Five of six members of the Richmond County Board of Education’s voted 5-1 on March 4 to comply with the new state law that eliminates tenure and career status for teachers who already have it.
The new law requires school boards to offer contracts and raises to 25 percent of eligible teachers. Teachers who accept four-year contracts would give up tenure in exchange for yearly $500 pay increases, and the law ends tenure for all teachers in 2018.
From the comments from board members as reported in the March 5 edition of The Daily Journal, such a vote was a mere formality. Only board member Joe Richardson voted against the measure.
As staff writer Matt Harrelson reported, board member Pam Easterling summed up the consensus by noting, “it’s not that we don’t want teachers to have career status, but we also have to do what we’re told.”
A vote is a very powerful tool that can be used by elected officeholders to send a message. This vote was such an opportunity.T he consensus at the meeting seemed to be that a majority of board members opposed the new law. Then why cast a vote in favor of it, even if, or especially if, it’s a mere formality?
There’s no doubt local district officials will comply with state law regardless of the outcome of a vote. But a dissenting vote against Senate Bill 402 would have sent a clear message to Raleigh that what lawmakers did in last year’s legislative session isn’t supported or appreciated here.
Richardson, who voted against it, said he did so simply because he opposes the law. That’s as good a reason as any to cast such a vote.
Had the vote gone the other way, the local board hardly would have been the first, or only, to send such a message to state lawmakers. The Fayetteville Observer reported Wednesday that Cumberland County was the latest school board to formally oppose the measure; members there voted unanimously to urge the law’s repeal. More than a dozen other districts across the state have passed similar resolutions.
The law is being challenged in court. It could be reconsidered during the legislative session in May. The issue, for now, is about the vote. While a powerful tool, a vote also is a matter of permanent record that can be used for, or against, those in office come election time.