I distinctly remember the day I stepped into the courtroom for the very first time.
My story made headlines throughout the country—the day a Los Angeles County Superior Court began to hear our lawsuit, Vergara v. California. I am one of the nine student plaintiffs in Vergara who publicly shared their story in hopes of making a difference for public school students throughout California just like us.
I did my best to tell my story, sharing my experiences as a student who was eager to learn, but receiving an education considered “less than.”
And my experiences were confirmed by the overwhelming evidence presented throughout the trial.
The evidence showed that a student assigned to a grossly ineffective math teacher in Los Angeles loses nearly 12 months of learning per year compared to a student assigned to a teacher of average effectiveness. The evidence also revealed that the least effective teachers in the state are disproportionately placed in schools serving predominately low-income students and students of color.
Quality education should be available to all students equally, a notion that inspired not only Vergara but other movements such as #BlackMindsMatter and its effort to level the playing field for students of color. And it is also part of the reason why I testified and chose to speak honestly about the harmful effects a few ineffective teachers had on my ability to learn and succeed.
But that’s not all this case is about.
Vergara Is About Great Teachers
On the stand, many of the other student plaintiffs spoke of the extraordinary impact inspiring teachers had on them—the kind of teachers who ignite curiosity, bring concepts to life and put students on the right track for success.
In reality, these are the teachers who inspired the Vergara lawsuit in the first place—because every child in California should be fortunate enough to have an incredible, effective teacher at the front of their classroom every single year.
In June 2014, a few months following the conclusion of the trial, the court handed down a strong ruling in our favor. It was a resounding victory that gave me, and countless families across California, the hope that having a quality teacher in every classroom is becoming more and more of a possibility.
What I wanted when I first stepped foot in the courtroom two years ago—and still want today—is to see that vision of an awesome teacher in every classroom in California’s public schools become a reality. I want all California kids, regardless of where they live, how much money their parents make, or the color of their skin, to have the quality education they deserve.
When Will It Change?
Two years later, we’re on the cusp of another court hearing, this time in the appeal of Vergara. While some things have changed since the trial, California’s public education system remains the same. Many students throughout the state, especially low-income students and students of color, are still trapped in classrooms with bad, ineffective teachers who don’t inspire the students and—as the evidence in Vergara showed—actually hold students back.
Year after year, these ineffective teachers are robbing kids of learning, hurting their chances of post-high school opportunities. That is why it’s more important than ever the Vergara decision is upheld.
The reality is, I’m no longer a K-12 public school student like I was when I began this journey as a plaintiff in Vergara. The Vergara case is no longer about me or changing the course of my future, it’s about changing the future of generations of California kids coming up in the public school system behind me—especially the ones who, like me, are eager to learn but are denied the opportunity. I want to make sure kids in Oakland and other communities throughout California have the opportunity to learn from effective teachers who educate and inspire them every single year they are in school.
I hope the court once again does what’s right for California’s kids.