I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tenure Confusion in NJ

I posted a summary of the two competing New Jersey tenure bills over at Blue Jersey earlier today. And the invaluable Deciminyan posted video of today's testimony a few posts above mine.

I was actually feeling a less pessimistic about the ways things are going - but still with some substantial reservations - until I read this post over at Diane Ravich's blog. A reader of Ravitch's reports that tenure can still be revoked with an appeal to a third party.

I don't think that's right... but then I realized that I'm probably reading a different version of the bill than Ravitch's source. The bill on the NJ Legislature's site is the old bill from this winter. But I've been working from the latest revision, posted at NJSpotlight.

According to this report from the Star-Ledger's Jeanette Rundquist, NJEA is supporting the current Ruiz bill. I can't believe they are talking about the old version: that one still bypasses using seniority in layoff decisions, something the union was dead set against. Hell, even Ruiz has admitted she's letting that fight go.

So I think what we might have here is a case of too many versions of the bill floating around. And maybe a little imprecise reporting as well:
The idea of making tenure tougher for New Jersey teachers to get and easier for them to lose took a big leap forward on Monday when a state Senate committee advanced a bill and Gov. Chris Christie endorsed it.

Monday's action by the Senate's budget committee means that bills on the issue have won committee approval in both chambers of the state's Legislature in the past five days — and they have done so with the support of the state's education-advocacy cottage industry.
The Senate bill was put together by Sen. Teresa Ruiz, a Newark Democrat who worked out the details with groups representing interests from middle-class schools to school boards to teachers and principals. 
A stream of those advocates, from officials with two teachers unions to a socially conservative group, urged passage of the bill in testimony before the state Senate's budget committee, which approved it unanimously. 
"After watching these disparate groups come up here in unanimity, I have a new assignment for you," Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat from Teaneck, told Ruiz. "We're going to send you to the Middle East to take on the peace process." [emphasis mine]
Ha! I love Senator Weinberg!

The problem is the bolded sentence. Yes, it will be tougher to earn tenure: four years instead of three, mentoring year, etc. But my reading of the latest version of the bill is not that anyone will "lose tenure"; it's that they will lose their job.

Once again: "tenure" is nothing more than a guarantee of due process. You could lose your job and still have tenure; you just lost your job because your employer demonstrated to a third party that you deserved to lose it.

And that's a good thing. I've said before that I think we ought to have more tenure hearings. The problem is when you keep the process bottled up inside the district; that's a recipe for disaster.

I'll be watching carefully and using my completely non-existent legal skills to parse whatever version of the bill comes out. Believe me, I still have my problems with the latest version I'm assuming is the correct one. But let me articulate those after I'm sure we have the right version in front of us.

Until then: don't let the Tenure Boogeyman keep you up tonight!

Yaarrrgghh! Do you spell my name with one "o" or two?

No comments: