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Lots of education news swirling around out there, so here are a few stories to keep you up to date as you enjoy your midday meal.

First, the great reporters over at WUNC have a few really interesting education stories up this week.

Dave DeWitt demystifies the complicated EVAAS system for evaluating North Carolina’s teachers, which some say is a big fat secret in terms of how it truly measures whether or not a teacher is doing a good job.

DeWitt also has a story today about all of the various teacher pay proposals on the table – and why merit pay plans may not work.

And WUNC’s Reema Khrais has fact-checked seven claims about the Common Core State Standards. See what she found here.

Kansas is having a rough week. Lawmakers took a page out of North Carolina’s book and decided enact a series of education reforms, including:

• Foster school choice by allowing corporations to receive tax credits for contributions to scholarship funds so children with special needs or who come from low-income households could attend private school.

• Make it easier to fire teachers by eliminating their due-process rights.

• Relax teacher licensing when hiring instructors with professional experience in areas including math, science, finance and technical education.

In Texas, a school teacher was suspended for being transgender.

And to end on a happier note, a couple of Guilford County Schools ranked pretty high in school rankings released by The Washington Post. Penn-Griffin School for the Arts made it into the top 100, and Grimsely High wasn’t far behind at 128.

TeachersWhen politicians talk about “running government like a business,” for many of us (even skeptics) it conjures up vague images  of hard-nosed accountants demanding results and issuing edicts to do away with no bid contracts and wasteful outlays for  travel and fancy meals. A new report from the top-flight journalists at Pro Publica, however, paints a much clearer portrait of what the future actually holds in the regard: temp workers — lots and lots of temp workers.

This is from the report, “A Modern Day ‘Harvest of Shame‘”:

“Half a century ago, the legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow came to this pancake-flat town in central New Jersey to document the plight of migrant farmworkers for a television special called “Harvest of Shame.”

Today, many of Cranbury’s potato fields have been built up with giant warehouses that form a distribution hub off Exit 8A of the Jersey Turnpike.

But amid this 21st century system of commerce, an old way of labor persists. Temporary workers make a daily migration on buses to this area, just as farmworkers did for every harvest in the 1960s. Temp workers today face many similar conditions in how they get hired, how they live and what they can afford to eat. Adjusted for inflation, many of today’s temp workers earn roughly the same amount as those farmworkers did 50 years ago.

Across the country, farms full of migrant workers have been replaced with warehouses full of temp workers, as American consumers depend more on foreign products, online shopping and just-in-time delivery. It is a story that begins at the ports of Los Angeles and Newark, N.J., follows the railroads to Chicago and ends at your neighborhood box store, or your doorstep.

The temp industry now employs 2.8 million workers – the highest number and highest proportion of the American workforce in history. As the economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, temp work has grown nine times faster than private-sector employment as a whole. Overall, nearly one-sixth of the total job growth since the recession ended has been in the temp sector.”

And, of course, if  a phenomenon like this is good enough for the “free market,” it’s gotta’ be a “must” for the brave new world of conservative-run government like the one North Carolinians are currently enduring. Any more questions about why state leaders are so anxious to, effectively, turn thousands upon thousands of public school teachers into temps?  That’s right: they want to “run government like a business.”

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.

*See below for additional documents related to this story.

Greensboro’s News & Record reports that members of the Guilford County School Board voted unanimously last night to reject the state’s new law that would abolish teacher tenure and require school districts to offer teachers temporary contracts, calling into question its constitutionality and asking for relief from the law.

Guilford County also plans to file a complaint challenging the law in Guilford County Superior Court, according to Nora Carr, the district’s chief of staff.

Teachers packed the board room last night, wearing “red for ed” and holding signs to protest the law.

Last summer, lawmakers did away with teacher tenure, formally known as “career status,” which is essentially due process rights for teachers who are dismissed or demoted. North Carolina has awarded teachers tenure for roughly 50 years.

In its place, the state asks local school districts to award the top 25% of its teachers 4-year temporary contracts that are worth $500 pay bumps each year of the contract — as long as those teachers relinquish their tenure. By 2018, tenure will be abolished for all.

Teachers across the state have expressed unhappiness with the new law. The North Carolina Association of Educators is coordinating a campaign called “Decline to Sign,” encouraging teachers who have tenure to reject the temporary contracts and hold on to their tenure through 2018.

In a letter sent to GCS Superintendent Maurice Green, Senate leader Phil Berger said he was “deeply troubled” by Guilford’s move to defy the new law that he pushed toward passage last summer.

Berger also said that board members are “grasping at straws for a legal argument to support their preference for the status quo on teacher pay.”

“Attempts to manufacture legal arguments to derail policy directives may be even more underhanded than openly refusing to follow the law,” said Berger, according to the News & Record.

*UPDATE: Click here to read Guilford County School Board’s resolution to reject the new teacher contract law. And click here to read Senator Phil Berger’s letter to GCS Superintendent Maurice Green.

Gerry Cohen, Special Counsel to the NC General Assembly, explains in this letter to Senator Berger the ramifications of a school board’s decision to reject the teacher contract system. Essentially, members of that school board can be removed from office as punishment for failing to comply with the law.

Check out this video of teachers protesting the law at the Guilford County school board meeting.

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Earlier this week, Policy Watch education reporter Lindsay Wagner reported on the statewide teacher walk-in, showcasing the frustration of some North Carolina educators over the current level of legislative support for public education.

This weekend we’ll hear from a few more of those teachers, who join us on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon.

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If you are an educator with a story to tell,  be sure check out NC Policy Watch’s new online feature, Your Soapbox.  Over the next few months we will be collecting more stories about working on the front lines of public education in North Carolina.