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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.

Fifty-four school boards in North Carolina have now signed on to be plaintiffs in the NC School Board Association’s school voucher lawsuit, which calls into question the constitutionality of providing families with $4,200 annual taxpayer-funded scholarships to use at private schools. (See the end of this post for the full list.)

The North Carolina Association of Educators along with the North Carolina Justice Center also filed a lawsuit late last year seeking to block the school voucher legislation.

On February 1, the NC State Education Assistance Authority began accepting applications for school vouchers. Award notification will begin in March, unless an injunction filed by the NCAE is successful at halting the implementation of the program.

The NCAE has also filed a complaint against the new teacher contract system, which eliminates tenure in exchange for temporary contracts.

With this new system that was put into law last summer, local school districts will award the top 25 percent of teachers with 4-year contracts that may come with $500 bonuses for each of those four years—as long as those teachers give up their tenure prior to 2018, when all teachers will lose it.

According to NCAE President Rodney Ellis, nine school districts have adopted resolutions rejecting the teacher contract system, including Durham, Caswell, Pitt, New Hanover, Cleveland, Alexander, Surry, Mt. Airy, and Iredell/Statesville.

This past weekend, Guilford County came close to adopting a resolution to opt out of the teacher contract system, but tabled that vote for Feb 11, at which time all members of the local school board would be present for a full vote.

It’s unclear what consequences local school districts face if they fail to comply with state law and participate in the teacher contract system.

Plaintiffs that have signed on to join NCSBA’s school voucher lawsuit:

  1. Alamance-Burlington Board of Education
  2. Alexander County Board of Education
  3. Asheboro City Board of Education
  4. Camden County Board of Education
  5. Catawba County Board of Education
  6. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Board of Education
  7. Chatham County Board of Education
  8. Cleveland County Board of Education
  9. Columbus County Board of Education
  10. Craven County Board of Education
  11. Currituck County Board of Education
  12. Davidson County Board of Education
  13. Durham Public Schools Board of Education
  14. Edenton-Chowan Board of Education
  15. Edgecombe County Board of Education
  16. Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education
  17. Gates County Board of Education
  18. Graham County Board of Education
  19. Halifax County Board of Education
  20. Harnett County Board of Education
  21. Hertford County Board of Education
  22. Hoke County Board of Education
  23. Hyde County Board of Education
  24. Jackson County Board of Education
  25. Jones County Board of Education
  26. Kannapolis City Board of Education
  27. Lee County Board of Education
  28. Lenoir County Board of Education
  29. Lexington City Board of Education
  30. Macon County Board of Education
  31. Martin County Board of Education
  32. Moore County Board of Education
  33. Mount Airy City Board of Education
  34. Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education
  35. Newton-Conover City Board of Education
  36. Northampton County Board of Education
  37. Onslow County Board of Education
  38. Orange County Board of Education
  39. Pamlico County Board of Education
  40. Person County Board of Education
  41. Pitt County Board of Education
  42. Polk County Board of Education
  43. Roanoke Rapids Board of Education
  44. Rockingham County Board of Education
  45. Rutherford County Board of Education
  46. Scotland County Board of Education
  47. Stanly County Board of Education
  48. Surry County Board of Education
  49. Transylvania County Board of Education
  50. Vance County Board of Education
  51. Warren County Board of Education
  52. Washington County Board of Education
  53. Whiteville City Board of Education
  54. Yancey County Board of Education

Members of the public wishing to submit questions or concerns about the new teacher contract system have until tomorrow to do so — online or in person.

The State Board of Education will hold a public hearing tomorrow, Wednesday, January 15 on the model teacher contract developed for use by local school boards in awarding teacher contracts. The hearing will take place from 1:00p.m. – 3:00p.m. in the 7th floor board room at the Department of Public Instruction.

Those who cannot make it (because, of course, most teachers will be teaching at that time) can still submit comments online to Lou Martin, State Board of Education, at lou.martin@dpi.nc.gov or by fax: 919-807-3198.

During last year’s legislative session, lawmakers voted to end teacher tenure by 2018. In the interim, the top 25 percent of teachers currently tenured are encouraged to give up their “career status” in exchange for 4-year contracts that come with $500 pay bumps for each of the four years.

Local school districts are having a hard time coming up with ways to determine which teachers fall within the top 25 percent and have received little guidance from lawmakers or DPI. Only the first year of the 4-year contracts is a sure bet in terms of additional funding from the state for the $500 bonuses. And teachers are reluctant to give up hard-earned tenure, which does not guarantee a life-long job–only due process in the event they are dismissed or demoted.

Read more about the teacher contracts here.

The News & Observer’s T. Keung Hui reports that Wake County school board members don’t sound very happy with the new teacher contract system, which would give the top 25 percent of teachers small raises in exchange for giving up tenure, beginning with the next school year.

Wake County school board members heard more details last night about how administrators are trying to comply with the General Assembly’s mandate to offer teachers $500 pay bumps over four years as long as they relinquish tenure, which affords teachers due process rights in the event they are demoted or dismissed.

School board members railed against the new contracts, saying the process will hurt school morale and damage efforts to recruit teachers.

“This is a bad way for rewarding teachers,” said school board member Jim Martin. “This is a bad way for just about everything.”

Will Wake County join Pitt and New Hanover schools in opting out of the teacher contract system? Those local school boards have said they’ll give the money back that’s earmarked for the pay bumps (not clear is if they’re actually authorized to do this) and have asked state lawmakers to figure out a more equitable and sustainable compensation plan for teachers.