Teachers group fights to retain tenure rights

Posted May 12, 2014

— A Superior Court judge said Monday that he won't decide for several days whether to uphold or strike down a state requirement that 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.

The North Carolina Association of Educators filed suit in December to block the law, which was a provision in the state budget last year.

A Guilford County judge last month ruled that the law violated the state and federal constitutions. But the ruling applied only to Guilford County Schools and Durham Public Schools, which had filed a separate lawsuit.

NCAE President Rodney Ellis said he's hopeful that Judge Robert Hobgood will halt the law statewide. Hobgood said he wants to review the arguments on both sides of the case and wouldn't have a ruling before Friday.

"I think it’s important for the state to recognize that, for us to have the best educators in our classroom, we’re going to have to provide them with some sort of security," Ellis said.

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

"One of the things you need to consider is the number of teachers leaving our state right now. This is one of the benefits that teachers have – due-process rights protection – that even makes them interested in coming to work in North Carolina," Ellis said.

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.

Special Deputy Attorney General Melissa Trippe argued that lawmakers are trying to improve North Carolina's public schools by pushing for the best teachers. While the contract requirement isn't the most popular idea, it's one way to accomplish that, she said.

"The test in this case is not what’s the best thing or what makes the most people happy. It’s what was necessary and reasonable for the legislature to pass this legislation," Trippe said.

Career status fails to give schools flexibility and protects too many mediocre educators, she said.

"The state continues to find ways to improve the educational system."

Narendra Ghosh, the attorney for NCAE, countered that career status already provides 15 reasons for terminating teachers, including poor performance.

Ellis said the contract requirement could wind up giving raises to random teachers – not necessarily the best – which would ultimately affect students.

"We can’t open it up so it becomes school politics, and educators are just in and out of our school building," he said. "We need to have stability and quality educators on a day-to-day basis for the students of north Carolina."


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  • Roland Kandalbar May 14, 2014
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    that's a sad fact.

  • Shamrock May 13, 2014

    Why should teachers have to give up anything in order to get a raise? They were promised raises in the past few years and have not gotten them. Now they have to give up tenure for a measly $500? Come on.....Who in their right mind would do this? NC public education is headed in the wrong direction.

  • Terry Watts May 13, 2014
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    Not sure... but paying teachers so little that the best teachers leave for other States, leaving the ones that no other state wants in NC, is certainly counter-productive...

  • juliomercado May 13, 2014

    Further research of the article from WCNC indicates just shy of 10% (9.6%) of the CMS teacher workforce left mid year. This is an astonishing number in its own right but further analysis shows that 25% of those specifically left either the state or the profession. Another 60% of those leaving didn't specify their reason but it is safe to assume the toxic environment in NC Public Education is a factor for many. Another large percentage were folks that retired early in the year, another statistical alarm. I wonder what Senator Berger and his colleagues will do when faced with a teacher shortage in the fall of 19,000 teachers? Should that unfold there will be over 3/4 million students without teachers. The numbers extrapolate to this conclusion but of course there are simply too many variables to know. Crisis is the correct term. Keep bashing those teachers. Keep demeaning them and treating them as expendable. The state may well be on its way to finding out if they are.

  • miseem May 13, 2014

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    Don't need to wait for the crisis to unfold. It already is. And the NCGA and Governor are running for cover, popping up with a bunch of big talk about giving a big 2% raise to teachers, and "promising" more down the road. They obviously have been looking a polls and hearing facts from local school boards about the best teachers leaving. It's bad enough to see your income essentially frozen for 5 years. The demeaning comments on the overall value of teachers and public schools by the NCGA and singling teachers out for cuts in benefits, job protections and even voluntary contributions to a teachers organization makes it even less likely that anyone would want to teach here. And it's finally sinking in to the NCGA. Now, they want to appear as the teachers' friend.

  • Bill Mooney May 13, 2014
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    The GOP hates teachers.

  • Patricia Coldren May 13, 2014
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    Reality check..it's not just about the tenure. Imagine a 25 year veteran superior teacher in a few years being offered a 1 year contract. The next year they get a young, hot shot administrator out to save the world from the teachers of the past. That administrator marks that excellent teacher low, I've seen it happen, and then that teacher is gone! How is that fair! That teacher has no recourse under this new law. That is the outrage. There is more to this than just getting rid of tenure people. It is degrading and it is taking away something that was contractually promised to those in the profession. So for those of you in the "private sector"...I guess you would be OK if tomorrow your boss took your contract and some white out and totally changed everything in it..pay, job security, years you are contracted to work, job responsibilities...and you had no say in it...after all as long as you are doing a good job it shouldn't matter should it?

  • Danny22 May 13, 2014

    So how are these teachers proposing that we get rid of poor teachers?

  • juliomercado May 13, 2014

    Just reported this morning: In Charlotte Mecklenburg schools over 90 teachers have left mid year compared to 8 last year. You folks keep on slamming teachers and demeaning them and watch the crisis unfold before your very eyes. I have seen it personally that good effective teachers without tenure were fired to make positions for board members and friends. If you have a private sector job I challenge you to show me how your profession is nearly as subject to nepotism and politics leading to good workers losing their jobs. You can't.

  • goldenosprey May 13, 2014

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    It's a trade-off for making 2/3 or less what one would make in the private sector with similar qualifications.

    Besides, even in state government, job "security" is a very relative term.