Creeping Incrementalism

I suppose something is better than nothing, Save Jerseyans?

Most of the time at least. Certainly not all of the time. As a conservative, I’m never willing to concede that government “getting something done” is a good unto itself. But this is politics, and politicians of all stripes (along with their consultants) want to be able to plaster the word “bipartisanship” all over their paid media.

That’s part of the reason why I’ve been less-than-enthusiastic in my evaluation of the tenure reform legislation, S-1455 or the “The Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey Act” (TEACH NJ), passed by the Democrat legislature and subsequently signed into law earlier today.

Not because I think education reform is unimportant. It’s urgently needed. Truthfully, the very fact that we’re even talking about important issues like “tenure reform” is in-of-itself a triumph of the Christie Era.

My real concern is that we’re just beating around the school choice bush while celebrating an objectively modest reform measure. I’m particularly worried that casual voters will be misled into thinking the current system can be “fixed” or repaired when, in reality, tweaks won’t get the job done for our kids…

Public education’s antiquated institutions, procedures and traditions (tenure included) should play absolutely no role in a modern, effective, results-oriented education system, Save Jerseyans. And I firmly believe a growing majority of voters (especially in heavily Democrat urban areas) are inclined to agree. Approving the Opportunity Scholarship Act would undoubtedly accomplish more good than today’s tenure reform package.

Frankly, I don’t think enacting S-1455’s additional evaluations, a mentorship program, and extra year to the tenure track gets us an inch closer to “accountability,” something which you and I both know (1) only the private sector can adequately deliver via the free market while simultaneously (2) rewarding/protecting quality educators.

I also don’t think my Republican friends disagree with any of what I’m saying, by the way. Our disagreement appears to be strategic more than substantive. But form is important, right? Courageous and articulate advocacy of conservative principles builds majorities. Why not push for more, take a stand and put our argument to the voters in 2013 rather than allow the liberal Dem majority to claim co-ownership of a severely watered-down reform bill?

Interestingly, some of Trenton’s most respected leaders are already acknowledging (without explicitely saying it) that today’s reforms are just a drop in the education reform bucket. One of the Governor’s closest allies — Joe Kyrillos — put out a release earlier this morning congratulating the bipartisan forces behind S-1455. The State Senator then proceeded to announce his intention to introduce a new, more far-reaching set of tenure reforms this Thursday, including:

– Eliminate last in, first out (LIFO) seniorityprotections that force schools to ignore teacher effectiveness and get rid ofhigh performing, younger teachers instead of ineffective, more expensive ones;

– Address tenure-law obstacles for schooldistricts looking to become more efficient by consolidating;

– End the forced placement of teachers inschools where principals determined they are ineffective;

– Establish merit-based compensation, as is inplace in most other employment sectors, whereby employees are paid and retainedbased on how well they perform, contribute and improve.

So what do you think, Save Jerseyans?

Is this creeping incrementalism strategy the best way to save New Jersey’s broken education establishment? Or are Republicans missing out on a historic opportunity to achieve something more grand?

I’d love your input…