TRENTON – Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) today called on the state Department of Education (DOE) to conduct a thorough statewide review of all school superintendents and administrators to determine who may have received pay raises and tuition reimbursements because of degrees they received from unaccredited colleges or universities. Taking things a step further, Codey called on any such individuals to return the monetary benefits they may have received at the expense of taxpayers, including salary increases, tuition reimbursement and pension credits based on the higher salary they have been receiving.
“What this says to students is that the very people who are entrusted with establishing educational rules for course work, diplomas, and academic integrity have lost all legs to stand on as they themselves have cheated the educational system by undermining the legitimate degrees of their colleagues and of course students,” said Codey. “This is a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ policy that the taxpayers are being forced to fund. It’s wrong and once we find out exactly who is benefiting from these cash-and-carry diplomas, we’ll continue to put pressure on them to return these unearned perks.”
The request was prompted by a string of recent reports about various school superintendents and administrators who have received pay raises and tuition reimbursements for degrees they received from unaccredited online universities, which have become known as “diploma mills” because many award degrees to anyone willing to pay for them.
As a follow-up to his letter last week asking the DOE to draft new rules barring this practice, Codey sent another letter to Commissioner Lucille Davy today formally requesting the review to determine which administrators are receiving perks based on unaccredited degrees. Also last week, Codey sent a letter to the state Attorney General’s Office requesting an investigation into whether the administrators knowingly misrepresented their qualifications to obtain public funds, a crime under a law passed last September.
“Essentially, these administrators pay a few grand for a degree and then they are entitled to annual pay raises worth up to several thousand dollars, not to mention more pension credits because their salary has been bumped up. What kind of message does that send to the young teacher who may be struggling to juggle work, a family and night classes to earn her master’s degree? What kind of incentive do any of our teachers have to continue bettering themselves if they can just go online and buy a degree? The biggest insult is that some of these people insist on being called ‘doctor’ after they buy their PhD online. That’s about the equivalent of Colonel Sanders claiming he has real military experience.”
A full copy of today’s letter sent to the DOE is enclosed below:
August 25, 2008
Commissioner Lucille E. Davy
NJ Department of Education
P.O. Box 500
Trenton, NJ 08625-0500
Dear Commissioner Davy:
I applaud your efforts to help New Jersey crackdown on the growing problem of educators using degrees from unaccredited online universities to receive pay raises and other perks. In the interest of maintaining New Jersey’s high educational standards and protecting taxpayer dollars, it’s imperative that we do all we can to end this practice before it becomes even more commonplace.
At this time, I am requesting that the New Jersey Department of Education conduct a thorough statewide review to determine which school superintendents and administrators have obtained degrees from unaccredited colleges or universities and subsequently received salary perks or tuition reimbursement as a result.
It is my firm belief that each and every individual determined to have done so, should return whatever perks they have received, be it salary increases, tuition reimbursement or pension credits based on their salary increase. Not only is it a disservice to the hardworking teachers and administrators who put in many long hours completing coursework at accredited schools, but it’s a further insult to our students who deserve leaders who understand the value of hard work and a legitimate education.
Your continued cooperation on this matter is appreciated.
Richard J. Codey