For Senator Teresa Ruiz, who tirelessly shepherded NJ’s tenure reform bill through the gauntlet of the Senate, the Assembly, union opposition, aggressive reformers, and countless interest groups.
How collegial was the signing yesterday at a Middlesex middle school? Chris Christie sounded practically conciliatory, telling NJ Spotlight that he signed the bill because “my decision was there was enough really good things in this bill that I was not going to allow it not to become law because it didn’t have everything I wanted” and seating arrangements placed B4K’s Derrell Bradford in between NJEA President Barbara Keshishian and AFT President Joseph Del Grosso.
Additional coverage here from The Record, the Star-Ledger, and the Courier Post. Assembly Democrats press release here. Editorial from Charles Stile here.
Of course, it’s not over. That “everything I wanted” from Gov. Christie includes ending seniority-based lay-offs, the only reason the bill reached the Senate floor was because he dropped that demand, and Senator Joe Kyrillos (Republican from Monmouth and contender for U.S. Senate) announced that he already is planning on submitting legislation eliminating LIFO and mandating merit pay. But maybe we place too much emphasis on that anyway. The bill, as signed, raises teaching standards, increases the importance of student growth, and allows schools to dismiss bad teachers (theoretically, at a lower cost than the old system).
From Sen. Ruiz herself:
“I was told when I first asked staff to explore the subject matter that it was political suicide, and that I didn’t know anything about public education,” she said. “The emails and phone calls came in, and it was a moment where it was easy to give up.”
“But you sit back and realize that you can’t just not to do anything,” Ruiz said. “The truth is this was never about giving anyone a tool to get rid of low-performing teachers. It wasn’t about headlines or setting an agenda on a national level.”
“It was about what I thought was right and what we know, that the teacher has the greatest impact on our children and what happens in the classroom.”