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NC Court Of Appeals: Law Ending Teacher Tenure Is Unconstitutional

teacher in a blur with classroom
Bart Everson
Flickr/Creative Commons

The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that a state law to end tenure rights of public school teachers is unconstitutional, upholding a superior court decision last year.

In a 2-1 decision, the three-judge appeals court ruled that Republican lawmakers unconstitutionally took away contract and property rights by repealing tenure, also known as career status, in 2013.

“We have no trouble concluding that the trial court was correct in its determination that the Career Status Repeal substantially impairs Plaintiffs’ vested contractual rights,” wrote Judge Linda Stephens in the opinion.

She wrote that teacher tenure is a “fundamental part of the bargain,” that teachers accepted when they may have weighed other professions that could’ve reaped more benefits or pay.

North Carolina law has guaranteed teachers career status for more than 45 years. Unlike traditional tenure, career status does not guarantee lifetime job security to experienced teachers, but does promise certain job protections, like the right to a hearing if demoted or fired.

In 2013, Republican legislators voted to do away with those protections, arguing that it would help weed out ineffective teachers.

The North Carolina Association of Educators, along with six teachers, filed a lawsuit challenging the law in late 2013. They argued that the repeal of tenure violates federal and state constitutions by taking away basic due process rights.

Tuesday’s ruling, as well the decision by Hobgood, do not apply to teachers who have not yet earned tenure.

The decision could be appealed to the state supreme court. 

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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