Updated Nov. 14, 2013
The FY 2013-14 legislative session enters the last eight weeks without much fanfare. NJSBA is tracking a few bills that address outstanding issues related November school board elections.
S-2086 a bill that would change the deadline for candidates in the November school board elections to file nominating petitions will come before the full Senate for a vote on Monday Nov. 18. The bill changes the filing deadline from the June primary election date to 4 p.m. on the last Monday in July. NJSBA has been working with the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Jim Whelan, on the measure. A companion bill A 3424 (Greenwald) is currently pending a hearing in the Assembly Education Committee.
Other bills NJSBA is monitoring include: S-2877, (Ruiz, Van Drew) would allow school districts holding November elections more time to complete their school budget submission to the state. The bill is currently in the Senate Education Committee. A companion bill, A-4300, (Diegnan, Singleton) is in the Assembly Education Committee.
Sen. Jeff Van Drew is the primary sponsor of a bill that would require early screening and identification of students for dyslexia, a reading disorder.
This bill was passed by the full Senate on June 27. The Assembly companion bill, A-3605, has been referred to the Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee, before it can go to the full Assembly.
NJSBA fully supports screening students who show signs of reading disabilities and potential dyslexia. However, S-2442/A3605 would require districts to screen all students for dyslexia and other reading disabilities by the end of first grade, without critical state financial support, which can place a burden on local property taxpayers.
NJSBA believes screening for dyslexia should be based on the needs of each individual student. While school districts should screen students when a teacher suspects a reading disability or dyslexia issue, screening a student who is performing at grade level would be unnecessary and costly.
NJSBA’s Governmental Relations staff will continue seek amendments to the bill, so that public school students in grades K-2 who have exhibited any indicators would be screened for dyslexia and other reading disabilities by the completion of the first semester of second grade. The Assembly version will likely be amended in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and then moved on the Assembly side. The Senate would then consider the amendments for concurrence before sending the bill to the Governor for signature.
The Legislature's “lame duck” period—the period between an election and when the beginning of as new 2 year legislative session in January —is a time for heightened scrutiny by NJSBA’s Governmental Relations Department. The lame duck period can be a time when bills move quickly through committees and come to the floor of the state Senate and Assembly for a vote. In the last lame-duck session the bill that allowed local boards to move their elections to November and eliminate the school budget vote was passed.
New Jersey school board members who belong to the Federal Relations Network (FRN) are being called upon to add their voice to the 900-plus board members who will be in Washington, D.C. from Feb. 2-4 for the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Advocacy Institute (formerly the FRN Conference) – the only national legislative conference for school board members.
The National School Boards Association has posted on its website additional information on the conference.
FRN members are school board leaders who carry the public education message to Washington, and cultivate an ongoing relationship with members of Congress and their staffs. The FRN Conference is the best place to start, as members can receive background information and updates on the most important legislation impacting public education. Attendees at the conference will gain a better understanding of the political climate and get an insider's perspective on how things work in Washington. The FRN Conference gives board members the knowledge and the skills to be a leader on federal legislation throughout the year.
To become an FRN member, contact Sharon Seyler, NJSBA legislative coordinator/advocacy programs, via her email or by calling (609) 278-5282. Registration information is available online.