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NJEA condemns Anderson's Newark plan

Steinhauer: “We will fight this plan at every turn”

Published on Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wendell SteinhauerAt tonight’s meeting of the Newark School Advisory Board, NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer strongly condemned Superintendent Cami Anderson's illegal plan to lay off up to 700 Newark teachers and replace them with 300 Teach for America candidates. In a highly unusual development, Anderson refused to attend the meeting.

Here is the full text of his comments:

“Good evening.  I am Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association.

“Laws regulate how we behave, and represent a collective agreement about what is, and what is not, acceptable.  They apply to everyone, including Superintendent Anderson.  They cannot be disregarded simply because she finds them to be inconvenient or an impediment to her plan to gut traditional public schools in Newark.

“New Jersey has had a teacher tenure law for over 100 years.  Less than 2 years ago, amid broad agreement that it needed to be improved, stakeholders came together to create a new law.  NJEA helped draft that law, and it was passed unanimously by Republicans and Democrats alike - and signed by Governor Christie, who lauded it as an important step forward.  It has been in effect since 2012.

“Despite what Superintendent Anderson said in her so-called “equivalency request” application to the Department of Education, that law has dramatically decreased both the time and cost of tenure hearings in New Jersey.  Despite what she said in her application, NJEA’s attorneys report the cost of dismissals under the new law to be a fraction of her claims.

“But while that new law streamlined the process for dismissing ineffective teachers, it explicitly maintained basic due process rights, which are designed to protect schools, students, and educators from the consequences of politically motivated firings – and  from the incompetence or malfeasance of district administrators.

“Now, if there are educators in Newark who are not capable of doing their jobs, the Superintendent has had an expedited but fair process for removing them since August of 2012.  If she has a crisis today, it is a crisis of her own making.  If she has failed to use the tenure law appropriately in all that time, then the question today is not whether 700 teachers should lose their jobs, but whether one superintendent should.

“Whether we are here today because of negligence, incompetence or because the Superintendent simply does not wish to be bound by the laws of this state, one thing is clear: anyone who cares about the integrity of public schools in New Jersey must unite in opposition to this unlawful abuse of power.

But Superintendent Anderson knows the law, and she knows it does not allow her to dismiss teachers simply because she feels like doing so.  Since she’s decided to make teachers the scapegoats for her failures, and the state’s failure over the last 20-plus years, she doesn’t want to be bothered with things like fairness or due process.

“Everyone knows she is trying to cover a budget shortfall which was created by the diversion of state funding to new charter schools.  NJEA therefore suggests a moratorium on the approval of new charters until the budget situation is resolved.

“We will not stand by while this superintendent uses her failure to act over the last 18 months as an excuse to bulldoze the rights of all teachers.  NJEA will fight this dishonest, illegal plan at every turn.

“We will stand alongside our NTU colleagues, and with the disenfranchised and disregarded members of the Newark community, to fight both this end-run around the law and the larger attack on Newark’s public schools embodied in the One Newark plan.

“We stand ready to work with anyone who wants to address the real problems in Newark.  We want better outcomes for students here, and in every district in New Jersey.  And we know truly PUBLIC education is the only real long-term solution. Thank you.”

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