A California superior court judge has ruled that the state’s teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional and disproportionately affect poor and minority students. The lawsuit was brought by nine plaintiffs, students who argued that the current seniority system keeps bad teachers entrenched in classrooms, violating their constitutional right to a good education. The teachers’ unions plan to appeal the ruling, which could dramatically change the way teachers are hired and fired across the state. We discuss the ruling and its implications for California schools, students and teachers.

James Finberg, lead attorney representing the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers
Ted Boutrous, attorney for the nine student plaintiffs challenging California's teacher tenure rules
Ana Tintocalis, education reporter for KQED News

  • Menelvagor

    Who determines a bad teacher? The fascist standardized system and its little bots? A bad teacher in Texas is a teacher who understands science and teaches evolution and disregards religion or harbors bad feelings about Dear Bush. A bad teacher criticizes the fascist war effort–teaching students to question and think critically or with imagination. A bad teacher is anyone the school board dislikes for personal reasons.

    In universities this is a Trojan horse. Beware of fascists. Now, professors can be fired for teaching critical thought, for challenging the status quo, for questioning the war effort and fascist/corporate-aristocratic policies, for writing a book that pursues truth in the face of lies and evil, against Monsanto or GM lies. This is just a way to curb free speech. Fear of losing ones job in a third-world economy is a huge deterrent to free speech, and democratic values. (oh cant say that either–the economy is getting better according to the war ministry and the ministry of truth). This is deliberate. It is class warfare. And it is part of the same fascist effort busting unions,forcing thru austerity measures–undemocratically, standardizing education and annihilating public education, replacing learning with corporate privatized charter schools and religious bible-thumping home schools.

    That is what Harvard produces these days–teachers for America–standardized privatized corporate drone and borg think–empty-headed whipper-snappers who will work for free to standardize everything while good teachers need jobs.

    Spies in classrooms, tenure destroyed, Director of the Homeland Security in charge of the University system–a bit suspect isn’t it. All part of the plan. All fascist, autocrats and totalitarians start with the academics and the writers–they must go. Who is next? (extreme thinking–NO. They are more sophisticated these days in their methods–but it is the same.)

    • Robert Thomas

      I would like to understand why Judge Treu’s decision does not also imperil related instructor privileges at California’s Community Colleges, at the California State Universities and at the University of California.

      • Another Mike

        Parents have to send their children to school BY LAW, but neither parents nor students have ANY CHOICE over which teacher (or set of teachers) their children get assigned to.

        In contrast, students can pick which college to go to, and even which teachers to take. Dud teachers will get no students.

        • Menelvagor

          I dont believe that. Students take the teachers who they’ve heard are easy As. And easy content and work assignments. It has very little to do with teaching ability.

  • ItsChippp

    Some interesting background regarding the plaintiffs here: http://capitalandmain.com/david-welch-the-man-behind-vergara-versus-california/

  • Robert Thomas

    The main reason that the Last In, First Out (“LIFO”) employment rules have universally been made part of Teachers’ contracts has been the inability of California K-12 school districts to predict revenue from the state.

    When school districts can’t guaranty their budgets for the coming Fall term, contracts have required that teachers whose jobs are threatened be notified by the preceding March. The LIFO scheme makes this manageable.

    When examining and comparing the experience of schools where LIFO has been eliminated in states without revenue sharing, one must take care to note California’s unusual distribution of monies mandated by the Serrano decision and the consequent uncertainties imposed on school district budgets.

    Other pressures to maintain the LIFO scheme exist but would have succumbed to criticism long ago absent the budget problem.

    • Mike Ls

      There are plenty of Private Schools, Companies and governmental departments that suffer from budgetary problems.

      They all seemed to be able to understand the value of keeping good hard working people and getting rid of those who do little or no work.

      Explain to me the value of keeping someone who has been employed for 10 years and does nothing but read a newspaper at work. Over someone who is new has a passion and works hard everyday to bring quality education to the classroom.

      • Robert Thomas

        I see no reason to want to employ incompetent teachers who perform poorly. I didn’t suggest otherwise.

        The problem of determining the quality of a teacher, given the extremely sensitive and variable nature of their “output”, that is, the education of children, is more than usually difficult. For any anecdote one can cite of a clearly incompetent teacher well ensconced, another anecdote will be of arbitrary or vindictive dismissal.

        Ten years ago, my sister completed a second term as elected member of her K-8 school board in a district where both of her children were enrolled. As a member of the community who was not a professional educator, she strongly believed her role was to act, along with the operations of the professional staff, as representative of her constituents and advocate for students and their parents.

        During this period, I caught a glimpse of he variety of things that cause school boards, administrators, teachers and teachers’ associations to gnash their teeth. One of the things I learned was that everybody who ever went to school thinks they know something about education (I had thought I did). Often, they are mistaken in this belief.

        Obviously, all institutions struggle with their budgets. I tried to make clear, above, that in the state of California the source of funds has very often been contingent on the volatility not only of the chief source of revenue – the state income tax – but on extremely politically charged state budget negotiations. This renders California schools unusually exposed to budget uncertainty in a way that the vast majority of districts in other states – where funding is primarily from more predictable sources such as property tax – is not.

        • Hester Prynne

          Union busting plain and simple. Again minority students are paraded out to testify as a conservative private interest group serves as puppeteer. Happened in San Jose Unified during a book challenge a decade ago.

          This movement is also anti-female since most teachers are female and most administrators hetero male. Promoting an inexpensive hot number is far preferable to keeping a veteran who challenges Common Core and STAR testing.

      • Menelvagor

        You seem to think that anyone who has tenure sits around and reads a newspaper. A bit of a logical fallacy. Do you also think all Mexican children crossing the border are drug mules? is it because they’re Mexican. Loads of rich people come into this country everyday, but that’s ok. Or just because a teacher is young and from Ivy well then they must be a great energetic teacher with tons of experience in the world and wisdom–I mean more so than a dumbass from public university right? So what are you saying? Nothing really.

  • David

    I posted a lengthy review of the ruling here, (after indulging in a pointed critique of “Students Matter”), if you’re interested in a teacher view of the case and its implications.

  • Mike Ls

    I have worked for over six years in a local school district. I see many tenured teachers who are “consolidated” and are allowed to bump other newer teachers. One example I recalled handed just worksheets and barely spoke to students. I was later told that she has done this at several schools and has simply been bounced from one school to another.

