PENNSAUKEN, New Jersey (WPVI) — A new bill that just passed the state senate would lift the rule that public and charter teachers have to live in New Jersey to teach in the state. The goal: to help ease teacher shortages.
Pennsauken Superintendent Dr. Ronnie Tarchichi said he’s always looking for teachers, especially those in specialized fields.
“I’m teaching physics in this high school now because we can’t find physics teachers and I’m the superintendent of schools,” said Tarchichi.
Each year he says he has to find about two dozen new teachers, and COVID-19 made things worse.
“Every year we have anywhere from 20-30. And that’s from people retiring, leaving. It’s transient,” Tarchichi said.
A bipartisan bill – if passed – would lift the requirement that New Jersey public school teachers live in-state.
The residency rule began in 2011 under the Chris Christie administration as part of the New Jersey First Act, which required public employees to live in New Jersey.
Under this bill, that requirement would be waived for teachers for three years.
The New Jersey Education Association supports the bill, saying in a statement:
“…we need to expand our pool to include those who live in other states but are close enough to commute. Other states don’t hesitate to recruit in New Jersey, and we should be just as aggressive in our efforts on behalf of our students.”
Teacher shortages aren’t just a problem in New Jersey. Nationwide the number of job openings in education went up 7.6% between 2021 and 2022.
Desperate educators say lifting the residency rule is worth a try.
“There’s no reason why Pennsylvania teachers can’t come here and NJ teachers can’t go there,” said Tarchichi. “That’s the way it should be.”
The Camden Education Fund is a nonprofit that works with Camden schools and has several initiatives to recruit and retain teachers.
While they have partnerships with several colleges in New Jersey, they would welcome the chance to recruit from neighboring states.
“It’s a competitive job market,” said Giana Campbell, executive director of the Camden Education Fund. “And so we want to be able to cast a wider net and make sure that we’re not only getting the best talent in New Jersey but also the best talent from other nearby cities.”
The bill does say schools should make a “good faith effort” to hire New Jersey residents, and at the end of the three-year period, the state must evaluate how it went along with any unintended consequences.
The bill still has to be passed by the state assembly and it has to be signed by Governor Murphy.