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BREAKING: Judge halts new teacher contract system for Durham and Guilford counties

This just in from Raleigh’s News & Observer [1]:

GREENSBORO — A Superior Court judge on Wednesday put a halt, in at least two school systems, to the state’s mandate on giving raises to teachers who give up tenure.

Special Superior Court Judge Richard Doughton issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by the Guilford and Durham school boards, granting their request to put new state-mandated contracts on hold. They argued the law outlining the process, passed last year by the General Assembly, is unconstitutional.

Doughton also ruled against the state’s motions to dismiss the lawsuit.

The contracts are part of a state law that eliminates tenure, called career status in North Carolina, for all public school teachers by 2018. In the meantime, school districts are required to offer four-year contracts to 25 percent of their teachers that provide $500-a-year raises in return for educators’ surrendering their tenure rights.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, who championed the teacher contract law, will appeal the ruling.

“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, a spokeswoman for Berger, said in a written statement. “We will appeal this legal roadblock and continue to fight for pay increases for our best teachers.”

Guilford County‘s school board was the first in the state to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of getting rid of teacher tenure [2], which is simply a guarantee of a teacher’s due process rights in the event of demotion or dismissal. A number of local school districts have passed resolutions rejecting the tenure law and asking for relief from awarding teacher contracts (including Wake County [3]), but only Guilford and Durham [4] school districts have gone as far as to challenge the law in court.

The judge’s ruling could have a statewide impact.

Ann McColl, a lawyer with the N.C. Association of Educators, said the scope of the ruling will be clearer with a written order. But there’s a strong argument for ordering a statewide halt, she said, because the law applies to the entire state.

“It would be within the authority of the judge that the injunction is enjoining the state from enforcing the law,” she said. “Until there’s a written order, we don’t know for sure.”

Read the full story over at the N&O by clicking here [1].