Nepotism and Tenure

A new bill before the NJ State Assembly would prohibit all public schools, traditional and chartered, from hiring staff who are related to the superintendent, a board member, personnel director, business administrator, or the school district’s attorney, according to the Star-Ledger. Big gulps from some of the worst-offending districts, no doubt.

But here’s a question: standard arguments in favor of maintaining current teacher tenure laws are grounded in NJ’s nepotistic school culture (which is, perhaps, unavoidable when we’re fragmented into 591 school districts, some positively tiny. With such a small pool for Board members, someone’s Aunt Sadie is bound to apply for a job.)

Last month, when NJEA unveiled its vision for education reform, proposed changes to tenure laws were, uh, limited. Currently, when a district wants to remove a tenured teacher the case goes to an administrative law judge, and under NJEA’s reform the case would go to an arbiter with a quicker time line. When NJEA officials were questioned about the narrowness of this change, Executive Director Vince Giordano explained to PolitickerNJ that the union “would not entertain” other proposals that “changed the standards for dismissal.”
“I think we all know what happens then,” he said. “We turn it over to the politicians and the nepotism process and we are not going back there.”
So if the Legislature passes a bill that virtually eliminates any opportunities for nepotism, will NJEA’s executives entertain meaningful tenure reform? Arguments against incorporating teacher accountability into job security have been argued away on the grounds that tenure is “not a job for life,” but merely a protection against rampant nepotism. If nepotism goes away, do NJEA’s objections go away as well?