"As the state's highest court, we owe the plaintiffs in this case, as well as schoolchildren throughout California, our transparent and reasoned judgment on whether the challenged statutes deprive a significant subset of students of their fundamental right to education and violate the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws," he said.
Associate Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar echoed those concerns in a separate dissent.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge sided with the students in a 2014 ruling that threatened to shake up public schools that teach more than 6 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade statewide.
In striking down several laws regarding tenure, seniority and other protections, Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu said the harm inflicted on students by incompetent teachers "shocks the conscience."
An appeals court overturned that decision in April, saying the students had failed to show California's hiring and firing rules were unconstitutional.
Justice Roger Boren, who presided over the 2nd District Court of Appeal, wrote in the 3-0 opinion that some principals get rid of highly ineffective teachers by sending them to low-income schools, but those decisions have nothing to do with the teacher tenure law.
Teachers have long argued that tenure protects them from being fired on a whim, preserves academic freedom and helps attract talented teachers to a profession that doesn't pay well.
"I hope this decision closes the book on the flawed and divisive argument that links educators' workplace protections with student disadvantage," American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a statement. "It is now well past time that we move beyond damaging lawsuits like Vergara that demonize educators and begin to work with teachers to address the real issues caused by the massive underinvestment in public education in this country. "
The Vergara v. State of California lawsuit, including Beatriz Vergara among the public school student plaintiffs, was backed by Students Matter, a nonprofit group founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch. Welch assembled a high-profile legal team, including Theodore Boutrous, who successfully fought to overturn California's gay-marriage ban.
"While we are disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision to not grant review, we are grateful to the courts for shining a much-needed spotlight on these shameful laws and the enormous harm they inflict on thousands of children every year," Welch said in a statement.
Welch said he was hopeful the Legislature would take up the issue.