The News & Observer
May 17, 2014
Halts Effort to End Teacher Tenure in NC
In a ruling that affects the employment rights of thousands
of public school teachers, a judge in Wake County ruled Friday
that the state legislatures move to eliminate teacher
tenure is unconstitutional.
Court Judge Robert Hobgood ordered a permanent injunction against
the implementation of the law that ends career status, known
as teacher tenure. The judges decision applies statewide
to teachers who already have tenure, but not to those who havent
yet earned it.
abolishing tenure for teachers, Hobgood said, violates the contract
clause in the U.S. Constitution and amounts to an unconstitutional
taking of plaintiffs property rights in their existing
contract, which violates the state constitution.
said the legislatures action harmed teachers contracts
and was not reasonable and necessary to serve an important
President Pro Tem Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, called Hobgoods
a single Wake County judge suppressed the will of voters statewide
who elected representatives to improve public education and
reward our best teachers with raises, Bergers statement
said. This is a classic case of judicial activism, and
we will move quickly to appeal this disappointing decision.
case was brought against the state by six teachers and the N.C.
Association of Educators. It comes a week after another judge
ordered a preliminary injunction favoring the Guilford and Durham
school districts, which brought a similar case against the state.
Ellis, president of the NCAE, said he was overjoyed with the
ruling, which means teachers with tenure can keep it, retaining
their due process rights.
huge, Ellis said. Its a huge victory for teachers
law, passed last year, had directed school districts to offer
the top 25 percent of teachers four-year contracts and $500
to relinquish their tenure status. The judges order halts
the implementation of that provision, which he said had no
discernible, workable standards to guide local boards
the state, more than 50 school boards said they wanted the law
to be repealed, and many teachers pledged not to sign contracts
in exchange for the promised salary boost.
Canada, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Roy Cooper, said
his office would review the judges written order before
deciding whether to appeal. The judges written order could
be filed next week.
1971, North Carolina teachers who made it beyond the first four
years of a probationary period were granted tenure, which gave
them certain protections, including the right to a hearing in
the event of dismissal. Berger and other Republicans said tenure
was an impediment to firing incompetent teachers.
had cited low numbers of teachers being dismissed. A 2012-13
teacher turnover survey showed that only 17 teachers statewide
were dismissed. However, the report said 87 teachers resigned
to avoid dismissal and 294 resigned for unknown reasons. That
year, 175 probationary teachers contracts were not renewed.
tenure would have meant that eventually all teachers would be
employed on contracts without some due process protections.
According to the Department of Public Instruction, about 57,000
of 95,000 teachers have tenure.
a means for protecting teachers from unfair dismissals,
Ellis said of career status. Its a means by which
we can avoid school politics impacting employment in our schools
for teachers ... It does not guarantee you a right to a job
for life. But instead, it just awards you an opportunity to
actually go through a process, a fair hearing process, before
Lemmond, a teacher at Wendells East Wake High School with
seven years experience in North Carolina, said tenure
has just become a political skirmish.
dont think (teacher tenure) should be very important,
Lemmond said. If you ask most good teachers if theyd
rather have tenure or a pay raise, they would swap tenure for
a pay raise every time. In the end, tenure only protects bad
teachers. The tricky part of that is to define bad teachers.
Focus on what helps
Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel issued a statement
saying the North Carolina legislatures attempt to eliminate
tenure was misguided and would have hurt the ability of districts
to recruit high quality teachers.
give up a great deal in terms of status and compensation by
choosing to devote their careers to instructing students,
Van Roekels statement said. In North Carolina, teachers
already are paid less than the national average and less
than teachers employed in neighboring states. ... We need to
focus on what helps students the most, like supporting new teachers,
providing ongoing training, paying teachers a decent salary,
and developing reliable evaluation systems to measure teacher
Lyde, vice president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association
of Educators, said she was pleased and not surprised by the
the legislature can take the money set aside for the 25 percent
contracts and add another 2-3 percentage points to the pay raise
proposal, said Lyde, a high school teacher.
& Observer staff writer Aaron Moody and The Charlotte Observers
Ann Doss Helms contributed to this report.