Caldwell schools scuttle controversial teacher pay plan

May. 20, 2014 @ 07:38 AM

Caldwell County's school superintendent is happy to shelve plans to comply with a state law, passed last year, requiring offers of four-year contracts with pay raises to only 25 percent of teachers.

The law, also known as the 25 percent plan, “will not see the light of day again” after a ruling last week by Judge Robert H. Hobgood of Guilford Superior Court that the law is unconstitutional, Superintendent Steve Stone said.

“We have scuttled ours,” Stone said with a grin. “I think it’s a win-win for teachers and the teaching profession.”

Hobgood said in his ruling Friday that veteran teachers have an established right to a layer of review beyond school administrators when they face firing. His ruling also said the law passed by Republican lawmakers last year violates constitutional rights that protect contracts and prevent governments from taking a person's property.

For more than 40 years, North Carolina law has said veteran teachers cannot be fired or demoted except for reasons that include poor performance, immorality and insubordination. Teachers earning career status after at least four years in a school district also have the right to a hearing where they can challenge their firing or demotion.

Last summer, Republican lawmakers voted to phase out those protections, arguing it would promote sharper classroom performance. Veteran teachers were due to lose their tenure protections in 2018, but the raises that would have been offered to 25 percent of teachers would have carried a requirement for those teachers to give up their tenure protections to get the raises.

Hobgood's ruling did not include teachers who have not yet gained tenure, so new teachers can be hired without a claim to tenure rights.

State Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, promised that the ruling will be appealed, but Stone said the ruling means school systems can immediately halt their planning and decision-making to select 25 percent of their educators for the four-year contract offer.

Stone, like other critics of the law, has always said that picking out 25 percent of the county’s teachers for raises would cause morale problems.

Berger criticized the ruling in a prepared statement, saying that “a single Wake County judge suppressed the will of voters statewide.” That statement drew Stone's criticism as well.

“I cannot imagine how one man who is president of the Senate can thwart the will of the Constitution. He’s not worried about teachers. He should read the Constitution,” Stone said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.