New Jersey Teacher Tenure 248

This post refers solely to tenure of public school teachers in New Jersey. The facts presented may not apply to other positions or in other states.

How does a New Jersey teacher acquire tenure?

Tenure is established by state law, not by contract. The New Jersey Legislature has the power to modify or eliminate tenure. In the past, the Legislature has eliminated tenure for school district superintendents.

N.J.S.A. 18A:28 specifies the requirements that a teacher must meet to acquire tenure. Most teachers acquire tenure by serving in a position for 3 consecutive academic years and being rehired for a 4th year.

Under what conditions can a tenured teacher be dismissed in NJ?

N.J.S.A. 18A:6-10 and N.J.S.A. 18A:20-10 specify the conditions under which a tenured teacher may be dismissed.

A tenured teacher can be dismissed for

  • inefficiency,
  • incapacity,
  • unbecoming conduct,
  • or other just cause.

State law details procedures that must be followed if a teacher is accused of any of the above. If a tenured teacher is accused of inefficiency, state law requires that the teacher be given an opportunity to correct the alleged inefficiency. In all cases, a tenured teacher must be formally charged and given an opportunity to present a defense. In many cases, tenure charges are resolved before an administrative law judge.

A tenured teacher can also be dismissed as part of a reduction in force. A school district that eliminates teaching positions may dismiss tenured teachers. State law requires that tenure and seniority be taken into account when determining which teachers will be dismissed, but does not prevent tenured teachers from being dismissed.

For teachers seeking additional information

I wrote this post to provide basic factual information about tenure. I am unable to provide authoritative answers to the many nuanced questions that I receive. Teachers with questions about their particular situations should speak with their association representatives, their human resources departments, or the NJ Department of Education.

According to the NJ Department of Education, “Issues of educational tenure and seniority are addressed by the Bureau of Controversies and Disputes, New Jersey Department of Education, 100 Riverview Plaza, PO BOX 500, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0500 or call 609-292-5705.”

The New Jersey Education Association may also be able to provide information at 180 W. State Street, Trenton, NJ 08607-1211 and 1-609-599-4561.

PDFs of selected New Jersey Statutes

Other articles on education

248 thoughts on “New Jersey Teacher Tenure

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  1. Reply Brandon Horn Mar 7,2011 10:24 am

    This way beyond my ability to answer. I’m not sure to whether tenure law applies to teachers in charter schools. I’m not familiar with the rules that would govern your circumstances. I recommend that you request an opinion from the NJ Commissioner of Education.

  2. Reply Joanne Reddan Apr 4,2011 12:54 pm

    In this scenario: after working for 2 1/2 years on an emergency certification a teacher receives a provisional certificate in year 3, but will not have a standard certificate before the end of year 3. Does the teacher receive tenure one day after returning for year 4? Does the time working on the emergency cert count toward tenure? How is the statute that a teacher must be certificated to obtain tenure interpreted as far as provisional cert goes?

  3. Reply Brandon Horn Apr 4,2011 6:14 pm

    I don’t believe that time under an emergency certificate counts towards tenure. I completed my alternate route program with my current district and they counted the year I held a certificate of eligibility.

  4. Reply BR Apr 12,2011 1:42 pm

    Hello, this is my fourth year in my school district. For the first three years I was a full time teacher. I was then laid off and then rehired as a part time Basic Skills teacher. My tenure has been granted but is accumulating on a part time basis.
    I have been asked (more like suggested!) by my district to acquire Special Ed certification, as there are going to be many full time openings next year. So my question is this, will I have to start the tenure process all over again if I am going from regular ed to special ed in the same district (and school)?
    Thank you.

  5. Reply Brandon Horn Apr 12,2011 8:01 pm

    Tenure for one position is not lost when moving to another position within the district. I don’t believe there is such a thing as part time tenure. Tenure requires 3 years and 1 day of consecutive full time employment in the same position.

  6. Reply Anonymous Apr 14,2011 12:51 pm

    I have a question. I was on leave for a sickness for the past 3 years. My district HR person said that I cannot accrue those years for tenure because it wasn’t my tenure track. What I don’t get though is that the other teacher was not accruing those years toward pension and she never returned so doesn’t that really mean that she forfeited those years? It just makes me so frustrated that I have another year and a half until I get tenure.

  7. Reply Brandon Horn Apr 14,2011 3:03 pm

    Contracts for leave replacements typically state explicitly that time worked does not accrue toward tenure. Tenure is intended for teachers who hold permanent positions with the district. If the district did not plan to retain you permanently, they may not have evaluated you in the same manner. The other teacher’s situation is irrelevant.

  8. Reply nancy Apr 19,2011 9:55 am

    do all non tenured staff have to be let go before you can rif a tenured teacher

  9. Reply Brandon Horn Apr 20,2011 1:05 pm

    I believe that is the case provided that the tenured teacher holds the appropriate certification. For example, a tenured English teacher could not claim the position of a non-tenured math teacher without holding a math certification.

  10. Reply Anonymous Apr 28,2011 11:23 am

    Does anyone know laws on tenure while covering a maternity leave? I have been in the same school for 3 consecutive years (September 1 – June 30) covering 3 full year maternity leaves. I am wondering, if I am hired back in September for the position I have been in, am I guaranteed tenure? (The teacher resigned) I have not missed any time other then the occasional sick day. Thanks for your input.

  11. Reply Brandon Horn Apr 28,2011 4:49 pm

    Time spent as a leave replacement does not typically accrue toward tenure. This is often stated explicitly in contracts. As a leave replacement, you may not have been receiving the same evaluations as you would have if the district was considering you for a permanent tenured position.

  12. Reply Lisa May 3,2011 4:36 pm

    I am certified to teach N-8. I was hired as an elementary school teacher in 1996. I spent one year as a media teacher and one year as a computer teacher. My third year I applied for the technology facilitator position which required you to hold a teaching certificate. This position was also required by the state for then the Abbott districts. This position is not a supervisor position and I did not receive any stipends. I continued as a teacher but with a different type of assignment outside of a classroom. After my 3 years and one day I received tenure in that I never signed another contract and had my evaluations reflect my tenured status through written documentation. Basically an x was placed in the box next to tenure. Now after 15 years, my HR department says I do not have tenure. They said it is because i did not teach in a classroom for 3 years and one day. Is this true?

  13. Reply Brandon Horn May 3,2011 6:22 pm

    This is a complex question with substantial ramifications. You need to consult an attorney, or at least a knowledgeable union rep.

  14. Reply J Edmondson Jun 1,2011 8:56 am

    If a person is hired as a school counselor and has tenure (she has been at the job for 10 years) have her tenure stripped. The counselor was hired 10 years ago. Her tenure was voted on and approved and has been at the district for 10 years. She has her masters in social work. The new HR director found she does not have the school personnel certificate. The HR director is under the impression that she can then strip tenure away. Keep in mind this person has glowing reviews and has been in the job for ten years. Can this be done legally? Her direct supervisor is rewriting her job duties to say she is a school social worker (she has a Masters in Social Work) and says her job is safe but her tenure and seniority will be gone? Can this be done? Also, this district also rewrote other school counselor positions to be social workers with also no loss in tenure. None of this sounds right to me. The school budget passed and this is not a RIF to save funds. The people were notified on 5/31/11 that this can be happening to them. This is after 5/15 notification date. So I believe the jobs will be safe, but I am concerned over the tenure and seniority question.

  15. Reply Anonymous Jun 8,2011 2:23 pm

    If I am a tenured teacher, can I be moved down to part time and have my benefits taken away? If I am moved down to part time, will I still be tenured?

  16. Reply Jenna Jun 9,2011 3:57 pm

    I was a full-time basic skills teacher and was cut to a part-time teacher my fourth year. The district said I had part-time tenure. If a full-time teaching position becomes available do I have bumping rights. There are teachers who aren’t tenured. There has been talk of an opening and I was wondering if I had any rights.

