N.J. education reform bill moves in the right direction
The Star-Ledger with a strong editorial in support of a strong tenure-reform bill in NJ:
New Jersey has suffered under the same antiquated tenure system for a century. But now, finally, it faces an epic overhaul: State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) has proposed a reform bill that has set the most important debate of the year in Trenton, one that will affect kids for the next generation.
What the bill would create is a system that protects good teachers, provides help to those in the middle and finally sets up a reasonable process to get rid of the bad ones. Instead of offering lifetime protections to even the worst teachers, tenure would be based on job performance. Instead of protecting adults, the new system would protect children. This type of reform is desperately needed.
But this bill has one critical weakness: It would still force districts that are shrinking staffs to fire their least senior teachers in some cases, even those who are top performers.
The bill moves in the right direction on this score by ending a destructive policy known as "last-in, first-out," which forces districts to target their least senior teachers first. But it has a grandfather clause exempting teachers who have tenure. So they would keep their seniority protection.
Why grandfather a system that everybody agrees doesn't work? It would cripple a district's ability to hold on to its best teachers. And it would create two tiers of tenured teachers — one protected class that had tenure before this bill passed, and another made up of teachers who earn tenure after that date. Even the unions don't like that.
On the whole, though, this bill is a huge step forward.