An integral part of Governor Chris Christie's education plans is tenure reform to make it easier to fire bad teachers. Today, the State Senate Education Committee will discuss and debate a bill that heads in that general direction.

The panel will not vote on the legislation, but members will listen to testimony from stakeholders whether they're for or against it.

State Senator Teresa Ruiz sponsors the measure and chairs the panel. The legislation would overhaul the state's century-old tenure law (enacted 1909) and create a new system that will require teachers to prove they are effective in the classroom to gain tenure status and to continue demonstrating their effectiveness over the course of their careers to maintain it. It would require a sharp focus on professional development for teachers, and require that all new educators are provided mentorship their first year.

"When we have the best professionals in front of the classroom, when we support them and when we develop them, the outcome is a win-win for everybody," explains Ruiz. "There is a mentorship year in place to support that new individual that's selecting that career path to develop the best professional."

A principal, assistant principal, vice-principal, or teacher hired before the effective date (beginning of 2013-2014 school year) of the bill would earn tenure as provided under current law (3 years and 1 day). All others would gain tenure under a new tiered system.

The above mentioned educators hired after the bill's effective date will receive tenure after receiving a rating of "effective" or "highly effective" in each of three consecutive annual evaluations. Teachers must complete a mentorship program in the first year of employment which will not count toward tenure attainment. They would be given the first year of employment to gain experience in their new position and that year would not be banked toward tenure attainment. This will mean that a new teacher, principal, assistant principal, or vice-principal will be eligible for tenure after 4 years of employment, at the earliest.

Under the bill, two consecutive years of a an "ineffective" or "partially effective" rating without improvement in the second year (evidenced by moving up one rating category) would result in tenure revocation. The affected employee may appeal the tenure revocation to an administrative law judge within 30 days of the revocation. The judge will only consider whether the evaluation process was followed and will not adjudicate the evaluation tool.

An employee whose tenure is revoked can earn new tenure by earning an "effective" or "highly effective" rating for two consecutive years.

Asked about the bill, Christie said, "It's directionally something that I can be supportive of, but there's a lot of details in a bill like this……I'm not saying that if that bill, as is right now came to my desk I would sign it. I'm not saying I wouldn't."

The Governor applauds Ruiz for the amount of time and work she's put into the legislation and he vows to keep working with her in a bi-partisan fashion. He's also impressed with the format of today's committee hearing. Christie explains, "We're still in the process of working and I think she's doing a very smart thing. She's having an information-only session to get more input from interested groups and to give everybody a chance to discuss it."