As we head into what is typically a very busy pre-holiday legislative season, now is a good time to re-cap the significant education-related developments that have occurred in and around the State House recently. The following provides an overview of any new enactments, pending legislation, and other executive and legislative branch actions that are of particular relevance to NJSBA members. Please check this page periodically as it will be regularly updated to reflect any important activity in Trenton.
In November, Governor Christie took action on three legislative proposals that the NJSBA was actively monitoring. Two were signed into law, while a third was conditionally vetoed. The two measures he approved went into effect immediately.
Breakfast After the Bell: The governor signed into law (P.L. 2014, c.66) a measure (A-679/S-1897) that promotes the establishment of so-called "breakfast after the bell" programs across New Jersey’s schools. The legislation encourages both public and nonpublic schools currently participating in the federal school breakfast program to increase the number of students participating in the program by establishing a "breakfast after the bell" program through the incorporation of school breakfast in the first-period classroom or during the first few minutes of the school day. NJSBA supported the legislation.
Nonpublic School Nursing: The governor also approved A-948/S-1988, which requires a board of education to provide timely and meaningful consultation with appropriate nonpublic school representatives, including parents, prior to any change in the provision of nursing services for students attending nonpublic schools. Under existing law, each board of education of a district in which a nonpublic school is located must provide nursing services for pupils who are enrolled full-time in the nonpublic school. See P.L. 2014, c.67 for the full text of the new law.
Mold Inspection and Abatement: The governor conditionally vetoed legislation (A-1007/S-2142) that would have required the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to establish procedures for the inspection and abatement of mold hazards in residential buildings and school facilities, as well as certification programs for mold inspectors and mold hazard abatement workers. Rather than setting explicit procedures and establishing a formal certification program, the governor instead recommended increasing the amount and availability of information to the public on what guidelines they should follow when confronted with mold. Specifically, under the conditionally vetoed version of A-1007, the Department of Health (DOH) shall publish, within six months, informational guidelines on the inspection, identification, evaluation, and abatement of mold.
As of the publication of this issue of Legislative Corner, a package of bills designed to support career and technical education (CTE) is on the Governor’s desk. The package has been heavily promoted by the New Jersey Employer Coalition for Technical Education. That group, of which the NJSBA is a member, is spearheaded by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association and the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Education. The NJSBA supports the entire CTE bill package and believes that all local boards of education overseeing both traditional and county-vocational districts should place an emphasis on career awareness. The Association encourages the integration of career education throughout the curriculum as well as collaboration between business, labor, and educational organizations. NJSBA further supports initiatives that will expose students to a wide array of programs and services that promote and develop workplace readiness skills.
The following seven bills await gubernatorial action:
UPDATE – 12/08/14: The Governor has acted on the seven-bill CTE package. The following measures were signed into law: A-3334, A-3335, A-3337, A-3338, and A-3339. With the exception of A-3338, the news law went into effect immediately. A-3338 becomes effective with the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. The following bills received an absolute veto: A-3340 and A-3341. Please click here for additional information, and follow the links above for the full text of the new laws and the Governor’s veto statements.
Superintendent Salary Caps. On Sept. 16, the Joint Committee on the Public Schools held a hearing on the much-debated issue of superintendent salary caps. A representative of the NJSBA testified, along with invited speakers from the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association and the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. In its testimony, the NJSBA highlighted the increase in turnover at the superintendent position that has occurred since the cap took effect, which has a negative impact on educational quality and continuity. NJSBA also argued that the superintendent salary cap is unnecessary since several other controls already limit school district spending. Such controls include the two-percent property tax levy cap, the statutory limitation on administrative spending growth, accountability regulations, and the required Executive County Superintendent review of all superintendent contracts. The NJSBA believes that the superintendent salary cap interferes with school districts’ need for flexibility to spend their limited resources in a manner that most effectively and efficiently meets the needs of the students and communities they serve. In addition to providing written and oral testimony, the NJSBA provided committee members with copies of the “Final Report on the Study of the Impact of the Salary Cap on Chief School Administrators,” which was submitted to the NJSBA Delegate Assembly this past May.
For additional information on this hearing, click here.
School District Regionalization. On Nov. 12th, the joint committee held a hearing on the topic of school district regionalization. The hearing took place at South Hunterdon Regional High School in Lambertville. Last September, voters in three southern Hunterdon County municipalities (Lambertville, Stockton and West Amwell) voted to approve a plan to merge three elementary school districts and a high school district into one Kindergarten-through-12th grade unit. The referendum represented the state’s first regionalization of school districts since 1995. Representatives of the NJSBA testified and provided the committee with an insight into both the pros and cons of school district regionalization. For a more detailed summary of the hearing, please click here.
The issue of school district consolidation and regionalization continues to garner attention from the Legislature. Asw. Simon, a member of the joint committee as well as the Assembly Education Committee, has introduced a bill (A-3814) that would create a Task Force on School District Regionalization comprised of members representing the educational community and local government.
The following is a list of several bills that are of particular interest to our members and which have received consideration by the Legislature recently. Many of these proposals are likely to continue progressing through the legislative process in the weeks and months ahead:
The NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) has issued several memos in an attempt to provide school districts with guidance related to the transition to the PARCC assessments, which will be administered statewide in the spring of 2015.
On Nov. 10, Governor Christie appointed the members of the “Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments in New Jersey.” Among the commission’s nine members is Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, the NJSBA’s executive director. The commission was created pursuant to an executive order issued on July 14 and is tasked with reviewing the “volume, frequency and impact of student testing occurring throughout New Jersey school districts.” The executive order came after several bills were proposed in the Legislature that would create a task force to study the testing, and which also sought to delay the use of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) results in evaluating teachers.
The commission is scheduled to report its initial recommendations to the governor by Dec. 31, 2014, with its final report due to Christie and the Legislature no later than July 31, 2015.
Last Updated: 12/10/2014