Will Christie Sign the Tenure Reform Bill?

NJ Spotlight, the Star-Ledger, and PolitickerNJ are all reporting that Gov. Christie is injecting a bit of political theater into the presumed signing of the tenure reform bill. At a town hall meeting in Brick yesterday, he was asked if he supports the bill and responded that (according to Spotlight) “he had yet to make a final decision on the bill” and “the question is whether there are enough good things in there to sign it and I have to make that decision.”

The issue provoking the uncertainty is the elimination in the final drafts of the bill of the provision revoking seniority-based lay-offs, or LIFO. The elimination of LIFO has been identified by many ed reformers as a key piece of efforts to improve student achievement. While the original versions of Ruiz’s bill eliminated LIFO, NJEA successfully lobbied to retain the rights of senior teachers to knock out younger teachers during lay-offs, regardless of classroom effectiveness.

New Jersey is one of just 11 states in the country to retain LIFO privileges for tenured school staff members.

Christie has sworn to keep fighting for the elimination of LIFO. For that matter, so has Teresa Ruiz, Ed. Comm. Chris Cerf, and New Jersey School Boards Association, which released a strong statement from Ex. Dir. Marie Bilik:

“School leaders need to consider a teacher’s job performance when recommending who would retain a position.  They don’t have the authority to do that now, and they still won’t have it under the current version of S-1455."

“NJSBA will continue to fight for elimination of ‘last in-first out,’” she said.
So will Christie sign the bill? Probably. The whole Republican Statehouse contingent has voted for it, he knows it’s a step in the right direction, and how dumb would it be to revert back to an even less enlightened system? But who can blame him for being a bit testy, with NJEA officials gloating at every opportunity of their power and authority to control the trajectory of  union-unfriendly bills. We won't have any big signing ceremony; that’s just one opportunity for Vince Giordano to hand out cigars. It's not a bad strategy to remind everyone that, while the tenure reform bill marks a milestone in NJ's reform of its tenure system, there are more mileposts ahead.

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