Teachers weigh turning down contract offers

Posted February 3, 2014
Updated February 5, 2014

— Teachers are considering whether to turn down contract offers this summer as a show of solidarity with colleagues and to protest the state's elimination of tenure rights for veteran educators.

Under a provision in the state budget approved last summer, all public school teachers in North Carolina will be shifted into employment contracts over the next five years that make it easier for them to be dismissed.

The budget provision also directed school districts to pick the best 25 percent of their classroom teachers and offer them four-year contracts, starting this year, which would effectively end their tenure rights a year earlier. All other teachers would be given shorter contracts, with those who have been in the classroom less than four years operating on one-year contracts.

The North Carolina Association of Educators has urged teachers to protest Wednesday against the state's decision to scrap "career status," which gave teachers with at least four years of experience specific due process rights before they could be demoted or fired. The teachers group wants teachers to pledge that they won't accept four-year contract offers, which could earn them an extra $5,000 over the course of the contract.

Rodney Ellis, NCAE president, calls the new system "divisive," saying teachers might not collaborate as much if they are competing for limited raises and job security.

Breanna Tapp, a decorated math teacher at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, agrees that restricting recognition to a quarter of a school's teachers doesn't benefit anyone.

"I think we all bring great things to the classrooms. I think there may be many, myself included, who may be omitted from the top 25 percent," said Tapp, who is nationally certified and is a past finalist for Wake County Teacher of the Year.

Teaching is a collaborative effort, she said, and trying to pick one teacher over another would be too subjective.

"We work together a lot as teachers. We plan lessons together; it’s a joint effort," she said. "I feel like it could tear some departments apart overall, bring the morale down and discourage those who don’t get it. What if you’re in the top 30 percent?"

Sen. Jerry Tillman, co-chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said every industry tries to identify and reward its top performers, and North Carolina schools should be no different.

"They can do it. They don’t want to do it because there may be a hurt feeling," said Tillman, R-Randolph.

The tenure system is outdated and too often protects mediocre teachers, he said. High performing teachers shouldn't worry about job security or salary.

"Every school system has teachers not making progress with their students. A lot of them have tenure," he said. "The public I represent do not want those people to have a lifetime guaranteed position."

Tillman said he doesn't understand the NCAE asking teachers to turn down the money that comes with the four-year contracts at a time when the group is clamoring for higher pay for all teachers.

The protest comes a week after Gov. Pat McCrory's teacher advisory committee recommended that he work to modify the tenure law with "concrete standards" for selecting teachers who receive contracts and bonuses.

The committee's recommendations, released Monday by McCrory's office, said "teachers support the elimination of tenure, as long as there is a career pathway based on a variety of factors and clear, objective standards."

The panel also said the state – now near the bottom in teacher pay – should raise the current base pay for new teachers of $30,800 to make it more competitive with other states. The pay scale also should be front-loaded to focus on the first 15 years of teaching, and annual experience-based increases should be granted only to those who meet proficiency requirements, the report said. Teachers also should be rewarded with higher pay for advanced degrees, which is being phased out, or get money to pay for such a degree, it said.

Those who are offered four-year contracts would get incremental raises of $500 per year – $500 in the first year, $1,000 in the second, $1500 in the third and $2,000 in the fourth, for a total increase of $5,000 over the course of the deal.

Tillman agreed that starting pay for North Carolina teachers needs to be improved, and he said lawmakers would address the issue when the General Assembly reconvenes in May.

"I want to get our beginning teachers a huge increase to be sure we can out-pay Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia," he said.

The NCAE filed suit in December against the end of teacher tenure as well as a law that will allow taxpayer money to be used by low-income students wishing to attend private or religious schools. A handful of school districts statewide also have adopted resolutions urging that the teacher contract plan be repealed by lawmakers.

The North Carolina law made the state the second after Florida to drop tenure protections in favor of employment contracts, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. Teachers in Washington, D.C., also lack tenure rights. Rhode Island allows the teachers to be fired if they have two years of being evaluated as ineffective.

Tapp said she plans to wear red Wednesday as part of the NCAE's "Decline to Sign" protest, but she's unsure whether she would accept or reject a four-year contract, if it's offered. School districts have until July to identify the teachers being given four-year contracts.

"Who’s to say it’s even is offered to me?" she said.


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  • 2coolkids Feb 7, 2014

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    I’d recommend calling Phil Berger’s office for any explanation of this law. His number is 919 733- 5708. Please share with us what you are told.

    It is a $500 increase each year for a TOTAL of $5000 over 4 years. And after the four years no one knows if you stay at the new salary or go back to the pre-bonus salary. I’ll be calling Phil Berger’s office today because I am curious. He keeps calling it a “permanent” raise but I can’t find any evidence to support that. I do know you lose it if you move counties so I’m not sure how “permanent” that is. I refuse to start at $38,000 because most teachers I know don't make that much now. I'll start at $31,000 because that is what any teacher with 0-6 years actually makes.

