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Fri May 16, 2014
Judge Strikes Down N.C.'s New Teacher Tenure Law
A judge has ruled North Carolina teachers who already have tenure are allowed to keep it.
On May 16 in a Raleigh courtroom, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ruled North Carolina's new law that ends teacher tenure is unconstitutional. According to Judge Hobgood, it is already a part of the employment package for veteran teachers who already have it. Eliminating it would violate basic U.S. contract law. The State has said it will appeal Judge Hobgood’s ruling.
Ann Pettijean, the president of the Forsyth County Association of Educators and a former teacher at Walkertown Elementary, calls this ruling a huge relief. "We in public education have taken a lot of criticism and a lot of changes that we had no control over," says Pettijean. "To see a judge can understand this is a right we've earned that was part of our promise when we signed up to teach in North Carolina and uphold it is a wonderful day for educators."
Since the early 1970's, North Carolina law has said veteran teachers cannot be fired or demoted except for a series of listed reasons that include poor performance, immorality and insubordination. Last year, Republican lawmakers passed a measure ending this protection. "The reason career status is so important to a teacher, is that it gives us the protection we need to stand up for our kids if we see something wrong and we know it's wrong." explains Pettijean. "With due process rights and protections, we can stand up and say, this is wrong, it's affecting our children in the classroom and we don't have to fear for our jobs."
On May 9 in Greensboro, a Superior Court Judge issued a temporary injunction
Judge Hobgood also ruled against the state mandate ordering school districts to give the best 25 percent of teachers, four-year contracts. Teachers willing to sign the contract would get pay raises totaling $5,000 in exchange for giving up their career status rights. But the judge said the state did not give school superintendents enough guide lines for selecting these instructors. According to current state law, school systems have until June 30 to select these individuals. On May 9 in Greensboro, a Superior Court Judge issued a temporary injunction saying Guilford and Durham boards of education do not have to offer the new contracts. Now supporters hope this latest ruling will apply to all of the state’s school systems. There are 115 school districts in North Carolina.