    At another High School I met a teacher who never left his chair also did no teaching, testing or grading. He simply used a scale to weigh the student’s work and if it weighed enough you would pass the class.

    Signed reluctant member of a local Teacher’s Union

  • Mood_Indigo

    Excellent news! As a parent with two children in California public elementary schools, I welcome this as the first move towards making public schools responsive and accountable to parents, and putting the interests of student first, as it should always be.

    The next step should be a drive for a Proposition that allows individual teachers
    to bargain for compensation without union representation, and the abolishing of all seniority-based preferences.

    I also note that pretty much every comment mourning this decision is concerned about potential adverse impact of the decision on teachers with little or no mention of the students.

    This is a great decision for customers of K-12 education, viz, students and their parents. It’s not a great decision for those who see K-12 education primarily as an employment service generating well-paying jobs and lifetime job security.

    The judge reminded the teachers’ unions and their shills in the legislature that
    schools exist to teach students, and aren’t just an employment service
    for those who can’t do.

    One thing is very clear, there are very passionate advocates on both sides, not many on the side of the court ruling among Forum listeners, of course.

    Here’s the link to an informative article in San Jose Mercury News about how difficult it is to fire teachers in California


  • Lance

    Speaking as an ex member of the CIO, union seniority issues are across all job sectors, not just education. Currently a young 20 to 30 something that’s more qualified, will fall victim to last hired, first fired when it comes to budget cuts. For unions to stay competitive/relevant, they will need to drop the seniority system as a metric for competence and pay.

    I support this judicial decision as it will give the unions the kick in the rear they need to update their system, and stay relevant. Not to just continue circling the wagons for the baby boomer generation.

  • Chemist150

    It is unfair to the students to be stuck with bad teachers.

    Unions should only be used for safety and quality of work place. If you need to strike for more pay, you’re under qualified and should be fired. If you’re that good, the market will let you know and you can move jobs and that’s how the poor schools get stuck with bad teachers with the tenure agreements in place… Because the bad teachers get stuck at the poorer schools.

    • Victoria Preciado

      Teachers at poor schools get labeled as “bad” because their students’ scores are low, but their low scores are more closely related to other factors, such as larger class size, attendance, poverty, and unstable conditions in the home.

      • Andy Pandy

        That’s not the full story. Google ‘dance of the lemons’. Poor and underperforming teachers get shuffled to less resourced schools and the factors you cite don’t exist in every low-resourced school.

        • Menelvagor

          And you know this because superman told you so? Good for superman.

      • Menelvagor

        and the fascists are trying to rip apart Amerian society more than they allready have since 1776. There is an organized movement to destroy any cohesion in American democracy and well-being. Well-being breeds democracy. And Democracy breeds well-being. It is racist too. But fascists are often racist. Destroy the public schools. Destroy impoversihed neighborhoods–criminalize them and incarcerate them. Undermine universities. Privatize everything–eradicating the social contract–government regulation. And usher in pure fascism/corporatism. Class warfare.

  • David

    All of the anecdotes about bad teachers are clear examples of problems with management. In well-run districts with adequate resources, it’s not such a burden to remove teachers if administrators do their jobs. The failure of administrators, or the unwillingness of voters to fund better staffing, should not be taken as an indication that the law doesn’t work. Surely, the law could be improved, but failing districts shouldn’t be the metric for whether or not a law works.

    • Menelvagor

      We have bad schools because we have bad government and bad policies and bad administrators. There is too much top down standardization and corporate influence everywhere. What if we got rid of the administrators and the corporate-appointed bureaucrats and let teachers operate the schools–unionized teachers!? Om my, lions and tigers and bears! We would have something called education. Democracy. Prosperity. Enlightened thinkers. cooperatives.

      • rhuberry

        Yes, but they’ve decided to blame the lowest rung on the ladder. Believe it or not teachers have less and less say about what they teach and how they teach it. We have become the pawns in the education blame game. Don’t forget about getting rid of the politicians along with the several layers of administration and bureaucrats.

        • Menelvagor

          no ‘but’, that’s why I am saying. I agree.

  • Pontifikate

    Will this decision (if it stands) apply to college teachers as well? If not, why not?

  • Pontifikate

    It was never “impossible” to fire tenured teachers. Administrators often don’t do the necessary work to either help teachers or to dismiss teachers before or after being tenured. I’d suggest a longer time before tenure during which teachers get mentored and teach fewer classes. After that, evaluation methods and policies need to be improved and teachers need to be evaluated by people who are expert in the teacher’s discipline. There is too much room for abuse in the system right now.

  • OrdinaryJoe

    From the Washington Post:


    “Rep. George Miller (Calif.), an old-school liberal and the top Democrat
    on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, suggested that the anti­-tenure
    movement ought to spread beyond California. “It is not only Californians who
    should celebrate today’s decision, but families in every state and school
    district across the country,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, school districts
    nationwide have policies in place that mirror those challenged in Vergara. . . . This is simply indefensible. Today’s ruling puts every school with
    similar policies on notice.” ”

    This is from a liberal/progressive politician who sees the effects of
    the current tenure statues. This is something big.

  • martin339PBS

    The central issue affecting new teachers being laid off, due to seniority rules, is really about the lack of funding to support public education. Effective teachers only get pink slips when districts don’t have the money necessary to employ them.

  • Liz

    An experienced teacher does not necessarily equal a good teacher.

    • J. Harris

      Actually most evidence presented in the case says that they are.

    • Menelvagor

      more times than not

  • Another Mike

    What about the burned-out teacher who is just trying to hang on until retirement while doing the bare minimum? Public school teachers are typically hired fresh out of college and stay in the same district 30 or even 40 years. Such teachers do not serve their students well.

    • J. Harris

      So we should reward people’s long-term commitment and service to their community with a swift kick in the butt? How very mercenary and industrial.
      Certainly that amount of experience and wisdom ought to be lauded and utilized.

      • Andy Pandy

        We should when they are no longer passionate about teaching, blame parents for poor academic growth and performance of their students and place their feelings of entitlement over students. We reward people’s time in the seat without regard to their effectiveness and contributions to student learning. That is why our educational system is failing. This is true in low income and even some middle class school districts. This is not about effective educators, but for the others, I’ll take the swift kick option, thank you.

