Durham News

Durham school board votes to join Guilford County lawsuit in teacher-tenure fight

The Durham Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to join a lawsuit the Guilford County school board will file challenging the state law ending teacher tenure.

The law awards four-year contracts with annual $500 raises to the top 25 percent of teachers in their district. The teachers voluntarily give up their tenure, before tenure ends for all teachers in 2018.

Durham school board Chairwoman Heidi Carter and vice chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown both said the the law, the Excellent Public Schools Act, is disrespectful and could hurt public education.

“I’d like for our public to know that in November, when we found that this was considered to be law, we thought it to be ludicrous that a teacher would be asked to give up career status for $500 a year – which equates to $50 a month, which equates to $2.50 a day,” Forte-Brown said. “So I am so proud to be a member of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education, that we are standing for what our constitution says is right.”

State Sen. Mike Woodard attended Wednesday’s meeting.

“I am very proud of the board today,” he said. “I think we need to send a clear message to Gov. McCrory and the legislative branch.”

The law was intended to promote competition and remove teachers with low student test scores. Tenure, or career status, provides teachers a right to due process or a hearing if they are fired.

Under the law, the superintendent will recommend to the school board 25 percent of teachers in the district for four-year contracts beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

The Durham school board is the second in the state now planning to sue the state.

The Wake County school board unanimously voted Tuesday in favor of asking the state to repeal the law, but the board stopped short of joining the Guilford County lawsuit or filing an affidavit in support of the N.C. Association of Educators lawsuit, which the Durham board agreed to do last week.

Wake school board members said there are too many good teachers in the district to offer raises to only 25 percent of them. They will try to meet with state legislative leaders and McCrory but did not rule out the possibility of future legal action.

Carter hopes other boards will join the lawsuit.

“If the governor and N.C. General Assembly won’t stand up for our children’s teachers, then we will,” she said.

In February, state Sen. Phil Berger, who helped the law get passed, said the law is intended to recognize the top-performing teachers.

Carter said otherwise.

“This 25 percent mandate, it’s not about rewarding excellence in teaching,” she said. It’s about coercing teachers to give up a right that they justly earned. And that’s a right to salary protection and a right to due process.”

Staff writer Keung Hui contributed to this story