  17. Reply Shannon Jun 22,2011 9:05 pm

    I just completed three years of teaching in one district. I was offered an assignment for next year. Another teacher was cut to part time, due to position abolishment. A few weeks later she was let go totally. She is now exercising her k-5 certificate (was a Spanish teacher) and is therefore, allowed to bump a non-tenured teacher. I realize that non-tenured teachers are all on a level playing field. I was cut, even though I was in the district 6 years total, 3 as a teacher, with superior reviews. Our district’s long term outlook is that they will need to keep cutting, due to financial reasons, etc. Both other non-tenured el. ed. teachers had less time in district; one had only worked 3 months…does she even count ??? She had not even put in a year. I am feeling like I was chosen to be let go because I was closest to tenure. Is there anything that can help me? Also, I was just notified today, after having a contract in May. Any help is greatly appreciated…

  18. Reply Anonymous Jun 24,2011 3:52 pm

    How long is a tenured teacher allowed to take off (extened materinty leave ~ second year)from work without pay and still have a position to return to?

  19. Reply Jackie Jul 21,2011 8:15 pm

    I was on a tenure track in a part time kindergarten position for the past two years I was rehired for my third year for the same position… I need full time and was offered a full time maternity leave position for the year in 3rd grade the same school… At first it was offered as a maternity then told me it was a transfer and counted towards my tenure now 4 days before I will be approved by the board my principal told em it is a leave position and will not accrue towards me tenure but will receive me pay and medical benefits. The leave I am filling is for a non tenure teacher … Can she decide to come back early and I would be out of a job even though she was approved for a year and I was approved for a year contract and also is there anyway I can get this year to count towards my tenure????

  20. Reply teacher Aug 1,2011 11:02 am

    I obtained tenure in New Jersey, with my first year being emergency certified. It counted towards my tenure.

  21. Reply Jack Olsen Sep 1,2011 10:46 am

    I taught one year at a school district. Since the district is in contract negotiations, I did not receive a contract for the following year. Instead I received a letter of intent from the district indicating an intent to rehire me at an undisclosed salary the following year. I signed the bottom of the letter indicating that I had seen the letter but signed nothing indicating my intention to accept a position for the following year. At any rate, I have accepted a position starting this fall with another school and gave my notification. The principal is now telling me that he will he will require that I stay with his district for sixty days and that I must show up for classes at the beginning of the school year or he will start proceedings to remove my teacher certification. Since I don’t have a contract, can he follow through on his threat?

    Thanks.

  22. Reply Brandon Horn Sep 1,2011 5:45 pm

    This has nothing to do with tenure. Your association should be able to explain the situation to you.

  23. Reply Anonymous Sep 8,2011 6:37 am

    I have been teaching in NY and have times towards my tenure. Does that carry over to NJ when I start looking for a job ther?

  24. Reply Anon. Sep 29,2011 6:06 pm

    I worked 2 years full time. My 3rd year, I was PT due to a reduction in force. During that year, a position opened in another school in the district (same content area as mine) which was filled with a new hire, FT. I have attained tenure status, now in my 4th year, but I am still PT. (I assure you, PT teachers are eligible for tenure, I have the contract to prove it). Can I bump the FT teacher, due to seniority?

  25. Reply Wendy Oct 4,2011 8:50 pm

    I was a full time teacher who earned tenure for 4 years. Then I went to part time. I understand that I still hold my tenure but apparently gave up my rights to a full time position in my district. Can that be possible? How do I legally get back into a full time spot? And what are the requirements for doing so? Do I just slide into full time or do they require the whole interview process again?

  26. Reply Dawnteach Dec 6,2011 7:53 pm

    I am a tenured teacher, certified K-5 and Teacher of Students with Disabilities. I currently teach second grade, but have never taught in the special education department in my district (despite having at least eight special ed students in my class each year). My quetions is..if there is a RIF of classroom teachers, do I have bumping rights over the five non-tenured special education teachers that were hired after me? Or do I only have bumping rights over other classroom teachers in my school district?

  27. Reply Anonymous Jan 3,2012 10:24 pm

    Hi
    This is for my friend. She started working as a full time math teacher in September 2004. She is highly qualified and certified. She became a US citizen in 2010. Does she have tenure status as she completed 7 years without break and a citizen now?

  28. Reply anon Feb 5,2012 6:12 pm

    i was hired as a replacement teacher for the school year – i have been receiving a long term substitute’s rate of pay. It has come to my attention that I should be receiving the pay of the teacher on leave – a regulary budgeted position. whom do I discuss this with, the principal that hired me?

  29. Reply Brandon Horn Feb 7,2012 9:23 am

    If you are a member of the local association, it might be advantageous to speak with an association representative first. They might be able to provide guidance as to how to proceed. If you have a good relationship with the principal, you could also approach her. Ultimately, the human resources personnel in the board office are most likely to be able to provide accurate guidance and to correct the issue.

  30. Reply Anonymous Feb 28,2012 3:25 pm

    This is my daughter’s fourth year of teaching so she is tenured in her district. If she decides to leave and move to a different school district in New Jersey, what happens to her tenure? Does she have to start over to attain tenure? And will she start at the starting salary in the new district or will experience and additional schooling be taken into account?

  31. Reply Brandon Horn Feb 28,2012 4:25 pm

    Tenure does not transfer between districts in NJ. Most districts count prior NJ experience toward initial placement on the salary guide. Initial placement is often negotiable as well.

  32. Reply Kyle Mar 2,2012 10:20 am

    Thanks for the much-needed and clear information you’re providing here, Brandon! Tenure is an especially important issue now, and I’m glad you’re willing to make the process clearer for people.

  33. Reply susan flanagan Mar 22,2012 10:58 am

    At my school, we are starting to offer a dual-language class which speaks spanish one week and english the following week. This program is intended to be gradually increased one grade per year til we reach 5th grade. My question is: can a teacher (tenured) be RIFed or fired for not being a fluent spanish speaker with dual-language certification? If a Teacher’s asst has seniority can she/he be let go for the same reason? Actually, it sounds unconstitutional to me. How can a teacher be penalized in America for not speaking Spanish?

  34. Reply Brandon Horn Mar 22,2012 5:44 pm

    Tenure does not prevent a district from firing a teacher if their position is eliminated. My guess is that your district has structured this as the elimination of a class and the introduction of a new class. If the new class requires dual-language certification and you don’t hold it, they would not be required to offer you the position. In NJ, tenure is not part of the constitution but is part of state law. I can’t see how any law except tenure would offer a teacher protection in this case.

  35. Reply Jessica Andrews Apr 10,2012 6:11 am

    What about support staff such as aides, maintenance workers and so forth? Who protects these job?

  36. Reply Brandon Horn Apr 10,2012 8:19 am

    Most support staff are not covered by NJ tenure law. I believe nurses are covered. I remember from one of my masters classes that if custodians are appointed in a certain uncommon way, they would be covered too. Most support positions are not covered though.

  37. Reply Peter Apr 19,2012 12:00 pm

    Some Building and Grounds supervisors that have been given multiple three year contracts have been told that tenure is assumed and tenure guidelines need to be followed for dismissal purposes, is this true??

  38. Reply Maria Apr 30,2012 3:43 pm

    Question for my friend. He has tenure. His school is closing so he is waiting to see what school he will be transferred to. He had a meeting with HR and President of his union. Instead of him getting a position in a school he is on a TBD list. So, as of right now, he has no job. There are teachers with no tenure under him but they have a position. Shouldn’t he be able to get a position before them? Is there a tenure law that states he would get first choice before a non-tenured teacher? He has been in the district for 8 years.
    Thanks,
    Maria

  39. Reply Brandon Horn Apr 30,2012 3:48 pm

    Not all positions are equivalent. Your friend would need to hold a certification in an area for which a teacher is needed. The nuances of your friend’s case require that he get answers from his union representatives or from an attorney.

  40. Reply Maria May 1,2012 2:50 pm

    Thanks for the response. The president of his Union was in the meeting but did not say one word on his behalf.