        • Menelvagor

          um, but many parents do need to spend more time with their children and stop feeling so entitled themselves. Teachers are not miracle workers–it takes a village.

          • Menelvagor

            I’d like to give a lot of parents a swift kick in the rear end. And administrators too. And students. Students know when they are lazy.

            In fact, I would say, in most cases, the teacher is not to blame–the parents are almost always to blame.

            How do you make parents responsible? How do you make them care? How do you get them to think?

            In poor neighborhoods, they might be caught up in the rat race of survival and drugs. In wealthy communities, they like to flash BMWs and the Lexus and the latest fashions but do they really care? Do they really have a thought in their head?

            Wealth isn’t happiness. One pursues wealth exactly because he is empty inside and seeks gratification from others. They mistake toys with success in being human. When in fact, they are less human and less worthy, and destroying the planet, and partly responsible for poor education in America.

        • Menelvagor

          Students who do well, often do well because parents take the time to sit with them, and guide them, and ask them questions, and help them with homework–continuing the learning process at home. Like home-schooling without the Bible.

    • Menelvagor

      really, always, is that true? Maybe teachers should be paid more–like CEOs. Everyone owes something to a teacher.

  • Chemist150

    If you’re worried about bad teachers getting fired 3 years before retirement preventing them from getting a pension, move them to a 401K based system like that which will remove the incentive and argument for pension liabilities.

    Their retirement will be as secure as they had made it like anyone else in the private sector. They won’t lose it if they move jobs or careers removing the need for “security” because they’re allowed mobility.

    • J. Harris

      Teachers already have access to a 403B (similar to a 401K), which they pay into, just as much as they pay into STRS–between 8-11% of their paycheck. Also STRS follows them from district to district. The mobility already exists. It’s not about mobility. It’s about eliminating them before they achieve their highest possible benefit from STRS. It’s mercenary and pretty inhumane, in my opinion.

      • Chemist150

        Then eliminate STRS.

        • Whamadoodle

          Eliminate the retirement fund?


          • Chemist150

            Replace it with a 401K like the private sector to remove the incentive to dispose of employees before they can collect. The 401K allows them to be mobile and don’t lose benefits if they lose their jobs.

  • Jessica

    Regarding seniority, I agree that a teacher with three years of experience is most likely more effective than a teacher with just one year of experience. But is a teacher with twenty years of experience necessarily more effective? I don’t think so. Sometimes teachers grow bored, uninspired, sclerotic, even angry; a teacher like this shouldn’t be given such an easy guarantee of a job.

    • Michele Rudd

      I agree!! Regular, periodic re-evaluations may help the situation, for everyone! New, talented teachers would not be passed over in favor of a more senior teacher who has lost interest. And more senior teachers who go through a bad year or two (due to personal, medical, financial, etc., issues) would not necessarily be fired immediately, and would be given a chance to get back on track.

    • Andy Pandy

      Thank you Jessica!

  • Emily Souther

    I think we also need to remember the role administrators play in the quality of teachers in our schools. I was a teacher at a school where the principal hired me without interview 2 days before school started, provided me with next to nothing to teach with and then told me throughout the year that it was not her job to support me. She also recognized that I was coming from a “more collaborative environment” and that her school didn’t collaborate. Why do we continue this witch hunt for “bad teachers” without taking the role of administrators into account? Administrators should be working closely with their teachers to provide expectations and professional goals for all teachers not just ineffective ones.

    • Andy Pandy

      I agree Emily. I think the challenge is that some administrators are working within broken systems usually in the poorest of communities and lack support to remove ineffective teachers. Likewise however, administrators should be subject to the same scrutiny and evaluation for effectiveness.

      • Menelvagor

        That’s a poor excuse for incompetence and lack of imagination. Admin needs to get involved and think creatively, and break rules if they have to.

    • Alonn

      I also agree with you Emily. There are many broken pieces of this puzzle, and one of those pieces is administration. What I think undoing some of the most extreme teacher protections can do is stop allowing administrators to fail to do their jobs in supporting, mentoring, evaluating, and, if necessary, firing teachers by hiding behind these 5 laws. It would be most effective if, in recognizing teaching as an enormously valuable profession, we also raised teacher pay, this might prevent mediocre teachers from simply becoming administrators for the better pay and to escape classrooms where perhaps they didn’t belong in the first place.

    • Menelvagor

      Beautifully said.

  • Jan Dietzgen

    We must ask, “How do we decide who is effect? The 2 year probation period was agreed upon because the admin would have two years with “no questions asked” as opposed to having to explain why a teacher was not qualified. Basic aid districts have profited from this because with high salaries they can continue to count on excellent candidates.

  • J. Harris

    Yet again, instead of dealing with the complexities of generational poverty, income inequality, and the mythology of upward mobility which has largely diminished since the Reagan era, as a society we are looking for a simplified solution and yet again balancing it on the back of a set of working people with a set or protections–in this case teachers. Wealthy people are leading Americans, like a pied piper, down this path of folly. If you want to see where following only the wealthy gets us, look up The Gilded Age, and read “The Robber Barons.”

  • KCulby

    Can you use the term “ineffective” instead of ‘bad’ to describe teachers who are not responsive or receptive to meeting students where they are? The word “bad” is way too subjective for the conversation you are having and makes it seem less informed.

  • Michele Rudd

    Are there regular re-evaluations of tenure (perhaps need a different term)? It seems that a teacher should have to be re-awarded job security, rather than being given a a nearly life-long job on the basis of a teacher’s first years/months.

    • jamiebronson

      That would negate the whole point of tenure. The point of tenure is academic freedom. My best professors in college were ones that administrators were always trying to get rid of.

  • Ben

    If a quality education is a constitutional right, then are all the school budget shortfalls and cuts also unconstitutional? Let’s see what decent funding does for children!

  • Michelle

    I should preface this by saying that teachers have an incredibly difficult job for which they are not, in most cases, properly compensated.I have a deep respect for gifted, talented, kind teachers, and have been fortunate that my child has had wonderful teachers in public school.

    However, the teachers’ union holds schools hostage by forcing them to keep teachers who are harmful to children and the school as a whole. Our elementary school has one teacher who selects one or two children in her class each year to bully. This is well-known to the administration, as a number of the families whose children were victims of this teacher have left the school, taking their substantial donations to the school with them. Her bullying is so vicious, for example, that one of the children she selected suddenly began in fifth grade talking about suicide, because she made his daily life so miserable. Her bullying bled over to the students, who, seeing this child taunted and ridiculed by the teacher on a daily basis, began to imitate the teacher.

