Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey signed into law on Aug. 6 legislation that overhauls New Jersey’s century-old tenure laws, making it easier to fire poor educators and tying tenure more to teacher performance.
“This is a historic day for New Jersey and this new tenure law is an important step towards ensuring we have a great teacher in every classroom,” Christie said in a statement. “We are taking a huge leap forward in providing a quality education and real opportunity to every student in New Jersey.”
Arriving after two years of work and compromise including legislators and the state’s teachers’ unions, the reform bill will overhaul the oldest tenure law in the nation. The legislation, championed by state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, unanimously passed the Democrat-controlled legislature in June.
One key part of the bill is the longer process to achieving tenure: whereas teachers previously could get tenure after three years, now four years will be required. Not to mention, teachers will need to produce two years of positive performance ratings and participate in a one-year mentorship program to make the cut.
Furthermore, the process to fire teachers with poor ratings is now streamlined, not only cutting down on costs but wasted time. Before, the process could drag out over several years and cost more than $100,000, which discouraged districts from bringing tenure charges against ineffective teachers, according to the state. Fewer than 20 teachers have lost tenure for being “inefficient” over the last 10 years. In the new system, a tenure case is capped at 105 days and $7,500, paid by the state.
The changes are praised as big steps in New Jersey’s education reform, inching toward Christie’s goal of ensuring that all students graduate ready for college and the work field.
“If we really put children first, the right thing to do is in reality quite simple,” said Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. “Now, let’s continue to move forward and take on the hard work to make sure that every child in our state graduates from high school truly ready for college and career.”
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