Durham and Guilford sue over eliminating teacher tenure

From staff reportsMarch 20, 2014 

— The Guilford County and Durham County school boards filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the state’s elimination of tenure rights for teachers and the requirement that school districts offer raises to some educators in return for giving up tenure protection.

The lawsuit, filed in Guilford County Superior Court, calls unconstitutional the General Assembly’s elimination by 2018 of career status for teachers, commonly called tenure. The lawsuit also asks for relief from the requirement that districts ask 25 percent of their teachers to give up their tenure rights by June 30, 2014 in return for getting four-year contracts with $500-a-year raises.

The lawsuit contends that the legislature is forcing districts to “make ad hoc, arbitrary, and/or subjective decisions” about which teachers are eligible for the contracts.

The lawsuit argues that relief is needed because of a letter from Special Counsel Gerry F. Cohen of the North Carolina General Assembly’s Legislative Services Office that warned that failure to comply with the new contract requirements could subject school board members to criminal prosecution.

Durham school board Chairwoman Heidi Carter and vice chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown both have said the new 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 when the Durham school board voted March 5 to join the suit. “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.”

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