    The administrators knew about of all this behavior because of numerous complaints from parents, but said they simply could not afford to litigate with the teachers’ union to remove her from the school. They tried to get her to retire, but she wouldn’t. So instead of removing this poison from the school, they shuffle her from grade to grade each year, trying to find where she will do the least damage, but as it turns out, each year, at least one child suffers the mental abuse that this teachers so cruelly doles out.

    We teach children not to bully, but the union’s radical policies, which make the firing of terrible teachers fiscally impossible for school districts, guarantee that hateful teachers can bully and berate the most captive, powerless people of all: the children in their classrooms.

    • Andy Pandy

      This is terrible.

    • Alonn

      I agree with every one of your points. We see this in my children’s high performing public school. Every year there is a teacher that everyone dreads getting. The teacher parents hope will retire. But these teachers “own” their positions and can keep them for as long as they like with absolutely no incentive to develop as a professional or leave the job.
      Even in less extreme conditions, due to current hiring and firing practices, principals cannot build cohesive, well-balanced teams because they have no choice in who they hire. If there is an opening, whichever teacher has the most seniority and wants the position is inserted into the open slot. Beloved newer teachers that might be a better fit for the school are displaced in favor of more senior teachers. This creates a revolving door that is harmful to the morale of everyone – principal, teachers, parents, and children. And this is the situation assuming that all the teachers involved are of high quality, which all of us in the trenches know is far, far from the truth. We lost an excellent, caring, professional teacher who was displaced by a veteran teacher with many complaints against her who yelled at and shamed the children in the classroom and was impossible for parents to communicate with. Something must change.

  • Mood_Indigo

    Note that how the folks who pay the teachers and the customers of the service is left out of the discussion.

    The parents.

    One parent calls up to point out the obvious flaws of the union-dominated public educations system, and he’s ganged up on by the host, the union guy and the reporter.

    Parents who care must mobilize and take back the schools, not through the charter schools, but by “de-unionizing” the schools.

    • Andy Pandy

      I agree. We live in an economy where parents have to choose losing pay to address the crisis in public schools or plunging into working poor status to educate their children. We decided to homeschool after years of trying to partner and support teachers who cared nothing for our children. The union protects teachers, not kids. That is the long and short of it.

      • Menelvagor

        and are you a christian?

    • Whamadoodle

      “Parents who care must mobilize and take back the schools… by ‘de-unionizing’–the people paying me 10 cents a word to post here say so”

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Dare we question the students and their parents? Geoffrey Canada, who founded the Harlem Children’s Zone, states that it is the parents, not teachers who are most responsible for learning. Is it a valid formula to expect teachers to rear children neglected at home by ignorant or uncaring parents?

    From Canada’s Baby College:

    The “… kids with the professional parents heard 20 million more words in the first three years of their lives than the kids on welfare, mostly just the regular jabber-jabber of parents talking to their children. And those extra words had a huge effect on their verbal ability. It was stunning news that the biggest factor in determining a child’s later success in school wasn’t any of the things we always assumed to be true. It wasn’t money. It wasn’t parental education. It wasn’t race. It was the sheer number of words your parents spoke to you as a child.”

    “In the course of writing my book, I went through Baby College a few times. And every time, the discipline classes were the most intense. And they were the hardest sell with the parents. That language study that discovered that well-off kids hear 20 million more words than poor kids before age three also found that the kind of language poor kids hear is different. The researchers counted the number of encouraging and discouraging remarks that children heard from their parents. And the difference between the two groups was staggering.

    By age three, a child of professionals hears about 500,000 encouragements and 80,000 discouragements. A child of parents on welfare hears almost the exact opposite, just 80,000 encouragements and 200,000 discouragements. According to the scientists who study this stuff, physical and verbal punishment has a huge effect on a child’s emotional development, and on cognitive development too. For most parents in Baby College, though, these were pretty foreign ideas.”

    • J. Harris

      No as per usual, it the fault of the media, the video game makers, the toy makers, the food companies and now the teachers…parents are NEVER held accountable for doing a bad job.

    • Andy Pandy

      I love the fallback response of blaming ‘ignorant or uncaring’ parents. We are all responsible for shaping the society we wish to see. That is why we have PUBLICLY funded education. I don’t blame an educator for my child’s performance on their homework. I don’t expect educators to point the finger at me or my family’s socioeconomic status. I expect them to engage my child in the six hours that they are in the classroom and collaborate with me as a parent to be sure that appropriate learning is occurring. Since we know that race, social mobility, and educational attainment at least intersect if not overlap, your claim that race and parental education are not a factor is false. We are not looking at who is MOST responsible for education. We are looking for accountability from those whom we PAY to educate. Teachers are expected to teach and to rear the behavior and educational outcomes of children in their classrooms. But then, I guess if you’re in the privileged caste in America, it’s easy to assume that only ‘neglected’ kids are affected.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Funny that one of the arguments is that incompetent, failing workers would not be tolerated in other professions – uh, hello? How do you account for CEOs of corporations and banks who wrecked their companies and even our economy, yet are rewarded and protected?

  • Mood_Indigo

    97% of the K-12 teachers pass some sort of competence? Have these proponents of this number considered that this definition of competence is inaccurate? Let us parents have some say as to who are the good teachers and shoe are barely competent.

    Ted Boutros has a tough job on this program 🙂

    • J. Harris

      Fine, you do that when teachers can decide which parent are doing a good job. After all, you spend much more time with your kids than your teachers do, don’t you?

      • Mood_Indigo

        > you do that when teachers can decide which parent are doing
        > a good job.
        No way am I suggesting that parents are not off the hook. Problems with kids of lousy parents cannot be blamed on teachers, But conflating all issues to conveniently shield incompetent teachers is pointless.

  • Whamadoodle

    There is a lot of libertarian money warping this issue. The caller who said “can–you–imagine–if–Toyota–mechanics–were–tenured?” was so obviously reading from a script that it was painful. The multi-millionaire ideologues bankrolling the lawsuit are twisting this issue.

    Without worker protections, six-figure bosses do NOT voluntarily offer good conditions for those workers. That’s simply a fact.

    • Andy Pandy

      and how do you apply that to the six-figure union bosses?

      • Whamadoodle

        Hm, well, to that I’d say that a $75,000-a-year tenured teaching position, against a $300,000-a-year union boss salary, isn’t nearly as bad as a $7.25-an-hour McDonald’s or Walmart wage against the eight or ten MILLION a year that a McDonald’s top executive makes.

        Also, that if you want to make the teachers’ union (in California, the California Teachers’ Association) boss earn only what their teachers make, that’s fine–split among all 300,000 California teachers, that should be just about 50 or 60 cents each per year. But that’s fine with me, if you want to plump for that. Also remember that there are only a tiny number of union bosses for the union, so that 50 or 60 cents won’t get multiplied by very much, even if you extend it to every union executive.

        Therefore, the money does NOT compare to what school administrators have bloated administrator budgets to, since there is rather more money there. But it’s fine with me to say “union bosses should cut their pay”–sounds good.

        Anyway, without worker protections, six-figure (oops, eight-figure) bosses do NOT voluntarily offer good conditions for their workers. That’s a fact.

  • Vanita Nemali

    Great discussion! Completely agree that certification and completion of coursework should come before tenure. In addition, to acquiring tenure, retention of tenure should also become a focus through required updates through training.

    We are very lucky to be a part of the phenomenal Los Altos School District. In our elementary school, I have found that the best , most sought after teachers just happen to be more experienced teachers. Our expectation is that especially in elementary school teachers are nurturing and invoke a love for school and learning. These experienced teachers have done that and we are grateful. I very much hope the pension systems rewards them for they deserve.

    Vanita Nemali
    Parent of 4th Grader

    • Whamadoodle

      I agree that updates are a good idea for retaining tenure–lawyers and paralegals, for example, must go through continuing education every several years. Getting rid of tenure, though, would strip essential protections for teachers, when conditions for them are already awful enough.

    • rhuberry

      Lucky is probably a good word. It is so much easier to be a “good” teacher in an affluent community. It is not a given that these very same teachers would be as successful in a poverty-stricken community. I’ve taught in both and there are almost no similarities. What children bring to school with them — attitudes, preparedness, parental support, hunger, sleep deprivation — all make a huge difference in their ability to benefit from classroom instruction. Also teacher compensation is often higher in wealthy communities and far less, if any, of their own money has to be spent to supply their classrooms with all the extras poor children need. Higher salary =higher pension down the road. Less stressful teaching can lead to less burnout and a longer, more satisfying career.

      That being said, I appreciate your comments in support of teachers. It is the flavor of the times now to blame all of our national problems on a bad teacher here and there. Let’s see if eliminating the 1 – 3% of teachers deemed ineffective fixes everything wrong with kids supposedly underperforming.

    • Another Mike

      Teachers are always going through “in-service” programs which are intended to serve as “required updates through training.” Further, completing certain numbers of post-graduate courses automatically leads to pay increases.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Any comments about the behavior of children in classrooms? A friend who teaches 6th grade in a San Francisco public school, related how on the first day of school, one student ripped the bookcases down and that kids regularly get up walk around, hit other kids, and just walk out. I doubt in Michael’s day this would be tolerated. Kids who act out today get away with it. How is this fair to other kids or the teachers? The parents have been left out of criticism this morning.

    • Andy Pandy

      Parents were left out because they are not at the heart of this ruling. Teachers learn classroom management as part of their educator training so why not blame their education for their inability to maintain order? If one student is the problem, there is a principal’s office, there is an emergency contact sheet.

  • Mood_Indigo

    Lack of funding?! If it is considered as a country California has one of the highest per-person spending in among the Western industrialized countries. It has one of the least number of school hours per year among the countries. It has some of least qualified teachers among the Western industrialized countries. De-unionizing teaching will bring better people into the profession.

    • Whamadoodle

      What the? Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, I believe most of the developed world (the “Western industrialized countries” you mention) have teachers’ unions. What evidence do you have that those countries have less-qualified teachers because of it? Or that nations without such unions would get better results? Nonsense.

  • Mariana Aguilar-Rivera

    As a person who is preparing to enter the credential program and has already taken methods classes, I am frightened by the news of yesterday’s ruling. It seems to me that there are many people who are weighing in on what is ultimately a specialized profession but is treated as job that anyone can step into. The training I’ve received will allow me to teach to different kinds of learners at the same time (English Language, special education, gifted). I’ve been trained to use Common Core which means I will need to make sure students are not test-takers but well-rounded students who can speak in public, write well, collaborate with peers, analyze information whether it be through visual media, aural material, etc, etc. Tenure, as far as we (future teachers) are concerned is one of the few guarantees that integrity exists in education. That we will not be forced drop Huck Finn because a parent finds it offensive and the administration would rather not rock the boat. I find it disturbing that decisions or legislation is being made based on anecdotal evidence. Perhaps if some folks had paid closer attention in statistics, they would understand that 5% is not very significant.

    • Andy Pandy

      Tenure is not integrity in education, I’m sorry, it’s a fallback for educators who need to be ushered out of the profession. That 5% (which is 8,000 teachers ONLY in the state of California) doesn’t account for the impact of those ineffective teachers upon developing and effective teachers. I have heard plenty of horror stories from tenured K12 teachers some in my own educational experience as a kid who grew up in a low income neighborhood: “I get paid whether I teach you or not” was a great one. Administrators are unable to act because of the time and expense to go through the process. Maybe you should see ‘Waiting for Superman’ to get the other side of the story. I loved the statement of the caller who said, “Imagine if your auto mechanic had tenure?” We expect people in other professions to do their job well and for performance to dictate whether they continue to work. Public education allows low performing teachers the benefit of job security regardless of performance. I wonder if you’ll feel differently when as a new teacher you’re laid off simply because of seniority.

  • Jayant

    One of the reasons the teaching professional does not draw all the top talent is the rather meagre pay — tenure is the one saving grace.
    How about less tenure, but higher pay?

    • Whamadoodle

      If it becomes easier to fire people, now that they won’t have tenure (if the decision stands), then less protection does NOT tend to equal higher pay. A race to the bottom of teacher wages will be the result (which, if you believe the libertarians, is a disincentive to attracting good people).

