Susan

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Teacher tenure eliminated

Published 8:32am Thursday, July 25, 2013

RALEIGH – With members of the NC General Assembly tentatively approving a $20.6 billion state budget on Tuesday, it didn’t take long for battle lines to be drawn before the ink was dry on the much-debated document.

Of particular interest in the newly crafted budget is the impact on public schools, particularly the loss of $120 million to fund teacher assistant positions statewide. That may result in the loss of nearly 4,000 jobs.

One of the biggest “talking points” is teacher tenure. While there is $10.2 million in the second year to fund annual pay raises for the most effective teachers, the budget eliminates guaranteed lifetime employment for teachers by replacing the outdated tenure system and employing teachers through contracts that are renewed based on job performance.

That portion of the budget sparked various reactions from educational leaders in the Roanoke-Chowan area.

“I think if this passes it will be very difficult to get high quality teachers in Bertie County, or anywhere in North Carolina for that matter,” said Bertie County Schools Superintendent Elaine White.

“Tenure is one of the securities that teachers have,” White went on to add. “If that is taken away you’ve removed one of the best incentives education could have.”

As for conservatives who claim the existing process of granting tenure for teachers is inadequate, White responded, “I would hope that our evaluation system in place enables us to weed out poor teachers before tenure is granted. Tenure is granted to those (teachers) who do a good job and those are the only ones to whom it should be granted.

“I would hope that the hue and cry from the community, parents, and other general stake-holders in the state system would be enough to defeat this,” she concluded.

When the News-Herald contacted Northampton County Public Schools, Hans Lassiter, the schools’ chief administrative officer, responded by saying, “When children are served by a consistent cadre of teachers they do well in school, when you’ve got constant turnover they don’t. “

Lassiter went on to add, “The idea is to keep a motivated and engaged teacher. The concern that the conservatives brought to the table, sir, was that once some educators got career status they rested on their laurels and they stopped working hard and they stopped doing those things that made them such an effective and ambitious teacher before they got that career status.

“We want to keep these teachers hungry, we want to keep them on their toes, so that they can be the effective educator they were before they got tenure,” he said.

Lassiter closed with this remark, “We have some concerns on the one hand, yet on the other we do understand the intent behind the legislation; we’re just kind of anxious and eager to see what the long-term implications will be.”

Dr. Michael Perry, Superintendent of Hertford County Public Schools remarked, “The good thing is that (in the short term) they did not take tenure from those that have it. Young teachers just coming into the profession really won’t understand that.”

Perry added, “We really do want safeguards in place so we really won’t have to re-visit all the reasons that tenure came in the first place.

“Most teachers are of the mindset that if they do the right things in the classroom that they will be rewarded, so I’m hoping that it will work out,” he went on to point out.

“Our focus is that we are giving new teachers the support they need so they can become strong veteran teachers,” he said. “So within Hertford County Schools I think we have a pretty strong new teacher support group because that is what the new teachers are going to need.”

He ended by saying, “In all our conversations we’ve had it’s always been about phasing (the new contracts available in 2018) in, so I’m not sure what will happen in 2018.”

In Raleigh, Republican leaders in the General Assembly defended their actions.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard Democrats fight to deny tax relief for working families, impede our efforts to attract new jobs, reject meaningful improvements to public education and resume the same wasteful spending that led to a multi-billion deficit when they last controlled state government. In spite of their efforts, I’m proud the Senate was able to pass a budget that funds core priorities, strengthens our schools and makes smart investments in our future,” remarked Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).

“Tuesday’s vote builds on the progress we have made over the last two years by reducing the tax burden on North Carolinians and utilizing taxpayer dollars more efficiently and effectively,” said House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg). “The vote also makes history by providing compensation to the living victims of the state-sponsored eugenics program.  This budget is a historic step in the right direction for North Carolina.”

The new state budget invests in core services, streamlines state government, strengthens public education and grows North Carolina’s economy.  It safeguards North Carolina’s long-term fiscal health and offers close to a 2.5 percent increase in overall spending while cutting taxes for all North Carolinians.  It accomplishes this while including over $1.5 billion in additional state dollars to fund out-of-control, unexpected costs in Medicaid.

Other key points in the new budget for education include:

Fully funds enrollment growth in K-12, community colleges and the university system.

Adds $23.6 million to continue funding the Excellent Public Schools Act, which will strengthen student literacy, improve graduation rates and increase accountability.

