Nation's oldest tenure law gets a facelift

New Jersey, which has the nation’s oldest teacher tenure law on the books, first enacted in 1909, has become the latest in a long line of states overhauling how tenure is awarded. Gov. Chris Christie signed into law on Monday a compromise measure backed by both Republicans and Democrats as well as the state’s teacher union.  It extends the amount of time before teachers are eligible to be granted tenure from three years under the previous statute to four years.

The new tenure law also requires new teachers to receive positive evaluation ratings for two consecutive years and makes it possible to remove a teacher with tenure who receives low marks in two consecutive years.

In a press release, Christie called the legislation a “great day for good teachers.” He used the occasion of the bill signing to push for other education reform measures. Specifically, Christie wants legislators to end the practice of ‘Last In, First Out’ (LIFO), a practice that bases layoffs on seniority rather than job performance. Christie also called for differentiated pay for teachers and banning forced placement so principals and teachers agree to all teacher assignments.

Barbara Keshishian, president of the New Jersey Education Association, attended the bill signing, praising it as a way to provide every child with the best teacher. “We’re proud of the work we did in helping to write this law,” Keshishian said.  “NJEA made significant contributions to the final version of the law, which dramatically reduces the time and cost of teacher dismissal proceedings, while maintaining a strong fairness standard to guarantee teachers’ due process rights.”