North Carolina Ends Teacher Tenure
By Adrienne Lu, Staff Writer
North Carolina has become the latest state to overhaul its teacher tenure rules, directing school administrators to offer four-year contracts to top performers but one- or two-year contracts to everybody else.
Previously, all North Carolina teachers with five years of experience were eligible for tenure, which granted them a right to due process before dismissal. Now, longer-term job security will be limited to the 25 percent of teachers who are ranked most effective, based on yet-to-be-determined criteria.
Republican lawmakers who pushed for the tenure changes said the old system allowed too many ineffective teachers to remain in classrooms.
“We need to move to a situation where we provide the best teachers the security of multi-year contracts” and provide principals the means to remove ineffective teachers from classrooms, Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican, told The News & Observer of Raleigh earlier this month.
But opponents fear the new rules will promote rapid teacher turnover.
“It’s going to create a revolving door for public educators in North Carolina,” said Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators.
The changes, part of a $20.6 billion budget that Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed Friday, adds North Carolina to a growing list of states that have ended or modified tenure for teachers.
Last year, Louisiana lawmakers adopted legislation making it much more difficult for teachers to get or keep tenure while South Dakota ended teacher tenure but grandfathered those who receive it before July 1, 2016. Opponents have sued to stop the Louisiana law on the grounds that it violates the state constitution’s requirement that laws only have a single purpose.
In 2011, Idaho’s legislature was the first to explicitly state that “No new employment contract between a school district and certificated employee shall result in the vesting of tenure, continued expectations of employment or property rights in an employment relationship,” according to the Education Commission of the States. In 2012, Idaho voters repealed the state's tenure reforms in a referendum.
In a 2010 survey, ECS found that Colorado, New Mexico and Florida have eliminated the term “tenure,” while other states have repealed tenure or streamlined the due process procedures.
Kathy Christie of ECS also pointed to other states that have made significant changes to tenure since the 2010 report:
- In Arizona, teachers who have tenure but are rated in the lowest performance category in an evaluation now are placed on probation, meaning they can be fired much more easily.
- In Virginia, new teachers are now on probation for five years instead of three.
- Connecticut made it easier for districts to decline to renew a teacher’s contract, and the state now considers evaluations in deciding whether to award tenure.
The new North Carolina budget also ends a 10 percent salary increase for teachers with master’s degrees, although those who already receive the pay bump will be grandfathered in.
The step is significant because teacher pay is already low in North Carolina. Ellis said neighboring states pay teachers four to six percent more than North Carolina, which is projected to rank 48th among the states in teacher pay next year, down from 26th 10 years ago.
“That’s devastating to the educators and the profession itself,” Ellis said. “It sends the message to people throughout the state of North Carolina that educators aren’t valued for what they do.”
A study by the Center for American Progress last year found that teachers were paid an extra $14.8 billion for master’s degrees in 2007-08, although some studies have found teachers with master’s degrees are no more effective, on average, than those without them.