Local News

Quarter of NC school districts oppose teacher tenure law

Posted March 13, 2014 8:10 a.m. EDT
Updated March 13, 2014 12:38 p.m. EDT

At least 28 school districts across North Carolina have voiced opposition to a new law that repeals "career status" protections for teachers and replaces it with a plan that rewards the top teachers, according the North Carolina Association of Educators.

Cumberland County Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools are among the latest to reject the law, which would phase out tenure for all teachers by 2018.

“I think you’re going to see a domino effect, and [school districts] are going to just start pouring in,” says Rodney Ellis, president of NCAE. “Some school districts already have quietly registered their opposition.”

The measure requires school districts to select 25 percent of qualified teachers to receive four-year contracts and $500 annual raises. In exchange, those teachers must voluntarily give up their right to "career status," which requires a due process or a hearing before a teacher can be dismissed or demoted.

'Harmful and Divisive'

The Guilford and Durham county school boards voted to sue to stop the tenure plan, while the Wake school board voted last week to try and repeal the law.

“Part of the reason we’re opposed to it is because it’s so open to interpretation. It seems to encourage competition between public school teachers,” said Larry Niles, Wake NCAE president, on WUNC’s The State of Things.

Alan Duncan, chair of Guilford’s school board, helped write a resolution rejecting the law.

“It’s very harmful, it’s demoralizing and it’s divisive,” he says. “Those are words that consistently have been brought out with our communications with teachers.”

Teachers and superintendents argue that school districts have not been given clear guidelines on how to pick the top 25 percent of teachers and that the process feels arbitrary.

Gov. Pat McCrory acknowledges some of the concerns, saying that the law is “an example of passing a policy without clearly understanding the execution and operation.”

McCrory and many lawmakers admit that the teacher pay system needs serious revamping – a new legislative task force is currently looking into the issue and will provide recommendations to the General Assembly.

The governor also recently pledged to raise the base salary for teachers early in their careers to $35,000, the first step in a much more comprehensive plan, according to McCrory.

This report first appeared on WUNC/North Carolina Public Radio as part of their education coverage.

Reema Khrais is the 2014 Fletcher Fellow focused on Education Policy Reporting. The Fletcher Fellowship is a partnership between WUNC and UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication funded in part by the Fletcher Foundation.