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Ruiz/Turner Bill Would Give School Districts More Flexibility With Substitute Teachers

Senator M. Theresa Ruiz listens to testimony during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing.

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Teresa Ruiz and Shirley Turner, which would allow school districts more flexibility when filling classroom teacher vacancies, was unanimously approved today by the Senate Education Committee.

“When teachers must take leave for extended periods of time, particularly in cases where vacancies must be filled mid-year, districts must ensure that the teachers who are brought in to fill those vacancies are trained and qualified to educate students,” said Senator Ruiz, D-Essex, who chairs the Senate Education Panel. “The intent of the bill is to ensure that there is some stability in the classroom, and make sure that students receive the educational tools necessary to thrive.”

“When unqualified teachers are allowed to fill vacant positions for extended periods of time, students are robbed of a thorough and efficient education,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer, a member of the Senate Education Committee, and the sponsor of 2010 legislation to restrict unqualified substitute teachers from teaching for extended periods of time. “It is up to the school districts to ensure that they are recruiting qualified teachers to prepare today’s students for life after the classroom.”

Under current law, qualified teachers holding a certificate of eligibility or a certificate of eligibility with advanced standing are permitted to fill a vacant teaching position in his or her authorized subject area for a maximum of 60 school days.

The Senators’ bill, S-2071, would require school districts wishing to allow a certified substitute teacher to fill a classroom vacancy for more than 60 days, to receive written permission from the executive county superintendent of schools.

The bill would also provide that if a certified substitute teacher is granted permission to remain in the position longer than 60 days, he or she must be compensated on a level consistent with the salary paid to a teacher with similar credentials in the same school district.

The bill is supported by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), and the New Jersey School Boards Association.

This measure now heads to the full Senate for consideration. #