TRENTON, June 25, 2012—The tenure legislation approved by the Assembly today does not encompass the meaningful reforms desired by the New Jersey School Boards Association and needed in our schools, the organization’s executive director said.
NJSBA supports aspects of the bill, S-1455 (Ruiz), that potentially could reduce the time and cost of tenure hearings. It also views positively the bill’s emphasis on teacher evaluation and the additional year required before a school employee can initially earn tenure. However, critical reform elements are missing, according to the Association’s executive director.
Seniority “During the legislative process, lawmakers removed a provision that would have ended the use of seniority, or ‘last in-first out,’ as the sole criterion when determining retention during staff reductions,” said Marie S. Bilik, NJSBA executive director. “School leaders need to consider a teacher’s job performance when recommending who would retain a position. They don’t have the authority to do that now, and they still won’t have it under the current version of S-1455.
“NJSBA will continue to fight for elimination of ‘last in-first out,’” she said.
Tenure Process For more than 35 years, NJSBA has sought the elimination of the current lifetime tenure system. The latest version of S-1455 would retain the lifetime tenure system. However, it would require a superintendent to recommend the filing of tenure charges after consecutive annual evaluation ratings of ineffective. The ratings would be based upon an evaluation process approved by the commissioner of education.
To expedite the tenure process, S-1455 would require that tenure charges go to binding arbitration, with strict timelines for a decision, rather than to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing.
“Making the current process more efficient is worthwhile, but it does not represent the substantial reform we need to ensure quality instruction,” said Bilik.“Eliminating ‘last in-first out’ and replacing lifetime tenure with a renewable system remain essential goals for our Association.”
Arbitrator Pool NJSBA also has reservations about the composition of the pool from which the commissioner of education would randomly select an arbitrator to hear a tenure case under S-1455. In its current version, the legislation would create a pool of 25 arbitrators, with nine designated by NJSBA, and 16 by employee unions—the NJEA (8), the American Federation of Teachers (3) and the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (5).
Under this structure, there is almost a two-out-of-three chance that a union-identified arbitrator will hear a tenure case, according to NJSBA. The Association has proposed an amendment requiring that, for every tenure case, there be a balanced pool of management- and union-identified arbitrators from which to choose.
NJSBA-Supported Amendments The latest version of S-1455 retains two amendments that had previously been incorporated as the result of NJSBA efforts. One requires the state, and not local school districts, to pay for all costs associated with the legislation. (In the new version of the bill this provision would also extend to the cost of arbitrating tenure cases.) The second amendment, which was placed in an earlier version and remains in the latest bill, states that, “A school district’s evaluation rubric approved by the commissioner … shall not be subject to collective negotiations.”
The current version of S-1455 approved today by the Assembly will return to the Senate for a vote to concur with the Assembly Budget Committee’s June 22nd amendments.
The New Jersey School Boards Association is a federation of 586 local boards of education and includes more than 75 charter school associate members. NJSBA provides training, advocacy and support to advance public education and promote the achievement of all students through effective governance.