Judge Halts Law Repealing Teacher Tenure in Durham, Guilford

Apr 23, 2014

Credit Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

A Superior Court judge on Wednesday halted a mandate that  requires North Carolina school districts to reward their top teachers with multi-year contracts in exchange for giving up tenure.

Guilford County and Durham Public School leaders filed a lawsuit against the new mandate earlier this year, calling it unconstitutional.  The judge issued a  preliminary injunction, which means the two school systems do not have to follow the mandate while the case is being decided.

It's uncertain, however, how the order will affect other school districts. The impact of the ruling will be clearer when Superior Court Judge Richard Doughton delivers a written order next week.

About The Mandate

The measure requires school districts to select 25 percent of qualified teachers to receive four-year contracts and $500 annual raises. In exchange, those teachers must voluntarily give up their tenure rights.

Teacher tenure, otherwise known as career status, provides teachers a right to due process or a hearing if dismissed or demoted.

Alan Duncan, chair of the Guilford County’s school board, helped write a resolution rejecting the law.

“It’s very harmful, it’s demoralizing and it’s divisive,” he says. “Those are words that consistently have been brought out with our communications with teachers.”

Teachers and superintendents argue that school districts have not been given clear guidelines on how to pick the top 25 percent of teachers and that the process feels arbitrary.

The North Carolina Association of Educators filed a separate lawsuit against the mandate, and more than a quarter of state school districts oppose the law.

Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis have criticized both lawsuits, calling them "frivolous."  They argue that teachers should receive contract renewals based on job performance as in many other professions, and that the current system does a poor a job of kicking low-performing teachers out of schools.