  • Mood_Indigo

    Four years ago, my colleague’s daughter was taught by a math teacher in AP calculus in Gilroy High where the teacher spent the entire class hour all through the semester discussing politics and criticizing Republican policies. When the student tried to steer the subject to Calculus, the teacher refused to do and retorted that those students who wanted to study calculus was free to do so but he had other more important things to talk about. I don’t know if this paragon of teaching is still there but I would be surprised if he was not.

    • Whamadoodle

      Uh, yeah–SURE he did. I’ll add that to the growing number of Terrifying Anecdotes that the paid shills here keep posting (curiously, none of which are corroborated with documentary evidence).

      Yeah, I’m sure that AP calculus teachers throughout the land are taking advantage of their tenure to criticize Republicans and avoid teaching calculus.


      • Another Mike

        Trouble is, no third party knows exactly what goes on, inside each teacher’s little fiefdom. Visitors tend to distort the routine.

        • Whamadoodle

          As we see here, that’s clearly true.

  • nancy maynard

    Looking at admin abuse is also needed.. My good friend was teacher of the year..changed districts and would not bend the law for admin… So was not tenured at two years… The replaced her with a first year teacher who didn’t know what was OK and what wasn’t. Now five years later they have replaced her and gone through three more…

  • Mood_Indigo

    Here are some numbers that are helpful:
    “California has more than
    1,000 school districts and 300,000 teachers, yet only 667 dismissal
    cases were filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings between
    January 2003 and March 2012. Only 130 of
    those actually got to the hearing stage, and 82 resulted in dismissals
    — fewer than 10 a year.”

  • trite

    Ana Tintocalis was hardly impartial in her presentation and analysis of the subject–I think she was against this ruling–and it showed.

    • Mood_Indigo

      Are you surprised? This is advocacy journalism at its finest. And would you sayd that Prof. Krasny was impartial?

    • Robert Thomas


      I had exactly the opposite impression.

  • chrisnfolsom

    If we all try to make decisions based on a few examples we are essentially chasing our tails and deserve what we get. Are there abuses – YES, so let’s work on it. Let’s find a happy medium rather then legally undercutting a system that works – yes both sides need to give. This back and forth extremist tactics are just tiring and ignore the reality that our economy is different, our demographics are different and education involves the entire community not just schools or teachers.

  • Kishore Hari

    The answer to the question of how has elimination of tenure in other states impacted teacher retention and student outcomes was a resounding “We don’t know yet”. Moving forward without evidence, in the largest state in the country – seems haphazard. Given this acknowledgment by all the panelists, I thoroughly discount their predictions of impacts.

    • Mood_Indigo

      We actually have some results. They are from private school. Teacher retention is not a priority. Good teachers will always be sought and rewarded and will be retained, just like in the real world. If lots of teachers from the bottom 20-30% of teaching ability decide to move on, then so be it. Teacher union and their supporters appear to inhabit an alternate world.

      • Whamadoodle

        Hm–Mood_Indigo, as you mention, you do inhabit an alternate world to that of other people, but in your world, do your good minimum wage earners all proceed to become middle class? Not in mine. The “work hard and you’ll be rewarded” thing is a lie, if worker protections are not in place to prevent Foxconns from doing what they do to workers.

  • Another Mike

    I think one thing that would help understand the difference between effective teachers and ineffective teachers would be surveillance cameras in each schoolroom, so people can review exactly what does happen in any particular schoolroom, during any particular school day.

    • rhuberry

      Yikes!! How about surveillance cameras in all offices then, particularly all governmental and quasi-governmental agencies? We need to know that our tax dollars are not being squandered by bad workers and that decisions are being made in our best interests, not just special interests. On the other hand, it might really be enlightening for people to observe what teachers actually have to deal with in today’s classroom, particularly student behavior. Maybe there’d be a bit more understanding of a classroom from a teacher’s point of view.

      • Another Mike

        If test results are an unfair means of evaluation, then we have to look at process.

  • SoftwareGuy

    I am a parent in a good district in Marin, helped as a parent from Kindergarten onward, and was a huge supporter of public education – I still am. Though my children had some excellent teachers, both ran into the SAME teacher in middle school who’s attitude toward the students was reprehensible. Even though we had hard evidence in writing it still took us the remainder of the year to get the second daughter out of that class. To my knowledge that teacher is still in place. We finally gave up and moved our children to private schools.

    The problem is greater than tenure and seniority but those issues need to be addressed and this ruling has certainly started the conversation! Other problems I’ve observed are:

    Teachers have little or no power to remove disruptive students. If education is a right, then students who want to learn should have the right to classes free of those who do not. The obvious question is what to do with the problem kids. Positive support (e.g. check in – check out program) has shown some very positive results. But it takes resources; caring adults who are trained to handle kids in crisis.

    The credential system (particularly in CA) makes it virtually impossible for K-12 teachers to take advantage of talent in the community to enrich their programs. Schools are happy to take our money but, in general, reject the knowledge and experience that many parents would be eager to share. No teacher, with a five year exposure to a subject, can possibly have the depth of knowledge in that subject that a twenty year veteran of business, banking, high tech, biotech, etc. can bring to the table. Public education needs to develop a culture and mechanism to bring this into the classroom. School districts today largely ignore this enormous brain trust.

    As pointed out by a number of teachers calling in to the program, parental support, administrative support, mentoring, counseling, and merit based compensation are all pieces of the puzzle that need to be in place to make great teaching possible.

    • rhuberry

      Sometimes that SAME teacher is best friends with the principal and therefore gets a pass. A teacher that parents and students like may get bullied and harassed because they are not “yes men or women” for the principal’s agenda. I’ve seen it, unfortunately more than just a few times. There seems to be a notion that principals are pure, all-knowing and impartial. Principals are just teachers who got supervisorial jobs at considerably higher pay (a strong motivation for some). They were not necessarily outstanding teachers. Many have next to no classroom teaching experience, but they went on to get administrative credentials. 2 principals I had had each taught less than 3 years and not at the grade levels they were now managing. Yet these are the people charged with determining teacher competency. Why isn’t the onus on them for not using the system as it was designed to remove underperforming or otherwise unsatisfactory teachers? They’re making the big bucks to do the hard stuff.

      But almost everybody has an example of a teacher they didn’t like and then that is generalized to let’s get rid of all the bad teachers. Somehow most of us survived and even thrived despite a “bad” teacher along the way — and a lot of other bad things that we can’t blame on a teacher.

