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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
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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.

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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.

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Last night, all members of the New Hanover Board of Education voted in favor of a resolution urging state lawmakers to repeal the mandate that the top 25 percent of teachers be offered 4-year contracts and $500 annual pay bonuses in exchange for giving up their tenure.

The resolution also calls for allowing New Hanover to to opt out of offering the contracts altogether, asking that the General Assembly keep their money.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the New Hanover County Board of Education requests that the General Assembly allow it to retain its prorated share of the $10 Million Dollars allocated for the 25 percent contract to be used for alternative pay or compensation for additional duties such as mentoring or leadership roles; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED FURTHER that the New Hanover County Board of Education urges the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the 25 percent contract and develop a more effective long-term compensation plan for teachers tied to career paths with input from the education and business community.

Teachers have said that the contracts will discourage collaboration and pit teachers against one another as they compete for small salary bumps, which could hurt student learning conditions. Chairman of the New Hanover school board, Don Hayes, said he hopes the resolution will increase teacher morale and show that the school board supports teachers.

Tenure, formally known as “career status,” offers teachers due process rights in the event they are fired or demoted. It is not a lifelong guarantee of a job.

For more on the new teacher contract system, check out my recent story on the topic here.