Judge gives teachers victory in tenure battle

Posted April 23, 2014

— A Guilford County judge on Wednesday halted a requirement that North Carolina school districts offer a quarter of their teachers multi-year contracts as an enticement for them to give up their so-called "career status" protections.

Special Superior Court Judge Richard Doughton issued an injunction that allows Guilford County Schools to evade the requirement, which lawmakers passed last year as part of the state budget.

Durham Public Schools last month joined a lawsuit filed by the Guilford County school district, and more than a quarter of the 115 school districts statewide have expressed opposition to contract requirement.

Under career status, commonly referred to as tenure, veteran teachers are given extra due process rights, including the right to a hearing if they are disciplined or fired.

Lawmakers asked school districts to identify the top 25 percent of their teachers and offer them new four-year contracts with $500 annual salary increases. In exchange, those teachers would lose their tenure rights. The provision aims to move North Carolina to a performance-based system for paying teachers instead of one based on longevity.

A spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, who initially crafted the tenure elimination proposal, said legislative leaders plan to seek an appeal of Doughton's injunction.

“It is hard to fathom why a single judge and a small group of government bureaucrats would try to deny top-performing teachers from receiving a well-deserved pay raise," Amy Auth said in an email. "We will appeal this legal roadblock and continue to fight for pay increases for our best teachers.”

It was unclear Wednesday whether the injunction applies only to the Guilford County and Durham County districts or would extend statewide.

“There is a strong argument that it would apply statewide,” said Ann McColl, general counsel for the North Carolina Association of Educators. "A law that is unconstitutional one place would be unconstitutional everywhere, but we don’t know for sure until we see what the judge puts down on paper."

Doughton's written order is expected next week.

The NCAE filed a separate lawsuit challenging the tenure provision and has backed campaigns for teachers not to sign the multi-year contracts.

“The courts have heard what we have been saying all along – that this law is unconstitutional," NCAE President Rodney Ellis said in a statement. "The voices of teachers and school administrators have been heard. It appears that our system of checks and balances is working, and we are hopeful that the final order will show that no local school board will have to implement an unconstitutional law.”


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  • Terry Watts Apr 25, 2014
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    View quoted thread

    Your next post didn't come up, but I can imagine what you would say... And I (would probably) totally agree!!!

    The point that I was trying to make is that if we feel that there is too much testing, and that teachers are not allowed to teach to the children (instead teaching to the test), MBP is the WRONG way to go, b/c the ONLY way you can gauge merit is by testing the students.

  • Objective Scientist Apr 25, 2014

    In response to TWA_ _ 1000 post (WRAL will not permit the "name":

    Merit-based pay (MBP) - the notion of applying that to any worker or professional "makes sense" on the surface. It seems simple to apply MBP to teachers... what percentage of the students they teach pass standardized tests? Those with the highest percentage receive merit pay. Seems simply until you consider factors that are NOT under any teacher's control. The teacher has some control when the student is in his/her classroom, but NO control when the student is outside the classroom - MOST of each day. Even in the classroom... each student brings different backgrounds, motivations, a sense of the value (or not) of education, etc. To what does the student go home? Parents who insist the TV be turned off, cell phones put away, etc. and homework done? Or, parents who are "absent" physically and/or mentally/emotionally and offer no support, no encouragement, sets no boundaries, etc.
    Continued next post...

  • Terry Watts Apr 25, 2014
    user avatar

    Merit-based pay requires a metric with which you can track progress. How do you track progress of teachers? By testing their students to make sure they are learning.

    If we want to further promote testing of our children, we should move to a merit-based pay system, ie want more testing for our kids beyond what we have now??? Then support Merit-Pay...

  • Smilester Apr 25, 2014

    View quoted thread

    A Judge's is enough to put a stop to this for quite some time. This probably won't be the final stop for this disaster of a law but I doubt the NC Supreme Court will rule any differently. The Judge has to look at the law as a whole. Anyone that can read can tell you that the vouchers are unconstitutional. I gave a link to the Constitution below. What part of "all funds are to be used exclusively for a free & public school system" is ambiguous? The tenure law is a part of the voucher law. It will be hard to argue against the tenure law being a breach of contract if they rewrite the law & exclude the vouchers. Either way it looks like the "educational reforms" passed last spring by our GA is DOA legally.

  • Doug Pawlak Apr 24, 2014
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    Exactly. If republicans want to get rid of tenure and put in a merit pay plan, then they should actually pay for a merit pay plan. But they don't because its just lip service.

  • Gene Parsons Apr 24, 2014
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    You've got to remember this is just a judges opinion!

  • Smilester Apr 24, 2014

    If anyone is interested in actual facts feel free to look at Article IX (9) of the NC Constitution. Sections 6 & 7 of Article 9 show exactly how unconstitutional the voucher portion of this law is. Keep in mind that Judge Doughton has to look at the law as a whole. The Tenure portion is the one mentioned here but I have a feeling the whole law will eventually be thrown out as Unconstitutional due to the vouchers. http://www.ncleg.net/legislation/constitution/ncconstitution.pdf

  • findoutthefacts Apr 24, 2014

    "Sure, it's easy to mount a lawsuit against a government when you are unemployed and didn't make much money to begin with!

    Having a bit of due process is one of the compromises the state provides to compensate for its low salaries compared with the private sector." goldenosprey

    If you were wrongfully terminated and the judge finds in your favor, you wouldnt have to pay the legal fees associated with it. If you lose your case, you don't have to pay. Your argument is baseless.....

  • goldenosprey Apr 24, 2014


    Sure, it's easy to mount a lawsuit against a government when you are unemployed and didn't make much money to begin with!

    Having a bit of due process is one of the compromises the state provides to compensate for its low salaries compared with the private sector.

  • Greg Boop Apr 24, 2014
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    View quoted thread

    So basically you are saying that the system appears to work just like any large private corporation.

    Most RTP corporations attempt have 5% forced attrition every year by 'managing' low performers. Most never even hit a 3% mark of forced dismissals and involuntary resignations each year. The percentage of forced attrition and involuntary resignations in public school systems is actually higher than the private sector if you take a good look at the statistics.