      • Menelvagor

        i cant say I really had bad teachers, some less effective teachers maybe–boring–but I think we were bad students. Difficult students can disrupt everything and I admit I was a disruptive student in some classes. And, guess what, my parents were not at home helping me or paying attention that much. I was a good student in those subjects I really enjoyed. Great, and less great, I look back see all my teachers as trying very hard and worthy of tremendous respect–heroes.

        The vice-principles in my school were outstanding people with great personal skills and compassion. The principle was not. period. The guidance counselors–at least mine–was a loser and fraud, and a jerk. He and the principle were most likely republicans.

  • Dave Satre

    The biggest problem with our education system is incompetent administrators. Lawrence J. Peter’s Peter Principle, a theory that explains why all bureaucracies tend to become incompetent, employed the education system as its example. Poor teachers tend to work their way out of the classroom and into the office, then stay there. If there were competent superintendents in our schools the system would have been improved years ago, instead of removing the creative arts, home economics, sports, music programs, etc.

  • MattCA12

    Public sector worker unions – including those for teachers – only result in inefficiency and a lack of progress. Having said that, teachers face extraordinary challenges each day, and have one of the most difficult and thankless jobs in the world. They are not paid nearly enough.

    • Whamadoodle

      “Public sector worker unions – including those for teachers – only result in inefficiency and a lack of progress.”

      ?? Really? Germany has public sector worker unions, and they’ve consistently been among the top five economies on the planet, with a highly-educated workforce. Most developed nations have them, and most developed nations boast increased foreign investment due to that educated workforce–it’s a plus. On what do you base your claim, besides ideological wish?

      I like many other results from unions, too, such as the 40-hour work week, and other such developments, which improve performance. Worker protections are important things.

      • MattCA12

        Specious argument. You cannot compare the effectiveness, never mind the efficiency, of one society’s education system to another on such narrow grounds. The evidence presented and ruled on by the judge clearly show why the public teacher union system is inefficient: the current tenure system is too easy to attain, it is too difficult to fire poor teachers from their jobs, and the LIFO system of laying off teachers based upon seniority results in keeping bad teachers at the expense of good ones. The two teachers’ unions have only themselves to blame for this ruling.

        • Whamadoodle

          I cannot compare them, eh? Is that an order, or are you begging me “please don’t compare them, because my anti-union argument will fall apart if you do”?

          Of COURSE I can compare them–Germany and the rest of northern Europe are first-world, developed countries like ours, are they not? They have teachers’ unions, do they not? They have tenure, do they not? It is difficult to fire people there, is it not? They have a well-educated public, do they not?

          Therefore, the claim “Public sector worker unions – including those for teachers – only result in inefficiency and a lack of progress” is specious. (False is the word I’d use.) It is perfectly possible to have teachers’ unions, tenure, and difficulty in firing people, and to have it result in a well-educated public.

          • jimelutz

            I don’t think you can make this last statement unless you add in a few other things that you have to have in order to get the “well educated public” that they have in Germany: better screening of the teachers in the first place and better wages for the teachers. What do you really know about Germany as an example? Is it so hard to get rid of a lousy teacher in Germany? What other differences are there in their society? In general, the comparison is complicated. It’s not apples to apples due to the high number of variables. All I know is that in this country it’s really hard to get rid of an under-performing teacher, and it’s easy to find examples in nearly every school of teachers who should not be teaching, who apparently won’t lose their jobs because of tenure rules. That’s wrong and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it’s hurting students and bad for our country.

          • Whamadoodle

            Well all I know is that you’ve CLAIMED those things. What is your source, for example, for the claim that teachers are better screened in Germany? Vaguely-defined “other things” and “variables” prove exactly nothing. Bolster your claims, please.

            My “last statement” you refer to is: “It is perfectly possible to have teachers’ unions, tenure, and difficulty in firing people, and to have it result in a well-educated public.” This claim, as mentioned, was not ONLY about Germany, but about most of northern Europe. Since the union-bashing people are often the same ones constantly claiming that the problem with Europe is that it’s so hard to fire workers there because of unions, I was offering that as a concession to your side, not a claim of my own; but I’m happy to withdraw the part about “difficulty in firing people” if you prefer. Thus:

            It is perfectly possible to have teachers’ unions and tenure, which northern European countries virtually all have, without the “inefficiency and lack of progress” that MattCA12 claimed. Therefore, MattCA12’s claim is false: it IS possible to have tenure and public sector unions, without this horrible inefficiency and lack of progress you claim (again, without providing any proof).

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Bad teachers ARE bad! The lie underlying the anti-tenure argument is that poor workers and managers are not tolerated in other professions. Most of us know of and know managers and senior level staff – ostensibly hired and promoted to benefit their organizations – who should have been canned years ago for their performance. We see this across the vast employment landscape. from non-profits to for-profit, publicly traded corporations.

    So where is the common sense in appreciating recent history?? Anyone remember the tens of millions of dollars carted away by insiders -AT WILL EMPLOYEES who held their jobs- despite the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression?

    I detest bad teachers and remember all of mine by name, but if that judge bases his decision, about teacher tenure, on how American free-enterprise purges poor performers, he must be smoking crack, because it just ain’t so!
    (Lover of honest investigative journalism)

  • Fydor K

    I’m a third generation public school teacher down in So-cal. I have taught in the community college system for 12 years, and my mom and Grandfather were both elementary school teachers. In my opinion, particularly in my field, the tenure system produces sometimes obscene realities and needs to be thrown out so that we can start from scratch.

    Of course there should be a fair hearing if we are to be fired; of course there should be common sense laws in place about wrongful termination, as there are in many fields. But I’ve had colleagues who cannot even get the requisite 20 students to sign up for their classes, and who get less than 1 out of 5 on evals, for YEARS ON END, and I’ve served on the union rep committees that defend them. It’s not all the just the admins fault; it’s the law. Once you have tenure + 20 years+ senority, and you pretty much have to assault a student or not show up for work at all to get fired. No other profession runs this way. At one school I was at, the department almost fell apart, without attracting enough students to even stay open, mostly because our 1 tenured professor was so horrible.

