Yesterday, the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) released online proposed regulations for implementing the state’s new teacher tenure law. The state’s largest teachers union has taken a look at the proposed regulations, and according to NJEA VP Wendell Steinhauer, their worst fears have been realized. Steinhauer told NJ Today Managing Mike Schneider that one of the major concerns centers on the emphasis placed on standardized tests.
The proposed guidelines stem from the landmark 2012 TEACHNJ Act, which mandates many requirements for the new statewide teacher evaluation system and links tenure decisions to evaluation ratings. According to Steinhauer, NJEA and DOE had been working together, or so he thought, towards tenure reform. He said the proposed regulations show that they were anything but a collaboration.
“They like to color the words a lot but at the end of the day it’s still coming out with that, more testing, more demands and it’s not working as we had planned it would,” said Steinhauer.
Steinhauer added NJEA would challenge the proposed guidelines, but that dealing with the state Board of Education is not on what would be called the average playing field.
“[State Board] did their presentation today and then you can’t interact with them at that level,” he said. “But we will be testifying, as a matter of fact, right now we have people testifying on that. It’s a process that they go through. There’s a couple of discussions. Actually, you probably won’t see them voting on it until maybe even August.” Still, Steinhauer hopes the board will work with NJEA.
In his 2014 budget address, Gov. Chris Christie touted that his budget would provide a record amount of funding for schools. But Steinhauer said Christie has done nothing but hurt education, both K-12 and higher ed, since 2010.
“Right after he took office, the first thing he did in 2010 was take $475 million away from all school districts, basically taking away all their surpluses. Then the next year, he took another $820 million out for a total of $1.3 billion,” Steinhauer said.
Those cuts, he said, caused the elimination of 10,000 educators. But don’t expect the increased aid to restore the staffing levels, he said.
“Even if they put that money back in, school districts are very skittish on whether they expect to have it or not, or is there going to be another cut here. And this is an election year, so school budgets always look good then.”