Through this lawsuit, we seek to create an opportunity for integral stakeholders—students, parents, teachers, legislators, and teachers unions—to come together to create a better system that elevates teacher quality, raises the prestige of the teaching profession as a whole, and promotes access to a sound education for all students.
On July 3, 2014, the lawsuit Davids v. New York was filed by 11 New York City students against the State of New York, the New York State Board of Regents, the New York State Education Department, the City of New York and the New York City Department of Education. An extension of the ongoing efforts by parents to improve the quality of education in New York State, this lawsuit seeks to declare as unconstitutional certain provisions within New York State’s Education Law that deny students the “sound basic education,” considered a fundamental right under Article XI, §1 of the New York State Constitution.
Davids v. New York was filed against the State of New York — not against teachers or any union — pursuant to this State’s constitutional obligation to ensure the availability of a sound basic education for all of its children. Davids is about modernizing the teaching profession and ensuring that our education system is performance-based and not quality-blind. Above all, this lawsuit is an affirmation of the importance of teachers to the quality of students’ education and it is a challenge for all of us to do things differently to make sure our students are getting all of the resources they need to succeed. New books and desks are not enough; there must be a highly motivated, highly effective teacher in each classroom every day.
Unlike California — where Vergara v. California challenged that state’s “Last In First Out” (LIFO) provisions, dismissal provisions and tenure provisions — we are challenging only New York’s state’s LIFO and dismissal statutes. Davids v. New York will force essential changes in bad law. We are not challenging the tenure law in New York due to the recent amendments of the law that require school districts to consider classroom performance as a factor in granting permanent employment. The fact that New York State now considers “teacher quality” as a component of its tenure decisions is a critical distinction when comparing New York’s education laws with California’s.
New York City’s parents chose to take action on behalf of their children and on their own terms, independent of other organizations and agendas. On July 26, Ms. Campbell Brown, a media celebrity involved specifically with anti-union crusades filed a lawsuit organized by her latest pet cause non-profit. Her case is titled Wright v. New York. Ms. Brown’s primary interest was and remains the elimination of tenure for teachers. The New York City Parents Union’s lawsuit, Davids v. New York, was announced, filed with the court and served prior to Ms. Brown’s filing of her lawsuit and the announcement thereof.
On August 7, 2014, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, representing all government agency defendants, filed a motion to consolidate Wright v. New York with Davids v. New York, resulting in a single case. Mr. Schneiderman also requested that the case be tried in Richmond County, where the Davids plaintiffs filed and that the consolidated case remain titled as Davids v. New York. Despite the different focus of Brown’s case, the Davids plaintiffs agreed to the consolidation and also immediately agreed to the United Federation of Teachers’ motion to intervene on behalf of their union’s members.