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More than 94 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by researchers at UNC-Wilmington said that they felt public education in North Carolina is headed in the wrong direction and overwhelmingly trusted teachers and administrators — not lawmakers — to make educational decisions for the state’s public schools.

Residents of North Carolina, 80 percent of which were parents with children in public schools, were surveyed about the quality and direction of education in the state and asked to react to recent legislative decisions passed by the General Assembly, including the removal of additional funding for teachers who earn advanced degrees, implementation of a voucher program, removal of class size limits, and the abolishment of tenure, among others.

  • More than 85 percent of respondents disagreed with the state’s decision to provide low-income families with private school vouchers.
  • Ninety-six percent of participants disagreed with the removal of additional pay for teachers earning a master’s degree in education.
  • More than 76 percent of respondents disagreed with the elimination of teacher tenure. 
  • Ninety-six percent of participants disagreed with the removal of class size caps.
  • Ninety-five percent of respondents disagreed with the decision to not increase teacher salaries in 2013 for the fourth time in five years.

Participants were also given the chance to respond to the survey in their own words. Below are a few of those comments:

“These laws will not improve NC education, but destroy it!”

“I am just very disappointed in the direction NC education is headed. I hope to find work in another state that values children and education. NC is no longer that state.”

“I am shocked, angered and saddened by the direction of education in this state, all at the hands of the current legislature and governor. Because of these devastating changes, and in spite of a strong desire to teach again, I will not likely re-enter the profession.”

“My family is very concerned about the direction in which the 2013 NC State Legislature seems to be taking our public education system. We have two children enrolled in public schools now, and have witnessed firsthand the exodus of quality teachers and the swelling of class sizes. At all levels, we will be paying attention to candidates’ attitudes, statements, and actions regarding this issue and will vote accordingly.”

Last night, Buncombe County joined a growing list of school districts that have passed resolutions rejecting the state’s new teacher contract system, which awards 4-year contracts to the top 25% of teachers (how those teachers are chosen is unclear) in exchange for relinquishing their tenure rights early.

From the Citizen-Times:

“The Board believes that retroactively removing career status from those teachers who have already obtained it may unconstitutionally interfere with employment contracts legally issued by the Board,” the resolution states.

The resolution also claims that the language in the 25 percent mandate is “vague and subject to multiple, inconsistent interpretations.

“The 25 percent mandate fails as a ‘merit-based’ pay initiative in that teachers had no prior notice of the criteria necessary to earn additional compensation.”

“I’m glad we’re taking this bold first step,” board member Lisa Baldwin said. “I want to challenge the board to go further.”

Buncombe County joins 15 other school districts in rejecting the merits of the 25% teacher contracts. Guilford and Durham counties have gone a step further, filing a lawsuit challenging the new teacher contract system and the dissolution of teacher tenure, also known as career status.

A full list of the local school districts that have passed resolutions rejecting the teacher contracts, with links to their resolutions, can be found on NCAE’s website here.

The Durham News reports that the Durham school board voted yesterday to join Guilford County in a lawsuit challenging the new teacher contract system and the dissolution of teacher tenure, also known as career status:

Durham school board Chairwoman Heidi Carter and vice chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown both said the the law, the Excellent Public Schools Act, is disrespectful and could hurt public education.

“I’d like for our public to know that in November, when we found that this was considered to be law, we thought it to be ludicrous that a teacher would be asked to give up career status for $500 a year – which equates to $50 a month, which equates to $2.50 a day,” Forte-Brown said. “So I am so proud to be a member of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education, that we are standing for what our constitution says is right.”

State Sen. Mike Woodard attended Wednesday’s meeting.

“I am very proud of the board today,” he said. “I think we need to send a clear message to Gov. McCrory and the legislative branch.”

The law, enacted last summer, scraps teacher tenure for all by 2018 — a move promoted by lawmakers as a way to more easily get rid of bad teachers.

This fall, the top 25% of teachers who are tenured can accept 4-year contracts worth $500/year if they are willing to give up their tenure early. This piece of the law, say proponents, rewards good teachers with a pay bump.

Opponents of the law say the teacher contract system could discourage collaboration among teachers as they fight for meager wage increases, and the elimination of tenure subjects teachers to the whims of the local school board’s politics and makes the profession even less attractive to educators.

Guilford County‘s school board was the first in the state to file a lawsuit last month challenging the constitutionality of getting rid of teacher tenure, which is nothing more than 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), but only Guilford and Durham school districts have gone as far as to challenge the law in court.

On behalf of six public school teachers, the North Carolina Association of Educators filed a complaint last December alleging that the repeal of career status violates the state and federal constitution by denying teachers due process rights.

houseLocal law enforcement officers in Watauga County are investigating threatening letters that were sent to some Watauga high school teachers who have supported keeping Isabel Allende’s book, ‘The House of the Spirits,’ in the 10th grade honors English curriculum.

Last fall, parents complained to the school board that Allende’s book contains graphic scenes that are inappropriate for tenth graders, including rape and executions. The novel spans four generations of the fictional Trueba family’s encounters with post-colonial social and political upheavals in Chile.

“It is one thing to disagree with a policy or a procedure or a book used in the schools.  It is a completely different and unacceptable thing to threaten someone because they hold a different opinion,” interim superintendent David Fonseca said in a statement.

“This threat is a despicable attempt to intimidate a very professional and accomplished group of educators who deserve our respect.  It is also a criminal act, and we are cooperating fully with local law enforcement in their efforts to find out who is responsible for the letters.  We will support the prosecution of that person or persons to the fullest extent of the law,” Fonseca said.

Tonight at 7 p.m., the Watauga County Board of Education will consider a third and final appeal by the parents challenging the book. The ACLU plans to join a community rally this afternoon in Boone, just hours before the school board will vote on whether or not to keep ‘The House of the Spirits’ in the curriculum.

 

School-vouchersIn case you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out Professor Jane Wettach’s excellent essay in Saturday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer in which she exposes the enormous practical and constitutional problems with the school voucher scheme passed into law by conservative politicians last summer. The essay comes, of course,  in the aftermath of Friday’s very welcome court ruling that enjoined the implementation of the new law. Among other things, Wettach cites several damning statistics from a new report by the Children’s Law Clinic at Duke University Law School including:

  • A total of 696 private schools are registered with the State Division of Non-Public Education. Of those, 70 percent are religious and 30 percent are independent.
  • A quarter of the private schools have enrollments of fewer than 20 students; nearly another quarter have enrollments of fewer than 50 students. Read More