Commentary

Forsyth County schoolteacher skewers state leaders, LGBT discrimination law

Red_HerringOccasional NC Policy Watch contributor and Forsyth County high school teacher Stuart Egan has been cranking out a series of on-the-money and, in come cases, hilarious take-downs of North Carolina’s new LGBT discrimination law and the people behind it of late on his blog, Caffeinated Rage.

This post, however, which was also featured recently in the Winston-Salem Journal, does a particularly good job of exposing some of the outrageous red herrings that state leaders have been using — most notably the phony “issue” of bathroom safety — to distract North Carolinians from the regressive actions they’ve been taking in any number of other areas to roll back the tide of progress. Here’s Egan:

“North Carolina has the dogwood as the state flower, the northern cardinal as the state bird, the plott hound as the state dog, and the Fraser Fir as the state Christmas tree.

We also have the channel bass (red drum) as the saltwater state fish, and the Appalachian Brook Trout is the state’s token freshwater fish. But that needs to change. We need just one fish that better represents the present climate here.

I therefore nominate the red herring, because I have seen many more of those these past few years in the Old North State than any other aquatic animal.

I know. A red herring actually is a dead smoked herring, salt cured and darkened through a smoking process for eating. But it also refers to the logical fallacy of introducing something that really is not important to stop people from noticing something really important.

And this practice of drawing attention away from really significant social issues is something that many current members of the North Carolina General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration have done very well. Take, for instance, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, otherwise known as HB2….”

Click here to read the rest of the essay. Keep giving ’em heck, Stuart.

Commentary

Editorial: State Supreme Court should bust tenure-busting law for teachers

The Fayetteville Observer gets it right with an editorial blasting the anti-teacher law that would transform all state educators into, in effect, “temps.” The law, which stands as one of the real signature “achievements” of conservative rule in North Carolina these past five years, is now before the state Supreme Court. Here’s the Observer:

“The battle over tenure for North Carolina teachers reached the state Supreme Court this week. We hope the justices will put this misbegotten piece of punitive legislation out of its misery.

The law, passed by the General Assembly in 2013, stripped teachers’ ability to earn “career status” after four years of satisfactory performance. Lawmakers mischaracterized it as tenure, saying it prevented school districts from firing incompetent teachers.

The truth is, if school districts use it as an excuse to keep lousy teachers in the classroom, it’s their own fault. The law specifically empowers administrators to fire bad teachers for reasons including poor performance, insubordination and immorality.”

After noting that Attorney General Cooper is, regrettably, defending the inane law, the editorial concludes this way:

“As the teachers’ association lawyer responded, if lawmakers really wanted to improve the quality of teaching in the state’s classrooms, they could have raised the performance criteria teachers must meet to keep their jobs.

We’d like to see the General Assembly do just that, instead of simply attacking anything that looks remotely like a union – a theme that has run through a considerable body of legislation for the past three years.

That, in truth, is what the tenure battle is about. Even though there are no public-employee unions in North Carolina – they’re already banned by law – lawmakers appear determined to rid the state of any protection that looks even remotely union-ish. Hence a war on a tenure status that doesn’t exist.

Teachers have earned what little job protection they do have. In fact, it was promised to them as a benefit of their employment. That’s why the court should strike down this law.”

News

Just in: Court of Appeals says repeal of NC tenure law is unconstitutional

The General Assembly’s 2013 repeal of the teacher tenure law amounted to an unconstitutional taking of contract and property rights as to those teachers who’d already attained that status, according to a Court of Appeals opinion released this morning.

Writing for the court, Judge Linda Stephens said:

[W]e cannot escape the conclusion that for the last four decades, the career status protections provided by section 115C- 325, the very title of which—“Principal and Teacher Employment Contracts”— purports to govern teachers’ employment contracts, have been a fundamental part of the bargain that Plaintiffs and thousands of other teachers across this State accepted when they decided to defer the pursuit of potentially more lucrative professions, as well as the opportunity to work in states that offer better financial compensation to members of their own profession, in order to accept employment in our public schools.

The ruling by the three-judge panel affirms Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood’s decision handed down a little over a year ago.

