"Once we determine a teacher is ineffective, I have to question how long should students be in front of an ineffective teacher and have their right to an education denied," he said.
Proponents, however, see the Legislature as beholden to the interests of teachers unions and feel they would not be successful there. Bills in the past have failed. An initiative effort by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also was defeated.
If they lose, supporters could seek another avenue in the form of a ballot initiative — hoping that voters side with them.
Students Matter was founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David F. Welch, a research scientist who went on to co-found Infinera, a manufacturer of optical telecommunications systems based in Sunnyvale, Calif. The group is partly funded by organizations known for battling teachers unions. The foundation of Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad, which has backed numerous education initiatives, also supports it.
The group hired a high-profile legal team to argue its case. It includes Boutrous, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and Theodore B. Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration. Olson argued Bush v. Gore, over the contested 2000 presidential election, before the U.S. Supreme Court. Along with Boutrous, Olson also represented activists who sought to overturn California's ban on gay marriage.
The plaintiffs and their attorneys declined to say how the challenged laws should be replaced, insisting that they seek solely to invalidate them. If they prevail, it would be up to all the stakeholders to develop better laws, Boutrous said.
In his deposition, Deasy said the single most important issue in student learning is the effectiveness of the teacher.
"The future of our students depends on their ability to have the best and brightest instructors," he said.
Times staff writer Howard Blume contributed to this report.