Members of NJ Senate and Assembly: NO TFA!
Dear Member of Senate and Assembly,
On February 18th Superintendent Cami Anderson presented another set of revisions to the One Newark Plan. In it, for the first time, is a request for a waiver of seniority rights and to allow evaluations in the process of ‘right-sizing’ the Newark Public Schools workforce. This back door attempt to bypass tenure and seniority rights is in contradiction to the agreements reached in landmark, bipartisan TEACH NJ and runs contrary to the Newark Teacher’s Contract signed last year. Furthermore, the proposal is to use teacher evaluations along with years of service for retention in the midst of the controversy about the implementation of the new evaluation system demonstrates a complete disregard to the current need to slow down the rush for change. Under this proposed waiver, seniority rules would be disregarded, taking away the right of senior teachers to request a different assignment when facing a reduction in workforce. Instead they could face immediate dismissal based on single year evaluations using a new system that has yet to be fully vetted.
The request by Superintendent Anderson to Commissioner of Education to grant “waiver or equivalency” disregards current law and attempts to circumvent the regulations. It is an attack on Newark teachers that cannot be allowed. But the truth is all New Jersey teachers are at risk. The approval of such a waiver would set a precedent undermining the teaching profession of this state. The real possibility exists that other districts will ask for the same waiver once the precedent is established. This is a direct attack on tenure, seniority and the value of experienced teachers in the classroom.
Imagine, if you will, a waiver being used as a way to save money as many districts face the financial burden of PARCC testing,. Experienced, qualified teachers will be sacrificed to pay for the cost of high stakes testing merely because of their higher salary rate. This is something that we cannot allow. We cannot allow our best teachers to be sacrificed for the costs of these tests.
Ultimately, this backdoor ploy to end tenure and seniority rights brings the possibility of an increase in Teach for America (TFA) teachers in Newark. Teach For America is an organization where Cami Anderson worked at Executive Director, and the waiver need to be evaluated in this context. TFA teachers come into districts after a five week training session and virtually no classroom experience. These teachers have a retention rate of only 5% after they fulfill their three-year commitment to the program. This educational revolving door undermines the strength of our excellent teaching core in New Jersey and cannot be tolerated.
As Legislators we urge you to remind the Commissioner of Education and the Superintendent of Newark Schools that there is law on seniority and tenure that should not be bypassed by a waiver. Please defend your hard work of TEACH NJ and protect the most dedicated of our teachers by ensuring this waiver is not granted.
NJ BadAss Teachers Association
New Jersey BATS is an organization of over 1000 activist teachers and public education supporters who reject the attempts to blame teachers for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality and we refuse to accept high stakes tests, and evaluations imposed by those who attempt to undermine the profession of teaching. We are part of a national movement of BATS over 38,000 strong and growing every day. https://www.facebook.com/BadassTeachersAssociation
For more information about Teach for America: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/teach-for-america