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Christie May Veto Bill Curbing Tenure for School Teachers

June 27 (Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he may veto a bill weakening teacher-tenure protections that won unanimous approval in the Democratic-controlled Legislature because it doesn’t go far enough.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Teresa Ruiz, a Democrat from Newark who leads the education committee, would allow public school districts to strip educators of tenure if they are deemed ineffective in two consecutive performance reviews. It also would lengthen to four years from three the time it would take to earn tenure.

Christie, a first-term Republican, said he opposes a provision in the bill that would preserve “last-in, first-out,” a protection that requires districts firing multiple teachers to base their selection on seniority, rather than on performance.

“The question is whether there’s enough good things in there for me to sign it,” Christie, 49, said yesterday during a town-hall meeting in Brick. “I’ve got to make that decision, or whether I’ll veto it. That’s the real question, either way, whether I sign it or not.”

Christie has been pushing for an overhaul of public education since January 2011. He had sought an end to seniority in his plan, which also includes proposals to institute merit pay and offer vouchers to students from poor families.

The governor has battled with the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, over his proposals. The union supported the tenure legislation once an end to the seniority rule was removed.

The bill “addresses the concerns of tenure critics while maintaining fairness for teachers and protecting public schools,” Barbara Keshishian, president of the union, said in a statement on the union’s website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Terrence Dopp in Trenton at tdopp@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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