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

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tenure Debate Heating Up in NJ

Yesterday was a turning point in the New Jersey tenure debate. The Assembly Education Committee passed the bill written by Assemblyman Diegnan. All the Republicans abstained; probably because they're waiting for Chris Christie to tell them whether or not they support the bill. Probably because he's meeting with his political cronies, weighing the political pros and cons of a veto.

On Monday, Senator Ruiz's bill comes before that chamber's Education Committee. I have yet to read the latest version, but the reports are she is not going after seniority, and she will call for putting tenure cases before third-parties, and not just school districts.

If that's the case, it's quite conceivable that the two bills could be reconciled, and also be acceptable to the NJEA. Bob Grundfest has been doing excellent work over at his blog on the bill, and opines:
I also welcome the provisions that speed the tenure charge process and move it to arbitration. That the New Jersey School Boards Association is concerned only with who gets to pick the arbitrators is a positive step that should be remedied easily.

My concerns center on who gets to decide if a teacher faces tenure charges after two ineffective evaluations. The bill says that a teacher may face them. What does that mean? Also, requiring a decision in a tenure case in 30 days might lead to rushed judgements. Evidence is not always so cooperative.

I am heartened by Senator Ruiz's reaction to what transpired today. She altered her bill to allow for more seniority rights, after initially wanting to end them.

The key to any tenure reform plan must be the continued due process protection that lies at its heart. Adjusting years or determining who hears a case amount to so much window dressing compared to the constitutional rights inherent in fair dismissal cases. Ruiz and Diegnan recognize this. The Governor doesn't.
Which really begs the question: what does Christie want?

He could veto the whole thing, and make his 2013 campaign Round II against the NJEA. Is anyone going to buy that?

Or he could sign it and take grudging credit: "It wasn't entirely what I wanted, but we only got it done because I pushed the issue so hard."

I'm not a very good pundit, so I won't venture a guess right now. But one thing's for sure:

No matter what happens, tenure "reform" will do very, very little to help New Jersey's kids. Once again:
New Jersey's best and worst schools have tenure; it is not the independent variable. Neither is the Merit Pay Fairy, or step guides, or charter schools, or "choice."

We ALL know what the real issue is. Tenure "reform" is nice, but it won't solve the real problem, will it?

10 comments:

mikedad97 said...

Duke - I can't tell you how much I appreciate the research and work you do.

What I can't figure out is when you find time to actually teach, be a husband/dad or practice!

My sense is you do all those thigns, too, so I guess the real question is: when do you sleep?

Thanks so much for doing this!

Best regards,
Mike

Duke said...

Ha! I haven't slept this week - not much...

You'll notice the blogging comes and goes in fits and starts. Yesterday, I had some free time, so...

Wish I could be more consistent. But, after 2 years, I've gotten much faster. And not sweating typos helps.

Thanks for the kind words. Keep reading!

darciecima said...

You know what I find endlessly fascinating? Shelley Skinner of B4K was at the Assembly hearing, tucked away in a corner scribbling away while others actually testified about the legislation.

Why doesn't B4K ever testify? Why don't they add something other than sound bites and manipulative ads? They have very little substance to add to the debate, yet they carry one of the biggest sticks. There is something really, really wrong with that.

Deb said...

Just so you know - Ruiz's tenure bill is going to be heard on Monday before the BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE - bill S1455. The hearing has a long list of bills but it can go by fast. It starts at 9:30am. I encourage people who have the time available to go and see what goes on - even if you do not decide to testify. But the truth is, we have lots of union reps, association reps, etc testify and we do not hear from the teachers. (Yes, I know it is because teachers are in the classroom - where these decision makers never go) But, if you have the chance, make your voice heard!

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