TRENTON – The full Senate today approved a bill sponsored by Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) and Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer) that would provide a decisive end to the controversial practice of school administrators and teachers using so-called “diploma mills” to obtain an advanced degree when the institution is not recognized by an official accreditation agency. Earlier this month, the Senate Education Committee approved the bill after a lengthy hearing on the issue, in which Sen. Codey railed against the practice as nothing short of fraud.
“This bill will put an end to this outrageous practice once and for all,” said Sen. Codey “It’s absurd that the same people that are charged with upholding academic integrity standards for our students, are the same ones that are milking the system with these phony diplomas. If anyone should understand the importance of accreditation, it’s an academic administrator. When our teachers and administrators receive advanced degrees from accredited universities, our students are the ones who benefit from this increased education and insight.”
“It’s a travesty to have top school officials setting such bad examples for students by cheating the system and behaving with such arrogance,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “It’s nothing short of educational malpractice.”
Bill S2127, approved by a vote of 34 – 0, would prohibit school district employees from using degrees from unaccredited online colleges and universities, or diploma mills, in order to obtain pay raises and tuition reimbursement. The Codey/Turner legislation would require that school district employees only receive tuition reimbursement or additional salary compensation if the institution they attended is duly accredited.
Additionally, employees would have to obtain approval from the superintendent prior to enrollment. Superintendents seeking enrollment would be required to first obtain approval from the Board of Education.
Under the legislation, only those courses that are related to an employee’s current or future job responsibilities would be eligible for tuition reimbursement or additional compensation. If an employee leaves the school district within one year of receiving a tuition payment, the employee would have to reimburse the district in full. Furthermore, employees must maintain a 3.0 grade point average or higher to be eligible for tuition reimbursement.
The practice came to light over the summer when a number of school administrators, including those from Freehold, Asbury Park and Weehawken, were discovered to have received yearly bonuses and tuition reimbursement for degrees that required little more than submitting a resume or doing a two to three page paper. One of the diploma mills in question that had been used by Freehold administrators – Breyer State University – has even been kicked out of two states and the country of Liberia.
The bill now awaits approval by the General Assembly.
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