Bill moves to Gov. Christie that provides strict paid-tuition assistance guidelines
Legislation to ensure New Jersey school employees do not abuse school district paid- tuition assistance programs by obtaining bogus degrees was approved 75-0 Thursday by the Assembly.
The bipartisan bill (A-1894/S-826) stems from an episode at the Freehold Regional High School District where three administrators used $8,700 in taxpayer funds to pay for doctoral "degrees" from Alabama-based Breyer State University - an unaccredited online diploma mill. Before the bogus nature of the degrees was uncovered, the district provided each with a $2,500 salary increase, which was commensurate to their being awarded actual doctoral degrees.
The measure is sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (D-Union) and Sen. Richard J. Codey (D-Essex)
"The use of school money to buy a fraudulent degree from a diploma mill is not only academically and professionally dishonest but slap in the face of taxpayers," Cryan said. "This kind of sham should never be allowed to happen."
This measure would ensure boards of education provide employees with tuition assistance only for academic coursework completed at an accredited higher education institution. It also would require district sign-off on any employee's course of study prior to enrollment in any course for which tuition assistance is sought. Employees also would have to receive and "A" or "B" grade in the course in order to receive a tuition payment.
School boards would be empowered to set higher standards if they so chose.
"In addition to their responsibility to teach our kids the three Rs - reading, writing and arithmetic - teachers and school administrators have an obligation to set an example for their students," Codey said. "When school district employees look to take advantage of short-cuts for unearned tuition assistance and higher salaries, they're setting a very bad example. We must demand better from our State's educators, and close down loopholes which allow them to profit from fake degrees issued by unaccredited colleges and universities."
The bill moves to Gov. Chris Christie for consideration.
— TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM