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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

One-Fourth of School Districts Oppose Law Repealing Teacher Tenure

Karin Vlietstra via Flickr

At least 28 school districts across the state have voiced opposition to a new law that repeals teacher tenure and replaces it with a plan that rewards the top teachers, according the North Carolina Association of Educators.

Cumberland County Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools are among the latest to reject the law, which is meant to phase out tenure for all teachers by 2018.

“I think you’re going to see a domino effect and [school districts] are going to just start pouring in,” says Rodney Ellis, president of NCAE. “Some school districts already have quietly registered their opposition.”

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 teacher a right to due process or a hearing if dismissed or demoted.

'Harmful and Divisive' 

The Guilford and Durham county school boards voted to sue to stop the tenure plan, while the Wake school boardvoted last week to try and repeal the law.

“Part of the reason we’re opposed to it is because it’s so open to interpretation. It seems to encourage competition between public school teachers,” said Larry Niles, Wake NCAE president, on WUNC’sThe State of Things.

Alan Duncan, chair of the Guilford’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.

Governor Pat McCroryacknowledges some of the concerns, saying that the law is “an example of passing a policy without clearly understanding the execution and operation.”

McCrory and many lawmakers admit that the teacher pay system needs serious revamping – a new legislative task force is currently looking into the issue and will provide recommendations to the General Assembly. The governor also recently pledged to raise the base salary for teachers early in their careers to $35,000, the first step in a much more comprehensive plan, according to McCrory. 

On Wednesday March 12, 2014, WUNC's Frank Stasio spoke with Eric Guckian, senior education advisor to Governor McCrory, and Larry Nilles, an eighth grade social studies teacher and president of Wake North Carolina Association of Educators:

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.
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