Legislative Corner — Summer 2014

Legislative Corner

After passing the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, the Legislature has recessed for its traditional summer break. This edition of Legislative Corner provides an overview of the most significant developments on legislation impacting school districts that have occurred over the first six months of the 2014-15 legislative session.

Several Education Measures Awaiting Gubernatorial Action

A number of education-related proposal bills have received full legislative approval and were sent to the Governor’s desk for his consideration. This page will be continuously updated to reflect whatever action he decides to take on the following bills:

  • S-770/A-2873: Establishes procedures and standards regarding public service privatization contracts.
    NOTE: The NJSBA is seeking an absolute veto of this legislation. An identical bill was sent to Governor Christie in 2013, and was subsequently vetoed without conditions.
  • S-966/A-2216: Establishes procedures for the approval of the closure of a public school.
  • A-2072/S-235: Requires public school students in grades 9 through 12 to receive instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use of an automated external defibrillator prior to graduation.
    • ACTION TAKEN: 08/20/2014 — Approved and Signed into Law by the Governor (P.L.2014, c.36)
  • S-2264/A-3459: Extends application period for certain urban hope projects; permits reconstructed facilities as part of projects; and provides additional retirement benefits for certain PERS and TPAF members in certain urban hope districts.
    • ACTION TAKEN: 08/11/2014 — Conditional Veto
    • ACTION TAKEN: 09/22/2014 – Senate Concurs with Governor's Recommendation; Passed by the Senate (32-1) and Received in the Assembly
  • A-3346/S-2138: Allows reemployment by school district of TPAF retiree as coach of athletic activity when compensation is under $10,000.
    • ACTION TAKEN: 07/30/2014 — Approved and Signed into Law by the Governor (P.L.2014, c.21)
  • A-373/S-2091: Requires school buildings to be equipped with emergency light and panic alarm linked to local law enforcement.
    NOTE: Governor Christie “pocket vetoed” a similar measure at the end of the previous legislative session. The NJSBA supports the bill under the condition that it continues to include funding to offset implementation costs.
  • S-387/A-1363: Permits two or more candidates for school board to circulate petitions jointly and be bracketed together on ballot for same term; permits short nonpolitical designation of principles on petitions and ballots.
    NOTE: For the legislation to apply to November 2014 school board elections, Governor Christie would need to sign it into law no later than August 4th, 2014.
  • Farm-to-School Bill Package:
    • A-156/S-1902: Requires Department of Agriculture to post on its website certain information regarding State's farm to school program.
      • ACTION TAKEN: 08/25/2014 – Approved and Signed into Law by the Governor (P.L.2014, c.37)
    • A-2641/S-1903: Provides for voluntary contributions by taxpayers on gross income tax returns to support farm to school and school gardens programs.
      • ACTION TAKEN: 08/25/2014 – Approved and Signed into Law by the Governor (P.L.2014, c.38)
    • A-2642/S-1908: Allows contributions to "New Jersey Farm to School Program.
      • ACTION TAKEN: 08/25/2014 – Approved and Signed into Law by the Governor (P.L.2014, c.39)
    • A-2643/S-1907: Establishes "Best in New Jersey 'Farm to School' Awards Program" to annually recognize the best farm to school programs implemented by a school or school district.
      • ACTION TAKEN: 08/25/2014 – Approved and Signed into Law by the Governor (P.L.2014, c.40)
    • A-2644/S-1964: Directs the Dept. of Agriculture to establish a clearinghouse website for farmers to offer produce and dairy products for use by school breakfast programs, school lunch programs, and food banks.
      • ACTION TAKEN: 08/25/2014 – Approved and Signed into Law by the Governor (P.L.2014, c.41)

FY2015 Budget Recap

On June 26th, the Legislature passed the FY2015 budget on pure party lines with every Democrat voting in favor and every Republican opposing. On June 30th, the Governor made adjustments to the budget via line-item veto and signed the revised version into law. The largest education item affected by the line-item veto was payment to the Teacher’s Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF) which was reduced by $937 million.

The only non-pension education item affected by the line-item veto was the deletion of Charter School Adjustment Aid; a new aid category created by the Legislature. This aid, totaling $3 million, would have supplemented funds transferred from a student’s home district to the charter school in which they enroll. Direct formula aid was not changed from the Governor’s proposal, meaning districts will receive the funding promised them in February. Education highlights of the proposed budget include:

  • A total of $12 billion spent on education by the State of New Jersey, representing 37% of the State budget.
  • Approximately $9 billion in direct aid to school districts. This amount includes a $36.8 million, or 0.4%, increase over FY2014 aid levels.
  • $13.5 million in Per Pupil Aid Growth spread across all school districts at $10 per student.
  • $13.5 million in PARCC Readiness Aid to help districts purchase technology required to implement new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessments at $10 per student.
  • A new $5 million “Innovation Fund” which would have provided competitive grants supporting development of different approaches to extend student learning time was removed. In its place was inserted the Education Reform Implementation Grant Program. This $2.5 million competitive grant program will further assist districts in teacher professional development and PARCC readiness.
  • $26.5 million in SDA construction grant assessments. This amount remains flat compared to FY2014.
  • Unlike previous years, there is no funding earmarked for anti-bullying measures.
  • School Choice Aid, which had seen a $4.7 million increase in the Governor’s budget proposal, was returned to the FY2014 funding level of $49.2 million.
  • $3 million for a new County Vocational School District Partnership Grant Program. This line item was added by the Legislature and was not included in the Governor’s original budget message. The Commissioner of Education will award grants county vocational school districts to support the implementation of career and technical education programs in school or college facilities not owned by the district.

