ICYMI: Christie gets one education law, but what about the other 'reforms'?

In case you missed it, Gov. Christie signed a bill yesterday that revamped the teacher tenure system. But it didn't include a key provision that he wanted, and it is the only significant, statewide piece of education legislation he has so far gotten passed. 

Here's my story in Tuesday's paper: 

MIDDLESEX, N.J. - Teachers' union leaders and Gov. Christie appeared in the same room Monday - and even shook hands - as they heralded legislation on tenure passed by lawmakers from both parties.

But the smiles and signs of détente in the ugly feud between Christie and the unions belied reality, as the bulk of Christie's education agenda remains sidelined.

The bill-signing at a middle school in central New Jersey was a historic moment, marking the state's most significant changes to teacher-tenure rules in a century. It links tenure to performance, increases the time it takes to earn tenure, and makes it faster and cheaper to dismiss a poor teacher.

Yet the law, the biggest educational achievement of Christie's term, retains something that the Republican governor has long railed against - seniority.

The "last in, first out" system - held sacred by virtually every union - is derided by Christie because it prevents experienced educators from being laid off before newer, possibly more innovative, teachers.

Christie's inability to change the seniority system underscores the fact that even as he has built his image nationally and locally as a hard-charging change agent on educational issues, he has yet to rack up some critical victories.

In 2011, which Christie declared the "year of education reform," he failed to check off key items on his to-do list: create a merit-based teacher compensation system, empower principals to make hiring decisions, and launch a voucher system so students in failing schools can matriculate elsewhere. In addition, his attempt to revamp the state's formula for funding schools was rejected by the state Supreme Court, which ordered more money for urban districts.

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