Testimony before the Senate Budget Committee

S-2163 (Lesniak) –Binding arbitration in disciplinary matters
by NJEA Executive Director Vince Giordano
March 4, 2013

Chairman Sarlo, Vice-Chairman Stack and members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee -- Thank you for your consideration of S-2163 and thank you for the opportunity to offer commentary on the bill.  I would like also like to express NJEA’s appreciation to Senator Lesniak and Senator Cunningham for being the prime sponsors of this bill.

Simply stated, this legislation would extend due process protections to certain school employees who do not currently enjoy such protections.

Under current law, in addition to teachers -- only school secretaries and some school custodians and attendance officers are afforded statutory due process rights. Other school employees such as teacher assistants, bus drivers, security guards, cafeteria aides and the like, do  not enjoy the same basic statutory protections of due process to challenge such actions. 

One significant problem addressed by this bill is that even when there is contractual language for arbitration for termination, school district employers can unilaterally skirt the due process agreed to by not renewing support professionals’ contracts, claiming that a non-renewal is somehow not a termination, and, therefore, not subject to arbitrable review under a locally negotiated grievance procedure ending in binding arbitration.

If this legislation is enacted, all school employees, regardless of title, will have a  basic right to due process and binding arbitration --- a right that their certificated colleagues--- and nearly all other public employees in the State of New Jersey-- already enjoy.

A school district has a right to make managerial decisions and apply appropriate disciplinary actions when warranted.  However, all school employees should have an opportunity to argue their side before a neutral third party.  This is an important safeguard against arbitrary, capricious, and unfair treatment of those employees. 

S-2163 merely brings a degree of equity and fairness to the handling of school employee disciplinary matters.  What is fair and just for certain public school employees should be fair and just for all public school employees.  I urge you to support this bill, and again, thank you for your time.