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Teacher tenure rules are in state of flux across the nation

BY newsdesk  March 29, 2014 at 1:37 PM EDT

NewsHour Weekend’s piece on a lawsuit filed by nine California students against the teacher tenure system tells the story of just one battle in a war being waged across the country.

More than a dozen states have changed their tenure laws in the last few years. The Education Commission of the States found that as of 2011, 18 state legislatures had modified their tenure laws and that trend continues.

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In 2011 Florida eliminated continuing contracts for teachers. South Dakota got rid of tenure for new hires but will grandfather those hired until 2016 into the previous tenure system. Idaho gave school districts the option of forgoing  tenure, but voters overturned that decision in a referendum.

Today, the Education Commission of the states keeps a database on its website to inform teachers, parents, administrators and legislators of changes and the status of related lawsuits.

Louisiana and North Carolina are cases in point. In 2012 Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal spearheaded a sweeping reform to the state education system which included ending teacher tenure.

That section of the law has twice been found unconstitutional in court, most recently in February 2014.

It is clear that (the law) does not provide for a full and fair or ‘elaborate’ post-termination due process hearing before a credible, objective, independent, hearing body,” according to Judge Benjamin Jones’ ruling in the case of Monroe City School Board vs. DeAnne Williams.

Governor Jindal plans on appealing the ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

In 2013 the North Carolina state legislature approved a set of changes to public education rules, including ending teacher tenure, removing a salary increase tied to earning a master’s degree and eliminating caps on class sizes.

North Carolina teachers have filed two lawsuits in an effort to roll back the changes. The Durham school district recently joined 11 other North Carolina school districts in passing resolutions asking for a repeal of the law.

Pro/Con has put together a robust compendium on the issue designed for use in classrooms.

Additional context: 

Watch the report on the California student’s lawsuit:

PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.