School board defies N.C. state law abolishing teacher tenure

By Valerie Strauss
February 12, 2014

A school board in North Carolina just voted unanimously to reject a new state law that abolishes teacher tenure in four years and requires school districts to offer some teachers temporary contracts in exchange for their tenure through 2018. It also plans to sue the state over the constitutionality of the law.

The Guilford County School Board, which oversees a district with more than 72,000 students, took the step Tuesday night at a meeting that was heavily attended by some 200 enthusiastic teachers, according to the Greensboro News & Record

The action represents growing pushback from school boards against state school reform laws that are forcing local school officials to take steps they don’t want to take, such as reducing tenure and implementing an increasing number of high stakes tests. In the last two years, hundreds if not thousands of school boards around the country passed resolutions calling for an end to high-stakes testing of students and more thoughtful assessment systems. Voting to reject a state law is an even bigger step. It comes at the same time that Tennessee’s state education board has decided that it will in April rewrite licensing rules that link student standardized test scores to the licensing of teachers. The move was a shock to the state’s reform-minded education commissioner, Kevin Huffman.

The North Carolina state legislature voted last summer to eliminate teacher tenure, which gives teachers due process when administrators seek to dismiss, demote or take other action against them. Guilford County also plans to file a complaint challenging the law in Guilford County Superior Court, according to Nora Carr, the district’s chief of staff.

After 50 years of support for teacher tenure in the state, lawmakers voted to require school districts to identify the top 25 percent of their teachers and award them four-year contracts worth $500 pay bumps each year of the contract. The catch: the teachers will have to give up their tenure rights. This part of the law lasts only until 2018, when all teachers lose their tenure.

The Guilford County School Board’s resolution said that the state law unconstitutionally requires school districts to break contracts given in good faith to teachers by forcing them to give up a “vested property right” — tenure. The board said it could support a move to abolish tenure if it were replaced with a system of long-term contracts for teachers. That is not what the state law does.

Here’s the resolution: