County-Wide Preschools!November 12, 2008
Star-Ledger Advocates Merit PayNovember 14, 2008
The State Assembly Education Committee is expected to release a new bill, A-420, which gives job protection to paraprofessionals employed in Title 1 districts, i.e., more than 75% of the school districts in New Jersey. Sponsored by Assemblywomen Amy Handlin and Joan Voss, the legislation, among other things, forces districts to extend employment to school and classroom aides by May 15th for the upcoming year. Typically, districts make these decisions in August and September when they have quantified their needs.
Bully for the aides. More interesting is the reaction of the New Jersey School Board Association, which immediately issued a furious press release, claiming that the legislation is “an unnecessary exercise that would impede educational accountability.” Continued John Burns, NJSBA lobbyist,
NJSBA views the current lifetime tenure granted to certificated employees as a restriction on local school district efforts to improve education. Extending the benefits of lifetime tenure to paraprofessionals in an effort to protect their employment rights would further impede the ability of school management to make personnel decisions in the best interests of the education program.
No wonder they’re in a panic. Who can blame them? School boards and administrators are drowning in expensive mandates and flawed DOE regulatory minutiae, budgeting is getting tighter, districts are cutting programs and raising class sizes, all in the name of accountability and efficiency. Now the Legislature says, “Accountability? Efficiency? Fuggedaboutit.”
In a serendipitous bit of counterpoint, one of the lead stories in the New York Times today was the efforts of D.C. Superintendent Michelle Rhee to dramatically overhaul tenure. Her unorthodoxy and – may we say it? – courage have produced outcries from union leaders and praise from most everyone else. What does it say about Jersey that our leading-edge law-making moves us further and further away from research-driven innovation?
It’s all well and good to offer protection to hard-working aides. But during budget time this Spring, 513 Title 1 districts in N.J. will cut services to children because they have to make premature job offers to lunch aides. Is this really the way we want to go?