On Saturday, March 17, 2012, Frank Paprota, MCVEA Legislative Delegate, attended a meeting of the NJEA Delegate Assembly in Trenton. Below is a summary of President Barbara Keshishian’s review of recent legislative developments effecting NJEA members:
The legislature is on budget break as of March 15, 2012. No bills addressing tenure, evaluation, merit pay or seniority were moved or released from committee in the first part of the legislative session. The legislature is unlikely to return from budget break until the last week in April or possibly the fist week in May. The NJSA is using this time to try to work out a compromise on our tenure bill and other pieces of legislative reform.
On March 5th the Senate Education Committee had a “for discussion only” hearing on S-1455, which is tenure bill sponsored by Senator Ruiz. The NJEA testified against bill. The NJEA has drafted alternative bills which have been given to legislative leaders but which have not yet been introduced. The NJEA is in ongoing conversations with legislative leaders to reach a compromise on tenure and evaluation legislation. These are near daily conversations. We do not expect a bill to move until we have reached some agreement with those legislators.
There is charter school legislation which has been approved by the Assembly: On 3/15/2012 the Assembly passed A-1877 which would require local approval in any district where a charter school wants to open or expand. The bill awaits Senate consideration. While NJEA has not taken a public position on this bill, it is monitoring it closely and working with supporters behind the scenes. Thanks to our strong working relationship with the legislators, NJEA quietly ensured an amendment to that bill to curtail the rapid proliferation of virtual schools in NJ. The bill is unlikely to pass in its current in form. A compromise bill is taking shape in the Senate. We don’t have all the details on the compromise bill, but believe it will still require local approval in all school districts, but the approval will fall into the hands of either the School Board or Board of Estimate. Advocacy groups support this compromise as they believe it would provide adequate protection. This bill treats all districts the same. The Governor is expected to argue that only suburban districts should have the right to approve charter schools. Urban districts should not have this right. No advocates, including the NJEA, support that position.
The “voucher bill” has been reintroduced (Opportunity Scholarship Act). Two different versions were introduced this week. The NJEA just got the text of the Democratic bill, but has not had time to review it for this report. None of the bills are moving right now.
On the subject of shared services, the NJEA is monitoring several bills. A few of those bills to watch:
S-610 Sweeney/Oroho bill: Would require the Executive County Superintendent of Schools in each county to identify an education services agency for purposes of promoting shared services. NJEA is seeking amendments to assure right of 1st refusal for displaced employees.
S-2 Sweeney/Kyrillos/O’Toole clarifies what is known as LUARCC (Local Uniopn Allignment Reorganization and Consolidation Commission) This bill is very troubling. It clarifies LUARCC powers to recommend the consolidation or merger of specific municipalities and autonomous agencies and the sharing of services. Under certain circumstances local units could lose state aid if don’t comply with the recommendation. The worse parts are what would happen to employee rights. Local units no longer would be required to provide employees who are terminated for reasons of economy and efficiency with a terminal leave payment. Civil Service Commission would no longer be required to review employment reconciliation plans and protective tenure and civil service would not apply to employees effected by shared services agreement for period of 12 months while the agreement is being implemented. The Bill was amended in committee putting more authority regarding civil sevice protections in the hands of the Civil Serivce Commission which is appointed by the governor. The NJEA is opposed to the bill because of the suspension of tenure and other employee rights.
Legislation to remedy the State mandate, state pay issue in the anti-bullying law was sent to the governor. The Council on Local Mandates found that certain parts of Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act represent an unfunded mandate requiring the legislature to revisit the law. This week a bill, S1789 & A2709 sweep through the legislature to remedy these deficiences. NJEA supports the bill.
Lastly, Governor Christie is playing partision politics with Supreme Court. NJEA has signed onto a letter along with other unions expressing concern about Christies recent nomoinations to the Supremen Court. These appointments would lead to a significabc lack of balance on the court, If approved there willl be 5 republicans and 2 demacrates. The balance on the NJ Supreme Court has always historically been 4-3, either way. Every single critical issue we dealing with at stake.
That concludes President Keshishian’s report.