LOS ANGELES, Calif. -

A judge has ruled that California's tenure protections for public school teachers are unconstitutional.
    
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu on Tuesday ruled in favor of nine students who sued the state saying tenure and seniority policies have made it virtually impossible to fire bad teachers.
    
Lawyers for the teachers say the changes would allow the firing of teachers on a whim. They argued that tenure laws preserve academic freedom and help attract talented teachers to a profession that doesn't pay well.
    
The decision could have wide-ranging impact on the way California hires and fires teachers and could spur changes in other states with strong tenure laws.
    
Dozens of states have moved in recent years to weaken or throw out their seniority policies.

 The man behind the successful lawsuit is a wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur who says he has no gripe with teachers unions, only incompetent teachers.
 
David Welch, an electrical engineer who holds over 130 patents and has made a fortune merging and creating high-tech companies, began to turn his attention to education in 2011 when he founded the nonprofit Students Matter.
 
The group was the driving financial force behind a student lawsuit that led to Tuesday's Superior Court ruling throwing out tenure protection for California teachers.
 
Welch says it was his experience as both a parent and an employer that led him to realize public education needed an overhaul.