August 7th, 2012
02:41 PM ET

N.J. Gov. Christie signs bipartisan reform of nation’s oldest teacher tenure law

by John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - New Jersey updated its teacher tenure law on Monday. New Jersey's law was the nation's oldest statewide tenure law, enacted in 1909.

The new law, signed by Gov. Chris Christie, means that New Jersey will be able to remove ineffective teachers, even ones who have earned tenure. The law still provides for tenure, but after four years of teaching instead of the current three.

Tenure laws generally provide teachers with due process rights before dismissal, but many critics of the practice say that it makes it unnecessarily difficult to fire bad teachers.

Under the new law, teachers and administrators could lose their tenure if they have two consecutive years of ineffective ratings. While test scores can be a factor in determining a teacher's effectiveness in the state, tenure will not be at risk unless the district uses additional criteria. According to the new law, school district supervisors, not outside personnel, must conduct the teacher evaluations that help determine effectiveness.

The new process for assessing these charges involves binding arbitration hearings instead of New Jersey court proceedings. A Paterson, New Jersey school official estimated that firing a tenured teacher under the previous system would take about two to five years.

The new process, according to the governor’s office, will take a maximum of 105 days.

Groups that traditionally have been at odds worked together to craft and pass the bill sponsored by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Not a single member of New Jersey’s bicameral legislature voted against it.

Not only did the teachers' union support the bill, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) said on its web site that the union helped write the new law.

Gov. Christie thanked the NJEA, the American Federation of Teachers and the New Jersey School Board Association, saying, "this was not going to get done without their input, their support, and their help....It's not everything they wanted to have happen, not everything I wanted to have happen...but it is a very significant piece of legislation."

NJEA president Barbara Keshishian says the new law saves money and shortens the time it takes to fire an ineffective teacher, while maintaining teachers' due process rights.

“NJEA brought that proposal to the table, and we were pleased that stakeholders gave it serious consideration and ultimately, their support,” Keshishian said.

A press release from Christie's office outlined some future education reforms the governor would like to see, including an end to the "Last In, First Out" (LIFO) practice, which protects senior teachers from layoffs. The NJEA dropped its objections to the tenure bill when wording to eliminate LIFO was removed from the legislation.

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Filed under: Issues • Legal issues • Policy • teacher unions • Teachers
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. quality post

    hello!,I love your writing so much! proportion we keep up a correspondence more about your post on AOL? I require a specialist in this house to resolve my problem. May be that is you! Taking a look ahead to look you.

    August 13, 2012 at 3:42 am |
  2. Bill

    The bill sounds practical and generally corrects most problems other than: The method of rewarding those that deserves such reward. By giving the deserving teachers a increase in salary, the increase becomes the basis for the following years salary. However rewarding by annual bonus, the bonus terminates annually.
    Annual bonus's creates constant incentive for all to perform beyond normal expectancy. It should be noted the bonus should NOT be rewarded around Christmas, since it will be depended upon and very disappointing to those who had received the bonus the previous year and were not rewarded the present year resulting in discouragement.

    August 10, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  3. John

    Why are we blaming teachers for everything? In all the countries in the world, kids are held responsible for their own grades? Why is all the blame on the teachers? This is not logical.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  4. Allison (teacher)

    New Jersey used to have one of the best public school systems in America. Now, we have this big buffoon shouting down teachers and demonizing them. He just wants to privatize schools and turn them over to his friends to make a profit. Wake up New Jersey, and throw this guy out. He is destroying education in New Jersey. Let's get rid of him!

    August 9, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Dan McConnell

      let me play devils advocate:

      Look, with all due respect, I don't give a %^$ what you think and teachers need to step up and undo the damage they've done to our economy. My rich friends and I have decided that the best possible way to make my kids more safe and secure in expensive private schools is to make teachers pay, and public schools suffer. That's called shared sacrifice! You think it's fun driving by poor people on the way to the airport in a limo? Get a clue, idiots. I'm the boss, politics is a lock when you shill for the top 1%, and I'll tell you now-vote your hearts out, cuz it doesn't really matter and it's non of your ^&*(* business.

      Thank you, and see you at the next press conference, or on FOX news!

      August 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  5. kdp

    I have been teaching in higher ed for 24 years, and I support broad reforms. Not everyone who lands a job in teaching is good at it, and there is no question that some really slack off after a few years. It's high time for change...but we cannot just hold the k-12 teachers' feet to the fire. What about administrators? College profs? Parents? Students? It's nice to see some collaboration in NJ. We can, and must, do a lot better.

    August 8, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  6. Barbara

    Of course, "bad teachers" are responsible for all of our problems not bankers and politicians. What a bunch of bs

    August 8, 2012 at 2:41 am |
    • SayWhat?

      Did I read the same story as you?

      August 8, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • Nin

      Or bad parents...

      August 8, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  7. Mets Fan

    This doesn't apply to college professors. Why?

    August 7, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • SayWhat?

      Most colleges are privately run, that's why.

      August 8, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  8. spent

    As a retired teacher from Ca. this is something that should be practiced nation wide. While doing this there needs to be something done with parent's of whom send their child to school that creates problems, does not do "the work" and ditch school. It is just not the teacher, and there are plenty of administrator's that need a closer look as far as efficiency is concerned.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  9. Mark

    Who will monitor the District Superintendents when it comes to fair and equitable evaluations? One of the largest school districts in New Jersey is filled with favoritism, political connections, and bullying that borders on criminal activity. I will take a "wait and see" stance on this one. This upcoming school year should be very interesting. I have witnessed beginning teachers who were assigned mentors on paper , but were never in the classroom . Yet were paid for services not rendered. Teacher's contract was given a poor evaluation and contact not renewed. Without tenure there is no "real" legal recourse.

    August 7, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  10. Al Shret

    Very good step for N.J. The Union there seems to have a better sense of reality than the Teachers Union here in Chicago. Next up is to see if the parents in NJ will step up and be held accountable for their kids' (i.e. attendance, behavior, and not blaming teachers for everything).

    August 7, 2012 at 6:50 pm |