A group of parents and education advocates is preparing to sue the Los Angeles school district, demanding that it follow an arcane 40-year-old law that requires all California school systems to link teacher and principal evaluations to student performance.
The law, known as the Stull Act, was passed in 1971 with bipartisan support although neither school district officials nor teachers unions ever pushed to enforce all of its provisions, with their potential for conflict.
Now, with L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy locked in a stalemate with the teachers union over performance reviews, a prominent group of advocates believes it can force the issue with a lawsuit, which is expected to be filed Tuesday.
Although the lawsuit would be technically filed against L.A. Unified, its underlying target is the teachers union, which has fought efforts to make student test scores any part of evaluations. United Teachers Los Angeles leaders say tests scores are too unreliable and narrowly focused to use for high-stakes personnel decisions.
The issue is bigger than L.A. Unified, said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of Education Trust-West, a nonprofit advocacy group not involved in the pending litigation.
"This has implications for every school district in California," he said. "This has the potential to put districts on notice that they should be fundamentally rethinking their evaluation systems."
The lawsuit was drafted in consultation with EdVoice, a Sacramento-based group. Its board includes arts and education philanthropist Eli Broad, former ambassador Frank Baxter and healthcare company executive Richard Merkin.
Tracking student progress "is a required element of evaluations, and the union and district cannot bargain it away," said attorney Scott Witlin, whose firm, Barnes & Thornburg, is preparing the suit. "If the adults in the system can't get their acts together to comply with the law, then people have to intervene and force them to comply."
The Stull Act demand surfaced in an Oct. 26 letter giving L.A. Unified until the close of business Monday to demonstrate that it will follow state law regarding teacher evaluations.