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Diegnan, Caputo, Coutinho, Jasey, Watson Coleman & Coughlin Tenure Reform Bill Gets Assembly Approval

Revised tenure reform legislation sponsored by Assembly Education Chairman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. and Assembly Democrats Ralph Caputo, Albert Coutinho, Mila Jasey, Bonnie Watson Coleman and Craig Coughlin was granted final legislative approval 79 to 0 by the full Assembly on Monday.

“This is meaningful tenure reform that does what’s best for our children while balancing the protection of due process for our principals and teachers” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “This is real change that will ensure new teachers are properly trained and evaluated and that tenure charges are handled in a timely and professional manner. We will no longer endure endless tenure squabbles that consume taxpayer dollars meant for education. Instead, this legislation gives school districts cost and time certainty when it comes to removing ineffective teaching staff members. Our focus will be where it should be – making sure we have the best teachers in the classroom.”

“This is a significant step toward creating a sustained process to expeditiously remove ineffective teachers from our schools,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “In those cases where questions arise about a teacher’s effectiveness, school boards will be able to get a timely review and safeguard the quality of education that exists in our schools.”

“The winners today are students and taxpayers,” said Coutinho (D-Essex). “These reforms will ensure that our students have the best and most effective teachers in the classroom and that taxpayer money isn’t wasted on a long and arduous process of removing the ineffective ones.”

“These historic reforms balance the needs of our students while ensuring that teachers are treated fairly,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “This will help us remove any ‘bad apples’ swiftly while, at the same time, making sure good teachers aren’t unfairly targeted for political reasons or otherwise. In the end, it’s the students who will win out.”

“This is sensible tenure reform that ensures only the best teachers will be in our classrooms,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer). “We’re streamlining the process but also ensuring fairness, and in the end our children win.”

“This reform emphasizes quality teaching and ensures only the best for our students,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “We’re moving obstacles but ensuring due process with timely decisions, and protecting our children’s future all at the same time.”

Under current state law, teachers, principals, school business administrators and other school staffers become tenured after completing three years employment in a school district.

Under the reform bill (S-1455/A-3060):

  • Tenure for new employees would be provided after four years employment in a school district;
  • A new teacher would spend their first year in a mentorship program during which the new teacher will be partnered with an experienced and effective teacher for assistance, support and guidance;
  • Each school district would have to annually submit to the education commissioner the evaluation plan it will use to test the effectiveness of teachers and administrators;
  • Evaluations of teachers would only be conducted by supervisors in the district, not outside personnel;
  • Test scores, alone, would not be a predominant factor in a teacher’s evaluation, but one of several;
  • Any teacher or administrator who receives two “ineffective” ratings, which is the lowest of four tiers, on two consecutive annual evaluations will face tenure charges;
  • Any teacher or administrator who receives “partially effective” rating, followed by an “ineffective” rating, on two consecutive annual evaluations will face tenure charges;
  • Binding arbitration would be required for any contested tenure cases. This process would be run by the Department of Education with the commissioner controlling the arbitrators. The arbitrator’s decision would be binding;

  • Contested cases would no longer be referred to Administrative Law Judges, and the final determination would no longer be made by the education commissioner;
  • The hearing before the arbitrator must be held within 45 days of the case being assigned.

The measure now awaits Senate concurrence with Assembly amendments before heading to the Governor’s desk.