CMS to ask NC lawmakers for chance to craft better teacher plan

Joining a chorus of concern about the state’s “25 percent law” that phases out teacher tenure, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board voted unanimously Tuesday to ask state legislators for a chance to create its own plan.

Last summer state lawmakers ordered all districts to select 25 percent of qualified teachers to receive four-year contracts and $500-a-year bonuses, part of a move to phase out tenure for all teachers by 2018.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools resolution asks the General Assembly to grant all districts a one-year delay and allow districts to create plans that incorporate long- and short-term contracts and performance pay. It also calls for unspecified teacher raises this year and restoration of extra pay for advanced degrees in a teacher’s field of instruction.

Four leaders in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators brought letters and petitions urging the board to approve that resolution and go further.

West Charlotte High teacher Erlene Lyde read a letter signed by about 100 teachers asking the board to fight the law with “whatever means are at your disposal.”

“People keep saying, ‘This is the law.’ It’s a bad law,” Lyde said.

The Guilford and Durham county school boards have voted to sue to stop the state tenure plan, and the Wake board voted last week to seek repeal of the law.

CMS board leaders said last week they want to support teachers without antagonizing legislators who hold power over public schools.

Board member Eric Davis agreed the law is bad, but said offering to create a better plan is more constructive and courageous than suing.

“What’s more difficult to agree on is what to do instead of this,” Davis said. “It’s easy to say what we don’t like.”

Teachers, superintendents and school boards across the state have complained that forcing the arbitrary selection of 25 percent will exclude and demoralize many good teachers. The N.C. Association of Educators has sued to block the law, and many teachers say they won’t accept the contracts, which require the voluntary surrender of “career status” rights.

Many policymakers say North Carolina’s teacher pay system is deeply flawed. It provides raises only for length of service and credentials, while many would like to see top performers receive higher pay. And several years of pay freezes and small raises have led to average salaries that are far below the national average, trailing nearby Southeastern states that compete for teachers.

But creating a better system with the money to back it has proven difficult. CMS administrators and teachers have spent years talking about performance pay options. But last spring they opted not to meet a state deadline for voluntary proposals, saying the state was offering no money to cover performance rewards.

After freezing pay last year, Republican legislative leaders say they’ll support a raise for teachers this year. But critics say their insistence on tax cuts leaves the state without money to make teacher pay competitive.

Gov. Pat McCrory and some legislators have said the 25 percent plan needs to be revisited when the General Assembly convenes in May, but no one has offered specifics.

Tim Morgan, vice chair of the CMS board, said parents and teachers will have to get involved to push for change in this year’s session, which is expected to last four to six weeks.

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