NJEA President Barbara Keshishian testified to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee in support of S-1455, a tenure reform bill sponsored by Sen. Teresa Ruiz. The bill, which has been significantly revised from a version NJEA opposed earlier this year, accomplishes many of the objectives set out in NJEA’s own tenure reform proposal.
“Like the Assembly proposal, this bill accomplishes a number of important objectives,” Keshishian testified. “It lengthens the time to acquire tenure from three years to four years, and it requires better mentoring and evaluation in the first year to strengthen the induction process. Before granting tenure to anyone, a district must ensure that that person is functioning at a high level.”
Keshishian noted that while the bill raises the bar for obtaining tenure, it retains strong due process protections for those who earn it. “No tenured teacher should be fired on a whim, as the result of a personality conflict with an administrator, or for political or other inappropriate reasons. This bill ensures that before any tenured teacher is fired, he or she has the right to a hearing before a highly qualified and neutral third party arbitrator.”
Keshishian also noted the bill, as amended, preserves seniority rights for teachers. It also eliminates a provision, misleadingly called “mutual consent,” that would have undermined due process and would create situations where effective teachers could be fired without just cause.
S-1455 passed out of the committee unanimously. It joins A-3060, another tenure reform bill sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan and supported by NJEA last week. It now falls to leaders in the Assembly and Senate to craft a single approach to tenure reform.
“We are pleased that we were able to work with Senator Ruiz and Assemblyman Diegnan to ensure their bill reflect NJEA’s guiding principles for tenure reform,” stated Keshishian. “We will continue to work with them on finalizing the details, but these bills have come a long way.”
The bills are moving quickly, and it is possible that both houses will vote on a final version before the end of the month. NJEA will advise members of developments with tenure reform legislation as they emerge.