    Year 1 - $31,000 + $500 = $31,500
    Year 2 - $31,000 + $1000 = $32,000
    Year 3 - $31,000 + $1500 = $32,500
    Year 4 - $31,000 + $2000 = $33,000

    $500 + $1000 + $1500 + $2000 = $5000 tota

  • BlahBlahBlahBlahBlah Feb 7, 2014

    OK NC..Exactly what formula do you use?
    Is it donna3669
    Is it mikeyfan5600
    Is it Sisu

    Where is the exact formula..???????????

  • Plenty Coups Feb 6, 2014

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    You are correct. "Mikeyfan" doesn't know what he's talking about. It's a cumulative $500 bonus for each of the 4 years under contract so that it amounts to $5000 spread out over 4 years. Not a $5000 raise by any means and it has not been funded. Interesting how he insults other people while actually being the one wrong.

  • 2coolkids Feb 5, 2014

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    We'll see what the courts say about tenure... Let's be real here. The NCGA knew taking away tenure teachers had already earned was likely illegal. That's why they are trying to get them to sign it away before 2018. Think about it. Why else would they limit the pool to only include those who already have tenure or are eligible this year? Did you even know the law does that? You are only eligible if you have been in the same district three consecutive years. So if the BEST teacher is reward. If the best teacher is new to the reward. The law actually doesn't even require the 25% to be the best. Did you even know that? It simply requires it to be offered to 25% of teacher who have been rated at least proficient. If the top 25% decline to participate they still have to find 25% of teachers to offer it to. It would, based on the law's requirements, have to go to someone other than the top 25%...possibly the lowest performing 25%

  • sisu Feb 5, 2014

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    Excellent post. I feel similarly. I never understand why some people wish for others to be brought down to their level of misery. Why not demand better for oneself instead?

  • sisu Feb 5, 2014

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    Where did you get this source? This is the first I've heard of this. If there is an actual source please cite the breakdown of the numbers you provided. My understanding has been the following (assuming a starting salary of a teacher with many years experience of $38.000).

    1st year $38,000 + $500 = $38,500
    2nd year (if funded) $38,000 + $1000 = $39,000
    3rd year (if funded) $38,000 + $1500 = $39,500
    4th year (if funded) $38,000 + $2000 = $40,000

    $40,000 - $38,000 = $2,000 but... the collective money in the bank is...

    Year one $500
    Year two $1000
    Year three $1500
    Year four $2000

    $500 + $1000 + $1500 + $2000 = $5000 TOTAL spread out over four years.

    Your analysis certainly sounds more appealing than mine. I would love an authoritative source that shows my analysis is incorrect. I fear, however that mine is the correct one.

  • A person Feb 5, 2014

    Please, it is not like any teacher is going to worry about what others want them to do, or at least we hope they are stronger minded than to worry about peer pressure, when it comes to their salaries, careers, and what is best for them and their families. Also, tenure is already gone, thank God, so don't worry about that when making your decision.

  • Pensive01 Feb 5, 2014

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    Are you really agreeing? Let's compare what he wrote with what you wrote.
    "I am not even going to read others comments as I am sure they are mostly slamming educators. I am addressing teachers only....DO NOT give up your tenure for a 4 year contract and a pay increase. The pay increase is not funded and you will not get this "bonus" next year or the 3 years thereafter. It is a scam." – IndyandProud
    Looks to me that not are you only NOT agreeing with what he wrote, that you are in fact giving forth a completely different opinion. Strikes me that saying you agree with something and then twisting it to mean something else isn't exactly the most honest response.

  • 2coolkids Feb 5, 2014

    [quote=13362372]Post by sceeter[/quoteIt seems like your entire point is, "If I don't get this, why should anyone else?" Maybe you should. I personally think all employees should have better rights. And if other groups representing other professions want to come together and demand to be treated well, I would not malign and complain about their efforts. I would applaud them for standing up for themselves.

  • 2coolkids Feb 5, 2014

    [quote=13362372]Post by sceeter[/quoteAs for teachers being "at will" employees, I would totally support that. Let's get rid of contracts all together and treat teachers like everyone else. Right now every teacher in NC is required to give 30 days notice or the district can have their license revoked, making the teacher unemployable for the remainder of the school year. The NCGA wants to have it both ways. They want to be able to hire us under contract so we can dismissed for any reason at the end of the year...but also require us to give 30 days notice before we leave. This new plan will not make us "at will" employees. "At will" employees can leave at any time for any reason...usually with two weeks notice being considered proper.