NJ Legislature Update: Tenure Protection for all Public School Employees and Restrictions on Out-Sourcing

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Today the NJ Assembly is scheduled to vote on A-3696, which would provide tenure-like protection to all public school employees, including teaching assistants, bus drivers, security guards, and food service staff. The bill has already passed the Senate. According to New Jersey School Boards Association,

The measure would give such non-teaching employees the right to submit to binding arbitration virtually any disciplinary action imposed on them, including reprimands, withholding of increments, lack of continuation of employment, or the termination or non-renewal of an employment contract. The bill includes language that grants employees the right to submit to binding arbitration, regardless of any negotiated or contractual provision to the contrary and irrespective of the reasoning behind a school district’s action.

NJSBA opposes the bill because it limits school districts’ ability to “effectively manage employee conduct and performance.” Then again, NJSBA also opposes S-968, which the Senate also passed last week. This “union-backed bill” undermines “a public agency’s ability to subcontract services by imposing numerous restrictions and requirements on the process.” It would require districts to bargain with unions over any subcontracting and disallow outsourcing during the life of a current contract.

New Jersey Education Association supports both these bills.The union rejoiced after the Senate Assembly Education Committee passed the proposed legislation:

Legislators were persuaded by the testimony they heard, as well as by the calls and emails from NJEA members.  “We keep hearing about savings as a reason to oppose the bill,” said Asm. Patrick Diegnan Chair the Assembly Education Committee. “Who knows better ways to find economies than the people who do the job? All this bill does is require the parties to negotiate.”

That sentiment was echoed by Asm. Herb Conaway, a primary sponsor of the bill.  “Those agreements are sacrosanct and should not be broken,” he said. “When privatization is considered, both sides should be able to sit down and negotiate.”

Asm. Ralph Caputo got right to the heart of the matter.  “Our kids have relationships with these people, and we have to understand that.  Safety and a quality education come from more people than the teacher.”

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