Poll: Residents tend to agree with tenure and pay reform

New Jersey voter tend to agree with Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to reform teacher tenure and pay, a poll released Saturday shows, but opinion on reform measures is strongly tied to residents’ view of the governor.

A Rutgers–Eagleton poll of education practices showed 58 percent of respondents disapprove of the current tenure system, while 40 percent approve.

“While some voters, especially those who feel negatively toward the governor are dubious about the proposals, for the most part New Jerseyans seem to embrace his ideas,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University.

Public employee union members are more likely to support tenure, with 66 percent approving of the system as it stands, while private employee union members disagree with the system 40 percent to 55 percent.

Non-union households have the most negative view of tenure with just 34 percent favoring the current policies, while 64 percent disapprove.

Democrats support teacher tenure two to one (53 to 26 percent) over Republicans, while those who support Gov. Chris Christie are more likely to oppose tenure than those with a negative view of the governor: 21 percent of respondents who approve of the governor agree with the current tenure system versus 56 percent of those who disapprove of Christie. 

“The governor’s tenure reform package is closely connected to him, since he is not only its most visible cheerleader, but has been vocal in attacking the current system,” said Redlawsk.

When asked about Christie’s plan to evaluate teachers based on standardized test scores, classroom observations and schoolwide student performance, 60 percent of respondents called the approach fair, versus 37 percent who said the method of rating educators is unfair.

Republicans are 12 points more likely to say the proposal is fair, though even 55 percent of Democrats support the idea, while a whopping 75 percent of Christie supporters called the proposal fair.

Among respondents with a negative view of the governor, 44 percent see it as fair while 53 percent say it is unfair.

Residents also are strongly in favor of reforming tenure to base it on evaluations, with almost two-thirds saying tenure should be linked directly to positive or negative teacher evaluations.

As with the other tenets of Christie’s reform package, support of the governor is a strong predictor of support for change in tenure policies with 81 percent favoring tenure based on evaluations.  Those who dislike the governor are evenly split, with 48 percent approving versus 50 percent disapproving.

Sixty percent of respondents approve linking pay to evaluations, while 35 percent disapprove. Almost three-quarters of Christie supporters back the measure, while only half of those with an unfavorable impression of the governor agree.

On Thursday, Christie unveiled a report produced by his New Jersey Educator Effectiveness Task Force, which recommended teacher and principal evaluations tied to student achievement.  The report, which was soundly panned by the state’s largest teachers union, would use a combination of test scores, classroom observation and other factors to rate teachers, while principals would be graded on their ability to improve teachers and retain those that are deemed effective as well as on overall school performance.

While Christie said he doesn’t agree with all of the report’s findings, he called it a solid start and vowed to begin the push toward statewide teacher evaluations. Poll: Residents tend to agree with tenure and pay reform