The New Jersey School Boards Association which, for over 35 years, has sought the elimination of the current system of lifetime tenure, this week called the TEACH for New Jersey Act a step toward improved accountability by linking effective performance with tenure retention. At the same time, the Association noted its disappointment that, in its latest version, S-1455 (Ruiz) would no longer end the seniority practice of “last in, first out” when a school district finds it necessary to reduce the size of its staff.
S-1455 was unanimously approved on Monday by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, and is now poised for a vote before the full Senate.
“This legislation makes the critical step of linking tenure retention to effective teaching performance,” said Marie S. Bilik, NJSBA executive director. “The job protections granted through lifetime tenure can present a major obstacle to increased accountability and educational improvement.
“The bill also links tenure retention to the establishment of a fair and consistent evaluation process, substantially based on measures of student achievement. That is a critical factor in gaining the confidence of our teachers and their supervisors.”
Unlike the earlier version of the bill, the revised version of S-1455 approved on Monday does not call for “mutual consent;” i.e., placing the hiring authority with the school principal.
Seniority Not Addressed Bilik expressed NJSBA’s disappointment that the latest version of the bill would not end the current requirement that layoffs be based exclusively on length of service, with no consideration of performance.
“School leaders need the ability to retain the best-performing teachers when staffing reductions become necessary,” she said. “The current ‘last in, first out’ requirement does not always result in the best person being retained.”
Arbitration, Timelines In comments submitted to the committee on Monday, NJSBA also expressed concerns about S-1455’s provisions concerning the use of arbitrators in tenure hearings and timelines for tenure cases.
“S-1455 would move tenure hearings from the Office of Administrative Law to binding arbitration.The change is designed to reduce the time and cost of tenure cases. However, we have concerns that the selection process outlined in this bill is weighted toward unions and that the timelines set would not produce the desired cost-efficiencies,” states the Association.
“NJSBA proposes that, for every tenure case, there be a balanced pool of management- and union-identified arbitrators from which to choose.In addition, it recommends that, at the very least, the timelines guiding tenure cases, including restoration of salary, be based on calendar days, rather than ‘business days,’ as currently stated. Use of business days does not serve to reduce the length of the tenure hearing process.”
“We look forward to participating in discussion with Senator Ruiz and the legislative leadership about changes to this important bill,” Bilik concluded.