North Carolina Teachers To Sue State Over End Of Tenure

In North Carolina, teachers are up in arms over the end of tenure in the state. A group of teachers and the NC Association of Educators plan to challenge the termination of tenure for public school teachers across North Carolina in court.

In 2013, the state’s lawmakers passed a budget that included the elimination of tenure in 2018. School districts will offer four-year contracts and $500 to the top 25% of teachers to relinquish their status. Ann McColl, general counsel for the NC Association of Educators, said the suit alleges that the state broke a contract with teachers who accepted the job with the understanding that they could earn tenure, writes Jane Stancill of Charlotte Observer.

The North Carolina teachers group wants to keep tenure for those teachers who have already earned it and to restore the possibility for those already in the pipeline. Earning a “career status” more commonly referred to as tenure does not equate to a lifetime job guarantee, but it offers certain job protections, including the right to a hearing in the event of dismissal.

Teacher Stephanie Wallace is one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs. According to Wallace, the legislature’s message to teachers is that they are expendable.

“I did everything you told me I had to do,” Wallace said of the state’s requirements. “I have never had an unsatisfactory review. I have a master’s degree, I have AP certification, I am a Nationally Board Certified teacher. And you’re going to tell me all of a sudden that I don’t deserve career status any longer? I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do. How is that fair? How is that legal?”

The old law was designed to remove poorly performing teachers during a four-year probationary period. Those who made past that point earned career protection but could still be fired for 15 reasons outlined in the law, including inadequate performance, immorality, neglect of duty and a reduction in a district’s teaching force.

Senate Leader Phil Berger, who worked to phase out tenure, believes that tenure is a big hurdle in removing bad teachers from the classroom. Berger quoted the state’s data showing only 17 teachers were dismissed in North Carolina in 2011-12.

Eliminating tenure for future teachers was supported by the N.C. School Boards Association due to the cost and time involved in dismissing teachers. The group, however, wants current teachers grandfathered in to the law. The new law requires all teachers to be placed on short-term contracts.

McColl said teachers who gained tenure protection decades ago could be fired after a contract for no reason whatsoever and with no opportunity to challenge it.

“Because there’s no right to a hearing, there’s no way to know how they made a decision,” she said of administrators and school boards. “There’s no requirements for them making findings, so they decide to non-renew you, there’s no record. There’s nothing to look at. You have no right to be there when they make the decision, you have no right to provide information to support a renewal. You’re just done.”

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