Gov. Chris Christie has yet to sign the hard-fought teacher tenure reform bill that sits on his desk, but the state's largest teachers union says he's already claiming all the credit for historic change.
As I've said before: when this whole jihad against tenure started, Chris Christie was talking about eliminating collective bargaining for renewable five-year contracts. He and B4K wanted the Merit Pay Fairy to rule over our schools. They wanted "mutual consent" for placement, effectively allowing principals to run their schools like serfdoms. They wanted to get rid of third-party review of tenure cases, seniority in layoff decisions, and salary guides."He's taking full credit for it when in fact this bill doesn't reflect what he wanted to do," said Steve Wollmer, spokesman for the New Jersey Teachers Association. "He wanted to basically eliminate all due process laws for teachers. What's the old saying? When you're being run out of town you pretend you're leading a parade." [emphasis mine]
They didn't get any of those things. Instead, they got an expedited tenure process and a mentoring year; two things the NJEA wanted in their proposal.
The big question left is the use of standardized tests in evaluations. I think there's a good chance that issue will be settled in the courts when the first high-stakes decisions are made on the basis of those tests. Almost certainly, teachers will win those cases. It would be nice to avoid this scenario by making some smart legislation now; NJEA still has a fight ahead of it.
Look, I've had my moments of doubt with the unions. I think Randi Weingarten, president of AFT, should be walking away from odious nonsense like Andrew Cuomo's education panel that doesn't have one working teacher on it (but two folks representing the interests of Citigroup). I have grave doubts about NJEA's involvement with the Urban Hope Act, although they did get rid of a lot of really bad stuff in the bill.
This is a long war and we have many more battles to go. I have no doubt Christie is going to use the tenure bill to make a big stink about seniority: he's probably doing focus group testing right now to figure out how best to play this whole thing to his advantage. And the upcoming fight over local control is going to be a doozy; the union can't afford to sit that out. We teachers need to let our unions know we want them engaged in this battle - and that we will engage with them.
But NJEA is right to point out what they've won in this particular fight, and they deserve credit for their win. It's important for everyone to see that reforminess, far from being inevitable, is built on phony "research" and little public support. It can be stopped, if we keep pushing back and working together.