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Judge rules revocation of teacher tenure, 25% contracts unconstitutional

Judge Robert H. Hobgood issued a written order in Wake County Superior Court today declaring the 2013 General Assembly’s actions unconstitutional in eliminating due process rights, or career status, for teachers who already had obtained it.

Hobgood made the ruling three weeks ago and issued his written order today. The trial court also permanently halted the 25 percent contract provision statewide as it was “inextricably tied” to the revocation of due process rights.

The 25 percent contracts, also passed into law last year, would have required teachers to give up their due process rights four years early in exchange for small pay bumps of $500 for each of those four years.  More than 51 school districts had passed resolutions in opposition to the contracts.

“This is an important victory, not only for teachers, but for public education,” said Rodney Ellis, president of NCAE.  “Local boards and superintendents have been standing right along with us in saying that protecting due process rights for teachers is a good thing – that we want our teachers to be strong advocates for students and to not have to fear politics will rob them of their job.”

Reacting to the Senate’s 2014 budget proposal to offer teachers an 11 percent raise if they voluntarily relinquish tenure, Ellis said, “The Senate budget provision was clearly in response to our lawsuit and is plainly wrong.  Our victory reaffirms the important role of the judiciary in interpreting the constitution and determining when the General Assembly has overstepped its bounds by passing laws that are unconstitutional.”

State Senator Phil Berger has promised to appeal Hobgood’s ruling.

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Charlotte Observer: Senate budget forces unfair choice on teachers

This morning’s editorial in the Charlotte Observer gets yesterday’s state Senate proposal on teacher pay and the “choice” it would offer teachers on the matter just about right:

“The plan, announced by Senate leader Phil Berger, would boost teacher pay by an average of 11 percent – the largest increase in N.C. history, Berger says. It’s significantly more than Gov. Pat McCrory proposed this month in his teacher pay plan, and it would lift North Carolina all the way from 46th to 27th in the nation in teacher pay.

That wasn’t so hard, was it?…

Then there’s the plan’s caveat: If teachers want to receive the substantial pay increase Republicans are offering, they must give up the ‘career status’ – or tenure – that N.C. law guarantees. Republicans already tried to eliminate tenure last year, but a Superior Court judge ruled this month that it is unconstitutional to take that career status away from teachers who already have earned it.

Now Republicans are trying to make teachers give tenure up “voluntarily” by dangling the pay increase in front of them. We’re not sure how the two – tenure and pay – are otherwise connected. Tenure offers teachers two primary protections – a hearing process when a teacher is being dismissed or demoted for any of 15 reasons that include poor performance and neglect of duty, plus a similar hearing process when a teacher is dismissed because of budget or staffing issues.

Both protections make it more time consuming and costly to fire teachers, but neither is costly enough to be paired with teacher pay, as Senate Republicans are doing. If they want to argue that teachers don’t deserve protection from layoffs that most of the rest of us don’t get, as Berger suggested Wednesday, that’s a legitimate and separate debate to have. But to finally give teachers the raise they’ve earned, only to make them give up the tenure they’ve also earned, is unfair.

Lawmakers should take up tenure later and concentrate on the intended task at hand – raising the pay of our public school teachers. As Senate Republicans and the governor are showing, it’s something that’s within reach, if they want it to be.”

You can read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/05/28/4938240/forward-back-on-teacher-pay.html#.U4cMTXZB_4t#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/05/28/4938240/forward-back-on-teacher-pay.html#.U4cMTXZB_4t#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/05/28/4938240/forward-back-on-teacher-pay.html#.U4cMTXZB_4t#storylink=cpy
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Senate to propose a “divide and conquer” budget?

It was North Carolina Thom Tillis who infamously described his political plan for North Carolina as an effort to “divide and conquer” those who opposed the conservative move to repeal much of the progress of the 2oth Century, but this morning it sounds like it will be Tillis’ frequent political nemesis, Senate leader Phil Berger, who will be pushing the “divide and conquer” strategy in the days to come.

According to news reports, the Senate will roll out a new proposed budget today that will offer public school teachers sizable raises in exchange for giving up their career status (i.e. their right not to be fired without at least some good reason). And while details are still emerging, it seems a certainty that such a potentially costly plan will be funded with new and painful cuts to other important public structures and services (e.g. health care for the poor, higher education and the justice and public safety system).

In other words, it appears the Senate will propose a “divide and conquer” budget today — one that divides and pits teachers against each other and that divides and pits public education against other vital public functions.

Meanwhile, over in the House, Speaker Tillis is probably consulting with his legal team over his options to sue from copyright infringement.

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Editorial: Judge correct in striking down law that would end teacher “tenure”

This morning’s Charlotte Observer has an excellent editorial on Judge Robert Hobgood’s recent decision that at least partially strikes down the counter-productive law passed last year that would end teacher career status:

“Last week we urged lawmakers to ditch this law during their short session that’s under way. We repeat that today. Time and tax dollars are being wasted in litigation.

If the past is an indicator, lawmakers are likely to appeal, as they’ve done with other court rulings on controversial laws they passed last year. But it is wrong to string this matter out with more legal action. The law was a wrongheaded move – and an unnecessary one.

Proponents contended that the new law, set to go into effect in 2018, was needed to ensure that bad teachers could be removed from the classroom. They argued that the current system protected poor performers.

Hogwash. Bad teachers could be fired before this law. The current system, in place since 1971, only guaranteed educators a hearing.

Hobgood’s ruling now reiterates that fact.

Unfortunately, this injunction applies only to teachers who already have career status. Teachers without such status – which is granted to those who made it beyond the first four years of a probationary period – are not covered.

Lawmakers should give up this fight. But if they won’t, they should suspend the process for teachers not covered by this injunction until litigation is done.

A two-tiered system where some teachers have hearing rights that others do not would compound the bad legislative decision a judge has now rightly upended.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

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Breaking: Court rules that repeal of teacher tenure, 25% contracts are both unconstitutional

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.