TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) – New Jersey’s governor is proposing a new statewide teacher tenure plan, something the teachers’ union says is part of a national movement to break up public unions.

Tenure in New Jersey kicks in the first day of a teacher’s fourth year.   Many critics of teacher tenure, including Gov. Chris Christie (above), say it protects bad teachers.

wollmer 02 side prov Part 3:   The Battle Over Teacher Tenure In New Jersey

(NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer.)

But Steve Wollmer (right), a spokesman with the New Jersey Education Association, says that is not so — it merely prevents unfair dismissals.

No one wants bad teachers in the classroom, he argues, and hundreds of tenured teachers in the state are let go each year — although he admits the cost of the current process is too high.

“Tenure is not a ‘job for life,’ which is a big misnomer,” Wollmer says.  “Tenure is a process — it’s a law that lays out the process by which you can fairly dismiss a tenured teacher.  And what NJEA believes is, that process is flawed — it shouldn’t take two years and $150,000 to $200,000 to dismiss a teacher.  That’s why we are proposing arbitration, which will get it done in 90 days at a fraction of the cost.”

Gov. Christie is also proposing a new process — one that would bring a quick end to a tenured dismissal case: 30 days.

The governor also wants at least half of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on student test scores (see related story) — something the union says is unreliable and penalizes teachers with the most difficult students.

“The research does not agree with the governor on that,” notes Wollmer. He says Christie’s tenure proposal is part of a bigger picture.

“This governor is at the vanguard of a national movement which we saw blossoming in Wisconsin not long ago. It’s a national movement to break public unions.”

nicoludus jim side mcdev Part 3:   The Battle Over Teacher Tenure In New Jersey

(Laurel Springs, NJ board of education VP Jim Nicoludus. Photo by John McDevitt)

Christie also wants merit pay for teachers (related story) — something that Jim Nicoludus (right), vice president of the Laurel Springs board of education in Camden County, NJ agrees with.

“Why should everybody get the same increase?” Nicoludus argues.  “The board decides, ‘Yes, this increase is affordable, it’s fiscally sound, we are going to approve it — we are going to give you this raise. You did a great job this year, here’s five percent. (Or), you did a mediocre job this year, here’s three percent; you did a terrible job this year, here’s one percent. Do you deserve the same pay increase of a person that really went all out?”

Reported by John McDevitt, KYW Newsradio 1060.

Hear the CBS Philly “State of the Unions” podcasts…

Unionism in the Philadelphia Region, by KYW’s John McDevitt:

Organized Opposition to Organized Labor, by KYW’s Pat Loeb:

The Battle Over NJ Teacher Tenure, by KYW’s John McDevitt:

Will Labor Unions Survive?, by KYW’s Pat Loeb:

Watch & Listen LIVE