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Teachers face new choice on tenure

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Another legislative session, another troubing choice for North Carolina teachers.

On the heels of two court rulings that challenged a new tenure policy passed in 2013 by the N.C. General Assembly, the N.C. Senate now is considering a modified version – with much higher stakes.

N.C. Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger has proposed the largest pay increase in history for North Carolina teachers – most would receive at least an 11 percent raise, under his plan. But they would have to agree to give up tenure, as a condition. Any teacher who refuses to give up tenure would not receive a pay raise.

The proposal bothers us for a couple of reasons.

If Berger knows of so many lousy teachers in North Carolina schools, then why not deal with that issue on its own terms? Contrary to popular belief, tenure doesn’t guarantee a teacher a job for life. It means only that a teacher can request a hearing if he or she is dismissed. If a teacher isn’t performing up to standards, then surely, a hearing would reaffirm that.

Why does Berger want so badly to get rid of the hearing process?

The proposal also would find money for half of its $468 million price tag by eliminating teachers’ assistants in second and third grades. Teachers in those grades should know their workload would increase considerably under that plan. That reason alone might be enough to prompt them take the money and give up their right to a hearing upon dismissal.

Almost everyone in the state agrees that North Carolina teachers are poorly paid and underappreciated.

Can’t we offer them a better wage without taking away their only safeguard against an unfair dismissal?