Gov. Christie's State of the State speech was widely praised as diplomatic if short on specifics regarding education reform. Here comes the specifics, gleaned from reports from a Town Hall meeting in Paramus last night:
1) Replace lifetime tenure for teachers with renewable five-year contracts. (Here's NJEA's response, courtesy of spokesman Steve Wollmer, who warned teachers, "This is not reform, it’s patronage. We do not need 125,000 more patronage jobs in New Jersey, we already have enough corruption. Your job security under the Christie proposal would be at the whim of a principal who may or may not be acting in the best interest.")
2) Raise contributions to health benefits premiums. Specifically, replace the newly-legislated benefits contributions for teachers of 1.5% of base pay with a plan through with all public employees would pay 1/3 of benefits plans. (According to the Courier-Post, a teacher earning $60,000 a year now contributes about $900 in benefits contributions. Under the new proposal, that teacher would contribute $7,333 for the same plan.)
3) Raise the retirement age, now 62, to age 65.
4) Roll back the 9% pension increase granted in 2000 and require all teachers to contribute 8.5% of salaries toward retirement.
5) Expand the number of charter schools.
6) Designate one district per county as a “center for excellence for students with autism” to consolidate special education services. (More on this in The Record.)
7) Close up to 200 failing schools.