This is one part of a series of readers’ responses to this week’s cover.
TIME’s coverage of the challenge to California’s teacher tenure laws has sparked a debate involving many teachers, parents, administrators, and policymakers, but the most important perspective—that of students—continues to be overlooked.
This lack of student representation is why I founded Students Transforming Education (STE) last year. My goal with STE was simple: to involve students from all over California in reforming teacher tenure by collecting signatures in favor of common sense reforms. After a year of outreach, 2,500 students have signed the petition, demonstrating that students are engaged and want sensible reforms that will help keep the best teachers in their classrooms.
I didn’t create STE from personal experience with bad teachers, unlike the 9 of my fellow California students who sued the state in Vergara v. California. In fact, as I reflect on my high school career, I realize that I have been incredibly fortunate to have had many excellent teachers over the past 4 years. Teachers who have been instrumental in encouraging my natural curiosity, influencing my view of the world and ensuring that I have the knowledge and skills I will need to be successful in college and later in life.
I also have come to realize, however, that many students are not as fortunate. California’s current permanent employment system, known more commonly as teacher tenure, often leaves students—especially those in impoverished communities—trapped in classrooms with underperforming teachers.
I know, from extensive research and personal experience, that teachers are the foundation of a quality education. For many students, teachers can mean the difference between graduating from college and dropping out of high school. But instead of working toward common sense solutions, policymakers in Sacramento have neglected to address the issue for years and maintained the status quo.
This failure to act on the part of our state government led to Vergara v. California, which has sparked a much-needed public conversation on the importance of teachers. When my phone vibrated with a news alert stating that California’s teacher tenure, dismissal, and layoff laws had been declared unconstitutional, I was ecstatic. With Vergara, we can finally move toward solutions that elevate the quality of teachers, prioritize the needs of students, and promote access to quality education for all.
In search of more perspectives on TIME’s cover?
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, responds here.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), Senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, responds here.
Christopher Ciampa, a teacher from Los Angeles, responds here.
Lily Eskelsen García, President of the National Education Association, responds here.
Billy Easton, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education, responds here.
Gary Bloom, former Santa Cruz City Schools Superintendent, responds here.
Educators from the Badass Teachers Association respond here.
Stuart Chaifetz, a New Jersey parent, responds here.