The Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACNJ) Act was recently enacted by the New Jersey Legislature and signed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The TEACHNJ Act creates drastic changes to the process for fighting tenure charges by New Jersey teachers and other public school “teaching staff members.” In short, the TEACHNJ Act eliminates the hearing process before the Commissioner of Education and places the decision in the hands of an arbitrator.
When a New Jersey “teaching staff member” achieves tenure, she receives protections that most other New Jersey employees do not. Tenured teaching staff members can be dismissed or reduced in compensation “during good behavior” only for “incapacity,” “inefficiency,” or “conduct unbecoming” a teaching staff member, or some other “just cause.” However, they can be laid off for budget reasons or enrollment losses at any time as long as their seniority is honored.
For the purposes of tenure, “teaching staff members” includes a wide range of employees, including: Assistant superintendents, teachers, principals (but not administrative principals), vice-principals, assistant principals, school nurses, athletic trainers, business administrators shared by more than one school district, and other employees requiring appropriate certificates.
Left unchanged are the initial procedures. Tenure charges are instituted by the local board of education. They are filed in writing with the board’s secretary together with a sworn statement of evidence. The employee is promptly given a copy and the opportunity to submit a written statement in response. The board will then consider the charges in closed session and decide by majority vote if the evidence supports probable cause for the charges, and whether the charges are sufficient to warrant dismissal or reduction in salary. If so, it then forwards the charges to the Commissioner of Education. If the board does not make a determination within 45 days, the charges are dismissed.