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N.J. Teachers' Union Fights Back—with Policy Proposals

Having traded verbal blasts with New Jersey's governor for months on end, a state teachers' union this week decided to trade policy proposals with him instead.

The New Jersey Education Association, locked in a running feud with Republican Gov. Chris Christie unveiled a series of proposals yesterday, one of which the union says would make it easier to remove ineffective tenured educators from the classroom. The union backs changing current state practices by having "nationally certified arbitrators," rather than administrative law judges, rule on whether teachers and other school employees should be dismissed.

"This will make the dismissal process less costly and less time-consuming," the union's plan says, "while ensuring that no teacher will be dismissed unfairly, or without just cause."

Christie has repeatedly cast the NJEA as a stick-in-the-mud obstructionist organization, more interested in protecting job status and power than improving schools. A spokesman for the governor told the Star Ledger the union's proposals didn't bring enough to the table, stating that while Christie is "encouraged the NJEA is finally acknowledging the tenure system is broken, given the fatal flaws in the current system, this is simply not enough."

It would appear that some of what the union is proposing, it could accomplish on its own, while other ideas would require legislation. The union calls for the creation of a two-year mentoring program for all new teachers. And it says it will seek partnerships with businesses to create "educational technology coaches," teachers who can help their classroom peers find better ways to integrate technology into the classroom. Its policy proposals also lay out broader and potentially costlier principles, such as "high quality preschool, all-day kindergarten, and small class sizes," especially in the early grades. And perhaps not surprisingly, the plan says the union will fight for collective bargaining and seek to expand it so that teachers "can be truly involved in and responsible for reform initiatives."

The union's press release describes its ideas as a "research-based education reform plan," perhaps a jab at those calling for making sweeping changes in teacher pay and evaluation and other areas of school policy—changes that critics say aren't backed up by research showing that they will lead to improved student achievement or better teaching.

And now for your take: Will the NJEA's proposals help accomplish those goals?

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