Bringing The World Home To You

© 2023 WUNC North Carolina Public Radio
120 Friday Center Dr
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
919.445.9150 | 800.962.9862
91.5 Chapel Hill 88.9 Manteo 90.9 Rocky Mount 91.1 Welcome 91.9 Fayetteville 90.5 Buxton 94.1 Lumberton 99.9 Southern Pines
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
WUNC's American Graduate Project is part of a nationwide public media conversation about the dropout crisis. We'll explore the issue through news reports, call-in programs and a forum produced with UNC-TV. Also as a part of this project we've partnered with the Durham Nativity School and YO: Durham to found the WUNC Youth Radio Club. These reports are part of American Graduate-Let’s Make it Happen!- a public media initiative to address the drop out crisis, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and these generous funders: Project Funders:GlaxoSmithKlineThe Goodnight Educational FoundationJoseph M. Bryan Foundation State FarmThe Grable FoundationFarrington FoundationMore education stories from WUNC

NC Teachers File Lawsuit Challenging Tenure Repeal

NCAE, along with six plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the repeal of career status which has been around since 1971.
SalFalko via Flickr

The N.C. Association of Educators filed a second major education lawsuit in a week, this time challenging the end of tenureotherwise known as career statusfor North Carolina public school teachers.

The lawsuit, also filed by six classroom teachers, argues that the repeal of career status violates federal and state constitutions by taking away basic due process rights.

“We are giving the state constitution a work out,” said Ann McColl, general counsel for NCAE. “When we find that our fundamental values that we hold as a people, that are embodied in our state constitution, are disregarded and disrespected by the General Assembly, then it’s time to go to court.”

In a budget passed by state lawmakers this year, teacher tenure will be eliminated by 2018 and replaced with a teacher contract system. Under the new law, school districts are expected to offer one-year contracts to most teachers, while offering the top 25-percent of teachers four-year contracts and a $500 annual pay raise. 

Unlike traditional tenure, career status does not guarantee lifetime job security to teachers, but does promise certain job protections, like the right to a hearing if ever dismissed or demoted.

‘Going Back On A Promise’

Richard Nixon, a history teacher at Corinth Holders High School, has taught in Johnston County for 25 years and says that by repealing career status, the state is failing to honor its contract with him. 

“In return for my service to the children of North Carolina the state would grant career status - a promise that as long as I did a good job, I would have a good job,” he said. “In the course of my career, I have lived up to my contract. I expect my state to do the same. “

The plaintiffs argue that teachers under the new system will not have the right to protest a non-renewal of their contract, or know why they were not asked back.

Rodney Ellis, a sixth grade teacher from Forsyth County and president of NCAE, says the repeal of career status is only one part of the “full frontal assault on public education in North Carolina,” citing shrinking budgets and the elimination of extra pay for teachers with advanced degrees.

Last week, NCAE filed another major education lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of private school vouchers funded by taxpayer money.

‘Frivolous’ Lawsuits

Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis criticized both lawsuits, calling the most recent one “frivolous.”  

“The union [NCAE] has made its blueprint clear: ‘if at first you don’t succeed at the polls, then sue, sue again,’” the Republican leaders said in a statement. “While union leaders are focused on succeeding in the courtroom, we’ll remain focused on our children succeeding in the classroom.”

Berger argues 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. He cited data from the last school year that says only 17 out of the 95,028 teachers were dismissed for cause.

The new law replacing career status provides $10.2 million to reward the top 25% of teachers, which will be chosen by local school boards. 

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.
More Stories