Provides funding to implement critical school safety measures, such as resource officers, and expand the use of technology and innovation in schools.

Eliminates the K-12 flex cut for local school districts, implemented by Democrats under former Gov. Bev Perdue, to make the education budget process fully transparent.

Restores $33 million in recurring state funds to the community colleges.

In Health and Human Services:

Provides over $1.5 billion in additional state dollars to fund massive cost overruns in Medicaid.

Includes a special provision to allow the executive branch to develop a comprehensive plan for Medicaid reform over the next several months. This action is the first step necessary for our state to bring about meaningful change to Medicaid.

Provides support to our state’s mentally ill and developmentally disabled by appropriating $4.6 million in the form of temporary, short-term assistance for individuals living in group homes.

Allocates $12.4 million in education lottery funds for an additional 2,500 Pre-K slots.

Establishes regional rates for payment of hospital inpatient services to eliminate the wide, and often unfair, disparities in how hospitals are paid for the same service.

In Transportation:

Supports the governor’s vision for overhauling the North Carolina Highway Trust Fund, which consolidates various funding streams to prioritize and accelerate transportation infrastructure projects at the state, regional and local level by an estimated 35 percent over the next ten years.

Continues efforts to remove politics from transportation decision-making by eliminating named projects from statute, including previously mandated toll projects and the off-the-top gap funds, and mandates a data-driven prioritization process that includes local input to select future transportation investments.

Provides funding for targeted maintenance needs, focusing on improving, repairing and replacing structurally deficient bridges and roadway resurfacing.

In Economic Development, Agriculture and the Environment:

Launches an accountable new Rural Economic Development Division within the state Department of Commerce – led by a new Assistant Secretary – with a focus on improving rural services and addressing rural needs.

Invests in a new Rural Infrastructure Authority, a streamlined and efficient program where our rural communities can get the support and resources they need without regard to political connections.

Maintains funding to spur clean water initiatives and improve water and sewer infrastructure.

Allocates $1 million in 2013-14 for BRAC to protect and expand our state’s military bases and economy.

Allocates $1.25 million for an expansion of shale gas sector development.

In Justice and Public Safety:

Restores funding for 69 trooper positions within the State Highway Patrol and provides increased funding for needed fuel, equipment and training.

Adds 22 magistrates and 175 probation and parole officers across the state to ensure cases are processed smoothly and criminal offenders are supervised and complying with the law.

Elsewhere:

Fulfills an obligation to state employees by fully funding the state retirement system and state health plan and providing five bonus leave days for state employees.

Ensures budgeting certainty for cities, counties and towns by providing localities with some transitional hold harmless funds.

Sets aside approximately $230 million for the rainy day fund to protect against future shortfalls, bringing the total to approximately $650 million.

  1. Hears-two-ewe

    Tenure was originally used at the college/university level as a way of safeguarding academic freedom for educators delving into ground-breaking, outside-the-box ideas or research. It was meant to remove the fear of retaliation for pioneering original thinking, writing and science that falls outside the limits of conventional wisdom and to provide a guarantee that professors would be able to continue their theorizing and researching well into their senior years.

    Public school teachers have no such risks, with or without tenure, because their role is to engender fundamental learning from well-established knowledge. There is little creativity involved; except, perhaps, in the techniques used to impart that knowledge. There is even less room for theory that falls outside the confines of the required curriculum.

    Absent the actual justification for tenure, it becomes only a guarantee of full time employment and a taxpayer provided lifetime pension, both of which should be predicated on the employee’s satisfactory performance and longevity, not on a legislated guarantee.

    Tenure at the secondary and primary school levels is an impediment for administrators attempting to upgrade their faculty by replacing under achieving teachers. In many instances they can’t do it, because of tenure.

    There is no more rationale for tenure in the schools than there is in retail stores. Can you imagine the quality of service that would result if a great many of the cashiers and clerks couldn’t be fired?

    This thinking flies in the face of those who put teachers on a higher pedestal than cashiers and clerks, but from personal observation, that’s a fallacy. While idealistic service must be admitted as playing a role, one of the main motivators in job performance is, for all of us, fear of losing that job. When that fear is eliminated, job performance reliably suffers.

    There’s little wonder that public school teachers are so hot under the collar about efforts to hold them accountable. Accountability is a concept that has been minimized during their careers, and the thought of being judged by job performance scares them mightily.

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