One of the first items that the GOP controlled General Assembly attempted to pass in the early part of the last decade was the removal of due-process right for all teachers. Commonly called “tenure,” due process rights are erroneously linked to the practice that colleges use to award “tenure” to professors. Actually, they really are not the same.
What due-process means is that a teacher has the right to appeal and defend himself / herself when an administrator seeks to terminate employment or challenge what a teacher has done in class based on third-person accounts. It means that a teacher cannot be fired on the spot for something that is not considered an egregious offense.
Of course, if a teacher does something totally against the law like inappropriate relations with students, violence, etc., then due-process rights do not really apply. But a new principal in a school does not have the right to just clean house because of right-to-work and “at will” laws. Teachers with due process rights cannot just be dismissed with the swish of a wand.
Thanks to NCAE and some courageous teachers like a friend in my district, the courts decided that it would be a breach of contract for veteran teachers who had already obtained career-status. But that did not cover newer teachers who will not have the chance to gain career status and receive due process rights.
Just look at some of the bills that have been introduced and actions taken to “control” what people who are not in classrooms think is being taught in classrooms.
There is even a bill that is trying to force teachers to give an acceptable reason for taking a personal day.
What also gets lost in the conversation with the public is that due-process rights and career-status are protective measures for students and schools. Teachers need to know that they can speak up against harsh conditions or bad policies without repercussions. Teachers who are not protected by due-process will not be as willing to speak out because of fear.
Due-process removal actually weakens the ability of the teaching force in NC to speak up and advocate a little each year as veteran teachers retire and are replaced by new teachers who do not receive those rights.
Simply put, veteran teachers’ records prove their effectiveness or they would not have gotten continuing licenses. Teachers with due-process rights actually work to advocate for schools and students without fear of sudden reprisal.
They are that important! Their removal was a beginning step in a patient, scripted, and ALEC-allying plan that systematically tries to weaken a profession whose foundation is advocating for public schools.