NJEA President Barbara Keshishian today presented a research-based education reform plan – including a proposal to dramatically streamline the tenure dismissal process – designed to spur innovation and excellence in New Jersey’s public schools.
The plan, called “Growing the Garden State for All Students,” contains a number of reform concepts in three key areas:
Nurturing Successful Students – because students must always be the focus of every potential reform;
Maintaining a Quality Workforce – because quality teachers are the most important in-school contributor to student success; and
Ensuring Quality Schools – because every school should be a quality school.
In remarks to reporters, Keshishian said “our reforms take the view that professional educators should be involved in the development of reforms,” something that has been missing from the discussion of education reform in New Jersey recently.
“Too many so-called reforms are based on politics and sound bites – and not on sound research and proven practice,” said Keshishian. “We need to change that dynamic in New Jersey, and these proposals seek to do just that.”
A key element of the NJEA proposal is tenure reform. NJEA is proposing a significant overhaul of the current system to make it more efficient and less expensive while maintaining a fairness standard that protects both school employees and schools from undue political influence in employment decisions. Under the NJEA proposal – which would require legislative approval – teacher dismissal cases would be removed from lengthy court proceedings, which can take years to resolve at extremely high cost to all parties.
“Today, we are proposing to change the tenure law by having nationally certified arbitrators – not administrative law judges – decide dismissal cases,” Keshishian said. “This legislation would cover all school employees, as well as employees of county colleges and public four-year colleges. By taking the courts out of the equation, we believe the average case can be adjudicated in 60 to 90 days, and at a fraction of the cost.”
She continued, “This change in the tenure law deserves across-the-board, bipartisan support in the Legislature, because its fundamental elements enjoy strong public support, and the support of the professional educators who will be most affected by it. Our goal, as always, is to have an excellent teacher in every classroom, and this proposal will go a long way toward achieving it.”
Other parts of the proposal include commitments to better serve the needs of students in early grades, with a focus on quality preschool, good nutrition, and after-school care; the creation of a cadre of educational technology coaches to expand the use of technology in schools; a program of mentoring and support for newer teachers to stop the exodus of teachers within the first five years of employment; legislation to ensure that the savings from any concessions teachers make in negotiations be directed to the restoration of positions lost to budget cuts; a strong NJEA commitment to lend expertise, resources, and staff to help low-performing schools improve; a state-funded program to reward schools that succeed with grants to support teacher-driven reforms; and high standards for and diligent monitoring of public charter schools.
NJEA's Tenure Reform Proposal