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Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education issued new guidelines that outline the legal responsibility of schools to enroll all students, regardless of a child’s or parent’s immigration status. It’s an important step in ensuring the right of every child to a public education, and fortunately is one that will be carried out here in North Carolina as well.

On May 12, State Superintendent June Atkinson sent a letter to all North Carolina school districts, reminding them of the policies that prohibit the schools from denying or delaying enrollment for students.

The letter reads:

School districts, whether through registration, student information verification, or other data collection, may not require Social Security numbers, may not ask questions regarding or evidence of immigration status, or for any other documentation that is not required in order to register or enroll in school.

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Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood ruled this morning that the state’s repeal of teacher tenure, also known as “career status,” and the 25 percent contract system that would award temporary employment contracts to those who relinquish their tenure, are both unconstitutional. Hobgood issued a permanent injunction.

“It’s a great day for teachers in North Carolina,” said Rodney Ellis, President of the North Carolina Association of Educators, following Hobgood’s ruling.chalk25

Last summer, lawmakers moved to phase teacher tenure out completely by 2018, on the basis that the law makes it too difficult to get rid of bad teachers. The legislature also mandated local school boards to offer temporary 4-year employment contracts beginning this fall worth $500 annually to the top performing 25 percent of teachers in the state. Teachers who accept the contracts would be required to relinquish their tenure early.

Tenure, or career status, offers a teacher due process rights in the event of a dismissal or demotion. Its repeal, said Hobgood, is an unconstitutional taking of teachers’ property rights.

Hobgood’s order also lets local school boards off the hook from being required to offer the 25 percent contracts to teachers. Hobgood characterized the 25 percent contract system as having no standards to guide school districts in how they would award them, further adding that temporary contracts for career status teachers are not reasonable or necessary for public purpose.

A significant percentage of the state’s 115 school districts have passed resolutions indicating their discontent with the contract system and asking the legislature to repeal the law. Guilford and Durham counties just won their own court ruling that granted them relief from having to award the contracts.

While the next step is to celebrate with teachers across the state, NCAE president Ellis added that he does anticipate an appeal to come from the state.

At a Tuesday morning roundtable sponsored by Dell, Intel and the N.C. Business Committee for Education, Gov. Pat McCrory spoke to educators and business leaders who were gathered at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to strategize about ways to improve teacher effectiveness and next generation learning.

Using the opportunity to reiterate his education goals for the upcoming legislative session, which include paying all teachers more, McCrory hammered home his idea to create a “career pathway plan.”

“We want to ensure teachers have a career…and not a temporary stopover,” said McCrory, explaining that currently teachers have no way to move up in their profession unless they move into higher-paying administrative roles – a career move that not all practitioners are interested in making.

In addition to proposing a two percent average pay increase for all teachers and paying beginning teachers even more, McCrory proposed last week to create a long-term plan that would entice more teachers to stay in the profession by seeing salary increases that are linked to their work as teachers.

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WUNC’s Dave DeWitt posted last night a reply sent by Sen. David Curtis (R-Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln) to teacher Sarah Wiles, who emailed the General Assembly about her frustrations with the state of the teaching profession and the unwillingness on the part of lawmakers to pay teachers a decent salary.

Sen. Curtis wasn’t having what she had to tell him.

From: Sen. David Curtis

Date: May 12, 2014 at 9:46:57

Dear Sarah,

I have given your e-mail titled “I am embarrassed to confess: I am a teacher” some thought, and these are my ideas.  A teacher has an incredible influence on students–for good or for bad. My teachers, coaches, and Boy Scout leaders had a great influence on my decision to go to college which was not a family tradition. My concern is that your students are picking up on your attitude toward the teaching profession. Since you naturally do not want to remain in a profession of which you are ashamed, here are my suggestions for what you should tell your potential new private sector employer:

1.    You expect to make a lot more than you made as a teacher because everyone knows how poorly compensated teachers are.

2.    You expect at least eight weeks paid vacation per year because that is what the taxpayers of North Carolina gave you back when you were a poorly compensated teacher

3.    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.  If he objects, explain to him that a judge has ruled that the taxpayers of North Carolina must provide this benefit to every public school teacher. Surely your new employer wants to give better benefits than the benefits you received as a poorly compensated teacher.

4.    Your potential employer may tell you that he has heard that most North Carolina workers make less than the national average because we are a low cost-of-living- state, private sector workers making 87% of the national average and teachers making 85% of the national average.  Tell him that may be true, but to keep that confidential because the teachers union has convinced parents that teachers are grossly undercompensated based on a flawed teachers union survey of teacher pay.

I support the teacher pay raise but am very concerned that the teachers union has successfully presented to the public a deceptive view of total teacher compensation that is simply not consistent with the facts.

Sincerely,

Senator David Curtis

Head over to WUNC to read Sarah’s letter.

lw-410In North Carolina, many have criticized the review process for charter school applications, pointing out the subjective metrics for determining which applications move forward and the lack of a process for an applicant to appeal their application’s denial.

This week, lawmakers introduced draft legislation contained in a committee report recommending ways to improve the charter school application review process.

If enacted, the law would require the following:

  • For the initial review of a charter school application by a Charter School Advisory Board subcommittee: written decisions for an initial recommendation to move forward or a denial, which must include specific factual support and be transmitted to the applicant.
  • Appeal process: applicants would be allowed to appeal an initial denial with supplemental written information. (No appeal process currently exists.)
  • Final recommendation for approval or denial: must be backed up with factual support
  • Final appeal: applicant would be able to make a final appeal to the State Board of Education with written information and petition the State Board for a hearing.

In addition to clarifying the application review process, the law also emphasizes that the State Board of Education must engage in a rules making process with regard to all aspects of charter school operation, including standards, criteria for acceptance, monitoring, etc. While that requirement to engage in rules making has been on the books for some time, it hasn’t formally happened yet.

The law would also increase charter school application fees to $1,000 – the current fee is $500 – and require the State Board to make final decisions on applications no later than June 15.

Finally, the law makes clear that public charter schools must do the same thing that traditional public schools are required to do – and that’s comply with the Public Records Act and the Open Meetings Law.

In the past, some charter school operators objected to disclosing employee salaries – but if they do that going forward, they’d be breaking the law.

Stay tuned to see how the draft legislation ends up during the next legislative session, which — can you believe it — starts this coming Wednesday, May 14!

Get some rest this weekend, political junkies.