    The Dean in that department bent over backwards to make things work; he granted me and other good teachers full time loads, full time benefits, and full time pay, all without actual full-time status. I gave him my word that I would not seek “back door tenure” through my union.
    I don’t want tenure. I don’t need tenure. I consistently get 50 students to sign up for my classes and keep almost all of them, have one of the highest retention rates in my district, and score high on my evals, all because I work hard, constantly re-invent my classes to to make them better. The only “downside” is (perish the thought!) if, like some of my colleagues, my numbers started dropping, I’d have to take some meetings with my Dean, and eventually would get cut back, and possibly even fired. I’m more than fine with that: I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    The notion that teachers need special treatment that no other profession enjoys is just plain stupid; I’ve never heard a rational argument not based on straw man of slippery slops argumentation. Newsflash: a lot of teachers are good at first, then eventually become lazy and, eventually, completely ineffective. The idea that a school can “determine” in only 2 years whether a prof will be effective for their whole career is, as a caller pointed out, about as smart as only evaluating the work of a mechanic or soldier for the first 2 years, and then setting them up for life.

    I speak hyperbolically, I concede, and I know that things are different for High School and elementary school teachers. I hate teaching to tests, and I would never want to work in an environment of constant number crunching and competition. But the simplest form of accountability for elective teachers such as myself–is anyone signing up for your classes?–is a perfect example of where the tenure and seniority system completely fails.

    • Whamadoodle

      You’ll have to quantify your word “a lot” in “a lot of teachers are good at first, then eventually become lazy and, eventually, completely ineffective.” Anyone can claim “I see it all the time,” but we can’t take that seriously unless someone shows us statistics, studies, SOMETHING that proves that this is some big, huge problem. Otherwise, considering how much money is being pumped into ginning up this phony controversy, and all the wooden, scripted spamming that the libertarians are doing to push it, it’s just not convincing.

      Every worker protection seems to get the same blanket charge that “it’ll encourage laziness and inefficiency.” It is inevitable that, if tenure is done away with, the wage race to the bottom, which we’re starting to see adjunct professors subjected to, will speed up. (Or does anyone laughably dream that when people are easier to fire, their bosses will miraculously INCREASE their wages?) That’s when you’ll start seeing lazy or inefficient teachers crop up more and more–only inefficient or lazy people will put up with the Walmart wages that teachers will be paid then.

    • rhuberry

      Interesting you wrote this piece and then ended up saying things are different for high school and elementary school teachers. These are the very teachers this new law applies to. Comparing the situation of your teaching at community college to k-12 education is not very useful. They don’t equate.

  • MattCA12

    I love how the attorney for the unions keeps saying “as the evidence clearly showed…” Was he at the same trial as everyone else?

  • Whamadoodle

    So apparently, tenured teachers are all a walking catastrophe of laziness, inefficiency, and ineptitude, according to the well-monied people forcing this lawsuit through.

    And the cure for this, then, is to concentrate all firing ability, ability to set employment conditions, and wage-setting in the hands of the much, much more efficient…

    school administrators? Like the administrators and their enablers, who’ve increased administrative salaries 700 % since 1950?

    Great idea! Let’s let them run everything! (/sarcasm)

  • jimelutz

    Tenure for teaching positions in public schools is preposterous. The risk of “unfair personnel decisions” is what holds us hostage to a system where it is practically impossible to get rid of under-performing teachers? People know when a teacher is lousy. If a group of parents complain year after year about any teacher, that teacher is lousy and it should be easy to get rid of that teacher, not a bureaucratic, administrative nightmare. The reality is that by the standards of most professions it is nearly impossible to get rid of an under-performing teacher, and the under-performers just get sent elsewhere, which shouldn’t happen (thus this lawsuit).

    • Whamadoodle

      I knew a teacher once whose student plagiarized a report, word for word, from an online encyclopedia and passed it off as her own work. The student’s parents, instead of explaining to the kid that that was academic dishonesty, attacked the teacher for it instead.

      No it should NOT be easy to get rid of that teacher, just because those parents “knew” that the teacher is “lousy.”

      Besides which, the easier it is to fire them, the worse their wages will become, and the WORSE the teachers who are attracted to it will be (unless of course you don’t believe that higher pay is an incentive to get better workers, or unless you want to advance the laughable claim that less worker protections equals higher pay–but I’ll want evidence of that).

      • Alonn

        I’m not sure what you’re referring to vis a vis the relationship between ease of firing and compensation. But, I will say that no teacher should ever be fired based on one complaint. Many good teachers tell me they always have at least one parent who seems to not like them. If we collected annual teacher evaluations from parents and students like we do at the university level, we would have all the data we need to put parent and student satisfaction into appropriate context and discern trends over time. This, combined with supervisor and peer teacher input and self-evaluations, would be a well-rounded view into the actual performance of a teacher. This data set would be much richer than the current system based only on number of years in service, test scores, and whether parents weathered an enormously burdensome complaint procedure.

        • Whamadoodle

          “But, I will say that no teacher
          should ever be fired based on one complaint.”

          Amen to that. If the commenter above has their way, however, any protection against that will be removed, and replaced by the whim of the administration.

          “I’m not sure what you’re referring to vis a vis the relationship between
          ease of firing and compensation.”

          I thought that was fairly obvious–if you make it easier to fire people, you make it easier to pay them less and treat them worse–think Foxconn. If you work at a university, you’ve surely noted the fact that adjunct professors, who are essentially temp workers, get FAR less pay and worse terms than tenured professors? And I assume that you aren’t going to try to tell me that teacher wages will go up if tenure is removed.

  • Jonnie

    Michael Krasny gets the vapors. He’s shocked unionized public school teachers are anything but the salt of earth; and their thug union is out for anything but the welfare of students. Now, if we can only get a judge to rule against tenure for gas-bag professors like Krasny, the world will be a better place!

    • Another Mike

      Krasny is better than average according to “ratemyprofessors.com”. One complaint was “too many students in our class,” so people are seeking him out to take his classes. Thus, apparently Krasny could keep his job even if there were no tenure, at least until all the subpar profs were let go.

      • Jonnie

        It’s more likely he teaches a required course so there is always heavy demand from students to take it. I can’t imagine anyone wasting a semester of their college experience listening to this windbag.

    • Whamadoodle

      Jonnie, would you please tell whoever’s paying you to post here that calling the teacher’s union “thugs” comes off as rather heavy-handed, not to say ridiculous? Somehow, I don’t think old Mrs. Hightower, and the other 300,000 members of the California Teachers’ Association, were making time to threaten people with brass knuckles in between bake sales.

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