Under North Carolina’s “Career Status Law,” teachers in their first four years were deemed “probationary” and employed year-to-year under annual contracts. At the end of the four-year period, they became eligible for career status, giving them rights to continuing contracts and due process protections from arbitrary or unjustified dismissals.

In summer 2013, lawmakers enacted a repeal of that law in an effort to rid the state of tenure by 2018, saying that it enabled bad teachers to stay in the system.

They eliminated tenure for teachers who had not reached career status by August 2013 and revoked career status for all teachers by July 2018.

As an enticement for already-tenured teachers to act sooner, lawmakers also required local school boards to offer 25 percent of them temporary 4-year contracts with annual raises of $500 in exchange for giving up their tenure rights early.

In May 2014, Judge Hobgood ruled that the revoking of tenure for teachers who’d already reached career status was unconstitutional, as was the “25 percent” plan, which Hobgood said included no standards to guide school districts and served no public purpose.

As to teachers who had not yet achieved career status, though, Hobgood found that they had no protectable contract rights and thus could not challenge the repeal.

Two judges on the panel, Stephens and Martha Geer, largely agreed with Hobgood’s ruling.

But Court of Appeals Judge Chris Dillon issued a separate opinion in which he agreed only with the lower court’s finding that tenured teachers had property rights warranting a hearing in the event they were dismissed (something the repeal did not allow).

Read the full opinion here.

Uncategorized

Bob Rucho’s “different model” of education

Senator Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County

Senator Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County

As Clayton Henkel and Lindsay Wagner report in the posts below, negotiations over teacher pay have taken what appears to be a positive turn this week at the General Assembly with the announcement that the state Senate is willing to back down on its demand that teachers choose between a pay raise and their right to a measure of due process when it comes losing their jobs.

It’s welcome news, but news that is tempered by the fact that Senators apparently kept their fingers crossed behind their backs while they made the offer. Senate Education Committee chairman Jerry Tillman also told reporters Lynn Bonner and Jim Morrill that the matter of teacher due process (i.e. “tenure”) would be back:

“’We’ll get rid of tenure in 2018,’ he said. ‘That issue will be settled.’”

Perhaps even more frustrating than Tillman’s statement in the aftermath of yesterday’s negotiations, however, were the comments of his Senate colleague and fellow conservative fire-breather, Bob Rucho.

When asked about the Senate’s consistent refusal to budge on its plan to pay for teacher raises by firing thousands of teacher assistants (a plan that even Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger hinted might finally be on the way out) Rucho was his usual  aggressive self. As Morrill and Bonner reported: Read more

Uncategorized

Sen. Berger sits down with teachers in unexpected pow-wow on eve of House budget reveal

Last night’s Moral Monday demonstrations took an unexpected turn when Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) decided to sit down with teachers, who were staked out in front of his office late last night, to debate some of the education policies he has put forward.

WUNC Education Reporter Dave Dewitt has a great story about how the night went off script and the debate that took place:

But here’s where script took an unexpected turn. Just a few seconds later, Senator Berger came around the corner, pulled some couches into a circle, and offered to have a discussion.

And that’s exactly what they did. For more than an hour and a half, Berger and the protesters discussed education policy and the challenges facing teachers. There were some heated moments, and some passionate disagreements.

For the most part, all parties were respectful. The protestors whittled their list to three items they wanted addressed: they wanted tenure back; they wanted teacher assistants restored; and they wanted Berger to hold a series of public meetings on education. At the end, Berger committed to nothing more than another conversation the next day to consider further meetings.

And instead of being led out in handcuffs, the 15 protesters walked out the front of the building, nodding to Capitol Police officers, to meet their supporters.

Proffitt spoke first: “So we sat down and we had a good conversation, which to my understanding this is the first time this has happened in the last couple of years. So I think this represents a win for the movement because I think we put enough pressure on them that they realized they had to have a conversation.”

When he was done, Bryan Proffitt stepped behind the crowd and tried to gather himself. Someone handed him a bottle of water and the sweater he thought he had lost, and he finally took a deep breath.

He admitted the night had not gone like he thought it would.

“Talk is cheap,” he said.” There needs to be a real opening. But if there’s an opening, we’ll take it. But if it means the threat of arrest, if that means risking arrest again, and putting negative pressure on them again, then we’ll be back.”

Click here to read or listen to DeWitt’s full story.