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NC appeals court sides with veteran teachers in tenure fight

RALEIGH (AP) — The North Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled that lawmakers violated the Constitution in passing a law that would take away job protections for veteran teachers.

In an opinion Tuesday, the appeals court also said newer teachers couldn’t challenge part of the 2013 law preventing them from earning protected status in the future.

Legislators wanted to move away from a system in which teachers were protected from firing or demotion after earning “career status” following four years of probation. The law would have moved teachers into employment contracts of a specific number of years by 2018.

The teachers who challenged the law argued it violated constitutional rights protecting contracts and preventing governments from taking a person’s property.

Writing for the court, Judge Linda Stephens said that the career status protections provided in the teachers’ employment contracts “have been a fundamental part of the bargain that Plaintiffs and thousands of other teachers across this State accepted when they decided to defer the pursuit of potentially more lucrative professions, as well as the opportunity to work in states that offer better financial compensation to members of their own profession, in order to accept employment in our public schools.”

The appeals court’s 70-page opinion affirms an earlier ruling by Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood. Judge Chris Dillon wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, voting to uphold the 2013 law except for a portion that would give local school boards discretion over whether to hold a hearing before depriving a career teacher of his or her property interest in continued employment.

The case is N.C. Association of Educators v. The State of North Carolina.

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