Judge puts halt to end tenure for NC teachers
by Allison Haver
The ruling Friday was in favor of the North Carolina Association of Educators, which brought the suit, and applies statewide to teachers who already have tenure. The lawsuit challenged a state law passed by the N.C. General Assembly this past summer that will ultimately eradicate teacher tenure by 2018-19.
This law requires local school districts to offer the best 25 percent of teachers a four-year contract with pay raises totaling $5,000 before the 2014-15 school year in exchange for the teacher's career status.
The remaining 75 percent will receive one-year contracts for the next four years.
All teachers would lose tenure protections, under the law, beginning in the 2018-19 school year, and will either receive one-, two- and four-year contracts.
"We are pleased with the decision of the judge," Watauga County Schools Director of Human Resources Stephen Martin said.
"This ruling is consistent with the resolution, which was adopted by the Watauga County Board of Education in February 2014. This resolution opposed the elimination of tenure for teachers and the identification of 25 percent of teachers to receive four-year contracts," Martin said.
Martin said Hobgood's ruling meant that Watauga County teachers who have earned career status will continue to maintain tenure with the Watauga school system.
"Additionally, we hope that the Legislature will revisit the issue of increasing teacher salaries with a more comprehensive and appropriate plan than last year's 25 percent proposal," he said.
"This is terrific news for teachers," former teacher and Watauga County Board of Education member Barbara Kinsey said on Friday.
"We (the county board of education) have already filed two petitions to the state board expressing our disapproval on the new law," she said.
Teachers with career status are currently protected within North Carolina state law, and cannot be fired or demoted except for reasons including performance, immorality or insubordination.
Republican lawmakers voted to end those protections in order to improve classroom performance by removing problem teachers.
Members of the NCEA said tenure status protected teachers from school politics, favoritism and nepotism.
Under the new law, teachers who don't currently have career status would be offered one-year contracts.
It is not immediately clear how Hobgood's ruling will affect these teachers.
Hobgood is a senior resident judge for the 9th Judicial District of the Third Division of the Superior Court. His term expires in 2018.
In February, Hobgood granted a preliminary injunction halting "opportunity scholarships" until two lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the state's school voucher program were settled.
In May, the state Supreme Court overturned a State Court of Appeals order, which had denied a request by parents to delay Hobgood's stay.
The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the school voucher case.