Legislative Corner — December 2014

Legislative Corner

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.

Governor Takes Action on Legislation

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.

Career and Technical Education Package On Governor’s Desk

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:

  • A-3334/S-2224: Requires New Jersey School Report Card to include indicators of student career readiness. (Signed into Law - P.L.2014, c.71)
  • A-3335/S-2225: Requires preparation programs for teachers and school counselors to include programming to improve student career readiness. (Signed into Law - P.L.2014, c.72)
  • A-3337/S-2228: Establishes four-year County Vocational School District Partnership Grant Program in DOE. (Signed into Law - P.L.2014, c.73)
  • A-3338/S-2226: Allows school districts and requires public colleges to enter into dual enrollment agreements to provide college-level instruction to high school students through courses offered on college or high school campus. (Signed into Law - P.L.2014, c.74)
  • A-3339/S-2227: Provides that if a career and technical education program of a school district is taught in an industry setting, off-site location will be exempt from certain State regulations. (Signed into Law - P.L.2014, c.75)
  • A-3340/S-2229: Provides additional State school aid to county vocational school districts in which enrollment increases by more than 10%. (Absolute Veto)
  • A-3341/S-2230: Provides State aid for certain adult education programs. (Absolute Veto)

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.

Joint Committee on the Public Schools

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.

Legislative Activity (www.njleg.state.nj.us)

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:

  • S-2318: Limits certain unused sick leave pay and vacation leave carry-forward for school and local employees; limits sick leave use by new public employees before retirement. (NJSBA Supports.)
    The NJSBA strongly supports the legislation as it represents a potential cost-saving measure for many local school districts. In the 2010-11 legislative session, the Legislature passed identical legislation (S-2220), which was conditionally vetoed by Governor Christie and never became law. For more information, click here.
  • S-2319: Modifies various aspects of charter school program, including authorization, regulation, and monitoring; appropriates $250,000 to DOE for expenses of charter school authorizing board. (NJSBA Supports.)
    On Oct. 16, the Senate Education Committee held a discussion on S-2319 (Ruiz), also known as the Charter School Accountability and Authorizer Act. At the hearing, the NJSBA expressed its support of the bill, stating that the mission of a charter school is to provide alternatives to traditional school environments and that the Association believes the bill would achieve this goal by making important changes to the state’s charter school program. The most significant aspect of the bill is the establishment of a charter school authorizing board, to serve as a charter school authorizer in addition to the state education commissioner. The board would include nine members, including the executive director of New Jersey School Boards Association.
  • A-1286/S-2439: Authorizes the establishment of federal impact aid reserve account. (NJSBA Supports.)
    In New Jersey, 26 districts receive Impact Aid, which assists local school districts which include within their geographic boundaries parcels of land that are owned by the federal government, such as military bases. Under the provisions of the bill, a board of education may use federal impact aid funds to establish or supplement the reserve account in the district’s annual budget or through a transfer by board resolution at year-end. Currently there are state prohibitions on shifting federal impact aid funds to establish or add to a reserve account in the district’s annual budget. For more information, click here.
  • S-2484: Requires DOE to conduct study on options and benefits of instituting later school start time in middle school and high school. (NJSBA Supports.)
    The NJDOE report will detail the study findings, and will include a recommendation on the advisability of establishing a pilot program to test later school start times in select middle schools and high schools throughout the state that are interested in participating in the program.
  • S-801/A-304: Requires schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine and permit administration of epinephrine to any student having anaphylactic reaction. (NJSBA Supports.)
    If signed into law, the bill’s provisions would become effective at the beginning of the next school year following enactment.
    UPDATE - 02/05/15: Signed into law by the Governor (P.L.2015, c.13).
    For more information click here and here.
  • A-3256: Requires teachers of health and physical education in grades kindergarten through six in public schools to possess the appropriate endorsement to the instructional certificate, and includes a "grandfather" provision. (NJSBA Monitoring.)
    For more information on A-3256, click here.
  • A-1029: Requires training program for school bus drivers and school bus aides on interacting with students with special needs, and requires development and use of student information cards. (NJSBA Monitoring.)
  • A-940/S-225 establishes the four-year "New Jersey Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program" in the New Jersey Department of Education to fund non-traditional science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. (NJSBA Supports.)
  • A-2699/S-1857: Establishes measures to deter steroid use among students. (NJSBA Supports.)
  • A-3077: Requires school districts and charter schools to annually provide to parents or guardians of enrolled students information on any state assessment or commercially-developed standardized assessment that will be administered to the student during the school year. (NJSBA Monitoring.)
  • S-165: Authorizes a teacher leader endorsement to the instructional certificate. (NJSBA Monitoring.)
    Among the bill’s provisions is the creation of an 11-member “Teacher Leader Endorsement Advisory Board,” which would include a representative recommended by the NJSBA.
  • S-768/A-3833: Extends "whistleblower" protections to employee disclosure of governmental mismanagement, waste and abuse. (NJSBA Opposes.)
    For additional information, click here.
  • A-3690: Allows a student with a disability to bring a service animal on school buses. (NJSBA Monitoring.)
  • A-3224/S-2584: Requires annual suicide prevention instruction for public school teaching staff members as part of professional development requirement. (NJSBA Concerns.)
  • A-305: Prohibits use of smokeless tobacco in public schools. (NJSBA Supports.)
  • A-3441/S-1946: Permits school district to request and receive from MVC name and address of student's parent or guardian to verify student's eligibility for enrollment in school district. (NJSBA Supports.)
  • A-1796/S-2000: Prohibits school district from denying student school breakfast or school lunch because payment is in arrears without prior notice to parent.
    UPDATE - 02/05/15: Signed into law by the Governor (P.L.2015, c.15)

News from the Department of Education

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.

  • Graduation Requirements Class of 2016, 2017 and 2018 (09/30/14):
    Acting Commissioner David Hespe issued a memo on how the transition from HSPA to PARCC will affect the state requirement that all students demonstrate proficiency in English Language Arts and Mathematics in order to graduate from high school.
  • Transitioning to PARCC Frequently Asked Questions (10/02/14):
    In an attempt to clarify some misinformation surrounding the Sept. 30th memo, the NJDOE issued follow-up guidance indicating that it will allow passage of this spring’s PARCC tests to be one of several options students may use to demonstrate they have acquired the skills to graduate from high school. While passage of this spring’s PARCC tests may be used as an option to meet the high school graduation requirement, the NJDOE will also permit other options. The full text of the memo may be accessed here.
  • Student Participation in the Statewide Assessment Program (10/30/14):
    Acting NJDOE Commissioner Hespe issued a memo that seeks to clarify the ability of parents and students to choose to “opt-out” of the online PARCC tests. The memo makes clear that there is no formal procedure for such opt-outs, and that the state expects students to take the examinations. Hespe noted that, since the PARCC assessment is part of the state-required educational program, schools are not required to provide an alternative education program for students who do not participate in the statewide assessment. He encourages all chief school administrators to review the district’s discipline and attendance policies to ensure that they address situations that may arise during days that statewide assessments, such as PARCC, are being administered.

NJSBA Executive Director Named to Testing Study Commission

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.

UPDATE (01/20/15) - Interim Report Issued

Last Updated: 2/12/2015