Clearing the way on tenure fight

Mar. 01, 2014 @ 03:51 PM

At first blush, it may seem the Durham Public Schools Board of Education is being overly cautious in wading into the fight over teacher tenure. Guilford has forged ahead, with strong words and the promise of a legal fight.
But these are uncharted waters that are going to require care in navigating, and Durham’s board is moving at a deliberative speed to ensure its members are sure of each move.
Durham, New Hanover and Guilford counties have been out in front in raising concerns about the state legislature’s decision last summer to get rid of tenure for public school teachers. All three counties’ school boards have come out opposing the measure.
Guilford has gone a step further, with its board saying the law is unconstitutional and it will not comply. Guilford is planning to fight it out in the courts, hoping to get the law invalidated so it will not be legally liable for noncompliance.
That’s not the only legal challenge the law is facing. The North Carolina Association of Educators filed suit in December.
So where is Durham? Laying the thoughtful, deliberative groundwork in how best to address undoing a law it doesn’t believe in.
Board Chairwoman Heidi Carter received authorization unanimously on Thursday from her fellow board members to assist NCAE’s lawyer.  The board also last week voted to allow attorney Ken Soo to explore with the Guilford County Board of Education whether it would be a good idea for Durham to join any lawsuit that might be filed.
It’s clear the courts are going to decide whether the law stands. Durham is preparing for how best to be a party to what is going to happen, and we are supportive of that.
It’s a law that needs to be undone. The board’s actions last week cleared the way for action and is “our way of showing our strongest support for our teachers who work so hard for us,” Carter said Thursday.
There’s no eloquent way to put it: Abolishing tenure and pitting teachers against each other for retention is a bad and unnecessary law. This law isn’t going to weed out the dead wood, or as Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis described it, end a system that “fosters mediocrity and discourages excellence.”
Instead, it’s going to further along the dismantling of public education by driving away the best.
We hope the school board continues to explore ways to deal with the law and that the groundswell of support against it continues to grow as a long and bruising fight in the courtroom looms.