Education

May 16, 2014

Wake judge orders halt to end of teacher tenure in NC

A Wake County judge ruled Friday that the legislature's action to end teacher tenure is unconstitutional.

A Wake County judge ruled Friday that the legislature's action to end teacher tenure is unconstitutional.

Judge Robert Hobgood ordered a permanent injuction against the implementation of the law that ends career status, known as teacher tenure, by 2018. The decision applies to teachers statewide who already have tenure.

The ultimate outcome of the case, brought against the state by six teachers and the N.C. Association of Educators, could affect the future employment rights of thousands of public school teachers across North Carolina.

The decision comes about a week after another judge ordered a preliminary injunction favoring the Guilford and Durham school districts, which brought a similar case against the state.

The law directs school districts to offer the top 25 percent of teachers four-year contracts and $500-a-year to relinquish their tenure status.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board had approved a plan to select the 25 percent of teachers who would be offered four-year contracts and $500 a year raises, but board members and Superintendent Heath Morrison made it clear they hoped never to use it. CMS has asked the state legislature to delay the plan, instead giving the district a year to come up with its own performance pay plan. So far no CMS teachers have been offered the contracts.

Since 1971, North Carolina teachers who made it beyond the first four years of a probationary period were granted career status, which gave teachers certain protections, including the right to a hearing in the event of dismissal. Republicans who voted to eliminate it said tenure was an impediment to firing incompetent teachers.

Charles Smith, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators, said the news was expected but welcome. "I'm going out to spread the word pretty soon," said Smith, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools high school teacher.

But he said he's still watching warily to see how the judge's ruling might affect the tone of the legislative session, including plans for teacher raises.

Ann Doss Helms of The Charlotte Observer contributed

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