Senate Budget Committee to vote on key ESP rights bills

Published on Thursday, February 21, 2013

Updated Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013
Breaking: NJEA’s two ESP rights bills, S-1161 and S-2163, will be heard by the Senate Budget Committee on Monday, March 4. These bills, which passed out of the Senate Education Committee on February 21, have been second referenced to the Senate’s budget committee—a common practice in the legislative process.

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ESP bills headed for Senate hearing

Two bills that bolster the rights of Educational Support Professionals and increase stability in public schools were released from the Senate Education Committee earlier today.

S-2163 (Lesniak), which extends basic due process rights to Educational Support Professionals who do not currently have that protection, passed 3-1.  A companion bill, A-3696 (Mosquera), still awaits a hearing in the Assembly Education Committee.

S-1191 (Allen/Lesniak), which provides school employees with certain rights when boards of education are considering subcontracting, passed 4-1.  A companion bill, A-3627 (Conaway), was passed unanimously by the Assembly Education Committee last week.  The bills now await votes by the full membership of both houses.

NJEA Executive Director Vince Giordano and NJEA member Donna O’Malley testified in support of S-2163.   Giordano noted that the bill “brings a degree of equity and fairness to the handling of school employee disciplinary matters.”

“If this legislation is enacted, all school employees, regardless of title, will have a basic right to due process and binding arbitration,” Giordano told the Committee.  “This is a right that their certificated colleagues, and nearly all other public employees in the State of New Jersey, already enjoy.”

O’Malley, a school secretary in Tabernacle, told the committee the current state of the law is unfair.  “As a school secretary, I have due process rights under New Jersey statute.  Unfortunately, most of my support professional colleagues do not enjoy the same rights.”

She also explained why due process matters to school employees.  “In my career, I’ve never needed to exercise my due process rights,” she told the Committee.  “But knowing I have those rights gives me the confidence to come to work every day and do my job well and without fear, knowing that I have protection against unfair treatment. It’s a basic protection that every school employee should have.”

Sen. James Beach (D-Camden) took her message to heart. “It is clear to me from Donna O’Malley’s testimony that colleagues working together in the same building should have the same right to due process,” he said.  “As a former educator, I am proud to support a pro-labor bill seeking fair treatment of all educational support professionals.”

NJEA President Barbara Keshishian spoke in support of S-1191.  She told legislators that the bill “provides a common sense approach to balancing the needs of an employer and employees.”

“This bill does not prohibit a school district from entering into a subcontracting agreement,” noted Keshishian.  “It says that the employer cannot enter into a subcontracting agreement when an existing contract is in place.  Simply said, you cannot break the contract that the employer and employee have already agreed to.”

Senator Diane Allen (R-Burlington) agreed.  “I have heard from members for years about the importance of this bill.  The concept of breaking contracts is frightening and just plain wrong,” she said.  “We should trust the people who are given contracts and allow employees to discuss the possibility of subcontracting and find ways to make necessary changes.  It’s a matter of fairness.  It’s a matter of respect.”

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