because I heart the concept of synergy, what if said solution also had the added benefit(s) of further benefiting billionaires who love low-income kids (more than the people who work with them every day)????

The Sharing Economy

All of this winning for kids presents us with a bit of a conundrum. Let's call it Broad's dilemma, if you will, because it entails talking a lot about inequity and inequality whilst working feverishly behind the scenes to ensure that the actual causes of the things you are talking so much about are never addressed or, paradoxically, are actually deepened. In other words, how does one *disrupt* California's deeply unequal public education system without causing discomfort of the confiscatory variety to those whom the system serves just fine? Which is why I would like to present to you my absolutely brilliant idea. No doubt you have heard by now of our new friend, the uber disruptive sharing economy. Might I suggest that students attending high-poverty school use an app on their phones to summon highly-effective teachers via a single, elegant transaction that bypasses the Blob entirely? Like that our problem is solved -- or *solved.*

The Blob

Speaking of the Blob, last time we heard from our favorite hedge fund manager, Whitney Tilson, the Blob was having a grim day indeed. The Blob, by the way, stands for the education industrial complex, or *Big Learning Organization Bureaucracies,* or put another way, you. So how can the Blob be a Vergara victor when the Blob is also a Vergara vanquishee? Simple, reader. Like any foe worth its mettle, the Blob only becomes more formidable the longer the battle of Reform, Inc vs. Blob battles on. Which is how it is that at the very moment that teacher tenure and workplace protections large and small are in dramatic declineacross the country, we have finally identified the foe that stalks our public schools and their long-suffering student occupants: tenure, aka the Blob. See also: giant lemons, dance of the.

The Kids

Did I mention that the kids are the big winners?

This post first appeared on EduShyster.