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Judge Robert H. Hobgood issued a written order in Wake County Superior Court today declaring the 2013 General Assembly’s actions unconstitutional in eliminating due process rights, or career status, for teachers who already had obtained it.

Hobgood made the ruling three weeks ago and issued his written order today. The trial court also permanently halted the 25 percent contract provision statewide as it was “inextricably tied” to the revocation of due process rights.

The 25 percent contracts, also passed into law last year, would have required teachers to give up their due process rights four years early in exchange for small pay bumps of $500 for each of those four years.  More than 51 school districts had passed resolutions in opposition to the contracts.

“This is an important victory, not only for teachers, but for public education,” said Rodney Ellis, president of NCAE.  “Local boards and superintendents have been standing right along with us in saying that protecting due process rights for teachers is a good thing – that we want our teachers to be strong advocates for students and to not have to fear politics will rob them of their job.”

Reacting to the Senate’s 2014 budget proposal to offer teachers an 11 percent raise if they voluntarily relinquish tenure, Ellis said, “The Senate budget provision was clearly in response to our lawsuit and is plainly wrong.  Our victory reaffirms the important role of the judiciary in interpreting the constitution and determining when the General Assembly has overstepped its bounds by passing laws that are unconstitutional.”

State Senator Phil Berger has promised to appeal Hobgood’s ruling.

North Carolina educator and blogger James Hogan has an interesting take on the Senate’s proposed 21-step salary schedule for teachers, which would raise average salaries by 11.2 percent next year, provided that teachers relinquish their tenure.

Hogan wonders: is the salary schedule, which provides teachers with no raises between years 20-29, cleverly designed to disincentivize teachers from retiring from the profession, with their pensions, by denying them a raise for a decade?

Teachers earn the same $50,000 wage from years 20-29. That’s a decade of service without a pay raise. In year 30, teachers earn just $42 more. Then, wages rise again, topping out at $56,129 at 36 years of service.

That means 16 years of teaching service–almost half the pay chart–is rewarded with only a cumulative 12 percent salary increase. The same working span, when measured from a teacher’s fourth through twentieth year of service, sees a cumulative salary increase of 47 percent.

So the plan clearly benefits teachers in the middle of the pack. And it provides a clear disincentive for teachers who seek to retire from teaching by denying them a raise for a decade. Why would the Senate structure salaries like that?

This is where the decision to give up career status becomes very important. Make no mistake–the Senate pay scale rewards young teachers and pushes older teachers out in the last third of their career.

And why would the state government be interested in teachers leaving the classroom in their last ten years of teaching? The answer, I’m afraid, rests in some of what Senator David Curtis said in his now-infamous response to Charlotte teacher Sarah Wiles [who wrote a letter to legislators complaining about teachers' pay in the state]:

“You expect a defined contribution retirement plan that will guarantee you about $35,000 per year for life after working 30 years even if you live to be 104 years old. Your employer will need to put about $16,000 per year into your retirement plan each year combined with your $2,000 contribution for the next 30 years to achieve this benefit.”

What he’s saying is the state retirement pension program is the last golden egg for teachers. Here’s why. Say you’re a teacher who began your career the year after college at age 22. You taught for thirty-three years in North Carolina and retired at age 55. Based on today’s standards, you’re set to earn about $28,000 per year in retirement income every year until you die.

If you live another 33 years and die at age 88, that means you stand to collect $924,000 in retirement income. And the reason Senator Curtis was so ardent in pointing out the pension system to Ms. Wiles is that pensions cost the state a lot of money, and my guess is the fiscal conservatives in Raleigh are interesting in doing whatever they can to change that.

It’s an interesting theory. Read Hogan’s full piece over at The Washington Post.

Senator Jerry Tillman’s bill that would aim to replace the Common Core academic standards with alternatives developed by a North Carolina review commission would allow Common Core to remain in place this fall, as students return to their classrooms and commission members consider different solutions.

But remarks made by Sen. Tillman yesterday at the Senate Education Committee meeting, where the proposed legislation was ultimately moved forward on a voice vote, incited some confusion over whether or not Common Core would be gone as soon as his bill became law, presumably within a few weeks.

“This bill becomes effective July 1, the Common Core standards are removed and repealed as of July 1,” explained Tillman to committee members. Read More

Yes, you read that right — Wake County Public Schools would have to eliminate nearly 700 teacher assistants this fall if the Senate’s budget plan becomes law this summer.

The county would have to cut 693 TAs out of 1,250 positions allotted for the upcoming school year, according to WNCN. The Senate’s budget offers teachers who give up their tenure an average 11 percent pay hike beginning this fall. To pay for the plan, Senate leaders decided to gut the budget for teacher assistants — a line item that has already suffered deep cuts over the past several years.

“It is a great step in the right direction to address teacher salaries,” Wake County School Board Chair Christine Kushner said, “but we have teacher assistant positions that are being cut.”

The school system further said it would have to reduce bus services and the number of drivers used to transport students due to a proposed cut of $2.9 million in transportation funding.

There could also be a reduction in the number of drivers education classes offered for students, the school system said.

The raises built in to the Senate budget are for teachers paid with state money. Wake Schools said it would cost the school system $13 million to provide raises to any teachers paid with local funding.

Wake Schools cautioned that providing local raises could mean additional personnel cuts.

Cumberland County Schools has reported it would have to cut 220 out of its 330 teacher assistant positions — and that comes on top of cutting 100 positions they have already slashed for the upcoming year.

Some counties use TA funds to pay teachers’ salaries as well. In Stokes County, the Senate budget plan would mean cutting eight teaching positions in addition to 30 TAs.

Members of the House have reviewed the Senate and Governor’s budgets and plan to have their budget on the floor by the end of this week.

Earlier this month, Sen. David Curtis (R-Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln) wrote what many regarded as a harsh email in response to a frustrated teacher’s letter to the General Assembly about teacher pay in North Carolina.

Senator David Curtis

Senator David Curtis

Curtis’ response to the teacher, who admonished the General Assembly for making false promises to raise teacher pay, included admonishing her for her bad attitude and pointed to what he believed to be were perks of the job that she was overlooking.

Those perks included eight weeks paid vacation (teachers are actually not paid for those eight weeks; they are 10-month employees) and a defined retirement contribution plan that guarantees her $35,000 for life (your retirement benefit is actually 1.82% of your average final compensation multiplied by how many years you have given to the state).

Curtis’ response sparked an Internet firestorm, and the Mooresville Tribune checked in with Curtis to get his reaction to the kerfuffle he caused.

Those comments and others in the email inflamed teachers around the state and prompted scores of critical emails and letters to Curtis. But the senator, a native of Mooresville, isn’t taking anything back.

In fact, he said many of his colleagues in Raleigh have told him they agreed with him.

“One positive is that this has increased my stature with the legislature,” Curtis told the Mooresville Tribune. “At least 40 legislators have told me ‘What you said was right on the money.’ ”

Read the full story over at the Mooresville Tribune here.