Ruiz’ tenure reform bill weighed

TRENTON – The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on TEACHNJ, sponsored by Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29), Newark, on Monday morning.

TEACHNJ would, among other measures, change the way tenure is offered and revoked to educators across the state.

The hearing was for discussion purposes only. There were no votes taken. Tenure reform is a key element of Gov. Christie’s planned education reform.

Currently, teachers receive tenure after three years of employment in the district. Under S1455, tenure would be offered after three consecutive “effective or highly effective” evaluations. The review process, completed by a school improvement panel in the district made up of administrators and one teacher not employed at the school, would begin after two years of employment, making tenure available after four years of employment instead of three.

The bill also calls for tenure to be revoked if a teacher is rated as ineffective or partially effective, and does not improve the next year.

Andy Smarick, the Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Education, spoke in favor of the tenure provisions in S1455.
“Rather than making tenure a function of time, it makes tenure a function of effectiveness,” Smarick said.

Jeffrey Scheininger, the chairman of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, also spoke in favor of the bill. Scheininger said that New Jersey needs “a steady stream of literate young people to make our workforce successful.”

Ginger Gold Schnitzer, director of government relations at the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, spoke against the provisions of the bill that would automatically revoke tenure following two unsuccessful reviews, instead recommending that a teacher receive an impartial hearing.

Pat Wright, the executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, requested additional “time and money in order for professional development” to move the reforms forward, should they become effective.

Ruiz’ tenure reform bill weighed