  41. Reply RN May 19,2012 11:42 am

    I have worked for three years in an NJ school district. The Principal and Superintendent recommended that I be hired again and granted tenure. However, the Board has voted me down. Are they justified under the law to do this? Do I have any recourse? My department has not been closed.

  42. Reply Brandon Horn May 20,2012 12:57 am

    NJ tenure law only protects you once you acquire tenure. So long as they are not discriminating against you because you are a member in a legally protected class, the BOE is not obligated to accept the recommendations of the administrative staff.

  43. Reply Mimi Jun 4,2012 6:51 pm

    I was hired for a part time position in 1998 (in NY) on an hourly salary and was asked to sign a document that stated “tenure does not apply with this position.” The following year I worked full time hours the whole year, in the same tenure area, and continue to work in this capacity to date. Am I entitled to tenure and/or a yearly salary?

  44. Reply GB Jun 7,2012 12:27 am

    Hello, Mr. Horn. Sincerely hope you can advise. What do you know about provisional tenure? I can’t seem to find specifics on it, although I’m under the impression it exists.

    This is my tenure year — I’ve taught 3 years in my district, two of which in my current placement with my current K-8 center. The principal has told me that if it weren’t my tenure year, she’d keep me so that we can continue to work together to get me where she wants me. (I previously taught high school and am now in middle school — it’s been a transition, teaching toward to the younger students.) She hesitates to sign off on tenure since “notoriously teachers can get lazy after giving tenure.”

    I’ve pasted a link below which references an agreement that a teacher in Westfield (not my current district) made with the BOE — they offer him tenure and he submitted his resignation for the end of the upcoming year — and then this enables him to get more time in the district and prove himself, and the board can refuse the resignation if it decides it’s happy with him.

    When telling me the news that she won’t be renewing my contract, she said “if we had the additional year” it would be another story. I actually had brought it up to her in that meeting, asking if there was a way to forego the tenure and continue our work for another year to continue our progress. She said she looked into whether that’s an option but was told no. (Don’t know who she spoke with.) Yet, toward the end of the article below, it says this “agreement” can be “common” to give everyone more time.

    Where can I find more information on this option, and specific statutory wording in this regard? There must be written information on this somewhere.

    (By way of background, I worked for the district — in the high school — for three years previously, gained tenure, but left teaching for two years. The district welcomed me back and I’ve since done the next set of three years — the first back in the high school and then the last two in my current K-8 center. Hence, my principal telling me “if we had another year together …”)

    Time is of the essence — and I appreciate ANY and ALL input you may have.

    http://westfield.patch.com/articles/kravetsky-granted-tenure-submits-june-2011-tentative-resignation

  45. Reply Robin Jun 26,2012 12:32 pm

    Mr. Horn,

    If a teacher works part-time and has a provisional certificate, does she gain tenure after three years if she does not have a standard certificate? The district is not rehiring her next year because they say she will have tenure and no certificate which creates a sticky situation for them. Does she gain tenure working part-time on a provisional for 3 years? Thanks for any guidance.

  46. Reply Pam Jul 23,2012 11:25 pm

    I was hired as a full time aide in a New Jersey school. Position was advertised as one with “benefits”. I assumed it meant medical benefits as did everyone else interviewing for the position. The woman interviewing said she was the “bearer of bad news”. The benefits referred to sick and personal days. Are districts allowed to hire full time aides and not give them medical benefits?

  47. Reply Mel Z Oct 24,2012 3:04 pm

    I was a tenured art teacher that lost my job due to a reduction in force. Since I was a tenured teacher in the district should I be first one offered any art teacher position that should come open in the district. If so, is there a statue of limitation with the district having to offer me the job?

  48. Reply Gerry Apr 9,2014 8:47 am

    Dear Sirs: I am a US Permanent Resident. I started working as a full Spanish teacher in 2000. I was riffed in 2011 and started working in another school district right away. I have been working for 14 years so far. I have been observed 4 times X 10 months all these years. All my evaluations have been outstanding. Can TENURE be granted to me? Could I send a a letter to someone? Who?
    Thanks

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