The NJSBA’s official statement and analysis of the proposed FY2015 budget can be found here.

Fate Uncertain on Bill to Delay PARCC, Common Core and Educator Evaluation System

One of the more high-profile bills that the Legislature has considered this session concerns the implementation surrounding various education reform initiatives. As the Legislature broke for the summer, it remained unclear whether the proposal would ever reach the Governor’s desk. In summary, Assembly Bill No. 3081 and Senate Bill No. 2154 would:

  • Establish a 15-member “Education Reform Review Task Force” to review and evaluate the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, the use of PARCC assessments, and the teacher/principal evaluations system created under the TEACHNJ Act;
  • Prohibit the use of Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) until the task force issues its final report;
  • Provide districts the option of administering the PARCC assessments either online or in paper and pencil format; and
  • Prohibit the Department of Education from using the PARCC assessment for any student or school accountability purposes until the task force issues its final report.

In mid-June, the full General Assembly approved the legislation. Over in the upper chamber, the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on S-2154 and separate legislation (S-2176) sponsored by Chair Teresa Ruiz that would create a “Statewide Assessment Review Task Force.” After lengthy discussion and debate, neither bill was released by the committee, but S-2154/A-3081 was posted for a vote by the full Senate on several occasions leading up to the summer recess. Each time, the bill was pulled from board list as the Legislature and the Administration continue to negotiate a potential compromise, which could include regulatory changes, an executive order, or both. If lawmakers and the Governor do not reach an agreement, the bill could be posted again for a Senate floor vote during the summer and sent to the Governor’s desk.

The NJSBA’s position statement on A-3081 and S-2154 can be found here.

UPDATE — 07/14/14: The Governor and Legislature appear to have reached a compromise on this issue. On July 14th, the Governor issued an Executive Order creating a “Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments in New Jersey.” This nine-member body, including its chair, will be appointed by the Governor and consist of “individuals who have practical experience, knowledge, or expertise in the areas of education policy or administration.” The study commission will present recommendations to the Governor regarding the quality and effectiveness of student assessments. A copy of the Executive Order can be found here.

Concurrently, the Department of Education released a statement announcing changes to the teacher and principal evaluation system. The intent of these changes is to provide districts greater flexibility regarding the two student achievement components of the system. Specifically, the department is modifying the weights of student growth components in teacher evaluations as measured by statewide assessments and student growth objectives. Most significantly, the department will be reducing the portion of an evaluation that will be linked to Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs). Currently set at 30 percent, SGPs will now account for 10 percent of the overall evaluation for teachers of tested subjects in the 2014-15 school year. In 2015-16, this amount could increase to 20 percent. Meanwhile, the department will increase the influence student growth objectives (SGOs) and classroom observations will have on teacher evaluations. In addition, the department plans to create a special review process for any teacher who receives an overall rating of Ineffective or Partially Effective due to the outcome of the scoring of an SGO.

An NJSBA press release responding to the Governor’s Executive Order and the Department’s announcement can be found here.

Senate Committee Endorses Repeal of Superintendent Salary Cap

The Senate Education Committee has released legislation that would eliminate the regulatory cap on superintendent salaries. Senate Bill No. 1987 would prohibit the Department of Education from regulating the maximum salary amount a school district may pay its superintendent of schools. The NJSBA supports the proposal as the cap constrains a board of education’s ability to recruit and retain a highly qualified administrator, which is one of the most critical board responsibilities. The limitation on superintendent compensation essentially constitutes a “cap within a cap” that has been rendered unnecessary due to other existing controls on school district spending. Such controls include the two-percent property tax levy cap, the administrative spending cap, and accountability regulations that require Executive County Superintendents to review all superintendent contracts.

After receiving the approval of the Senate Education Committee, the bill was referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for additional consideration. The Assembly counterpart (A-2930) has not yet moved, but could be posted for a committee hearing later this fall.

Several dozen boards of education across the state have expressed their support for the legislation by adopting a sample resolution drafted by NJSBA staff. Upon board adoption, the resolution should be sent to your local legislative delegation, the Speaker of the General Assembly, the President of the state Senate, the Governor, and the Chairs of the Assembly and Senate Education Committees. A copy should also be forwarded to the NJSBA Governmental Relations Department either electronically or by mail.

Other Education Bills On the Move...

Several pieces of legislation that the NJSBA is closely tracking have received the approval of at least one House of the Legislature this session. Many of the following bills will likely receive consideration by the second house when the Legislature reconvenes later this year:

Passed Senate:

  • S-225: Establishes the four-year "New Jersey Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program" in DOE to fund non-traditional science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.
  • S-1946: Permits school districts to request and receive motor vehicle records to verify a student's eligibility for enrollment in a school district.
  • S-300: Establishes "New Jersey Out-of-School Time Advisory Commission" to review before-school, after-school and summer programs; appropriates $60,000.
  • S-1857: Establishes measures to deter steroid use among students.
  • S-1946: Permits school districts to request and receive motor vehicle records to verify a student's eligibility for enrollment in a school district.
  • S-2032: Requires State Board of Education to develop rigorous computer science curriculum guidelines and school districts to incorporate those guidelines in grades six through 12.

Passed General Assembly:

  • A-304: Requires schools to maintain supply of epinephrine and permit administration of epinephrine to any student having anaphylactic reaction.
  • A-2597: Provides that beginning with the 2014-2015 grade nine class, Advanced Placement computer science course may satisfy a part of either the mathematics or science credits required for high school graduation.
  • A-948: Requires a board of education to consult with appropriate nonpublic school representatives prior to any change in the provision of nursing services.
  • A-1007: Requires DCA to establish procedures for inspection and abatement of mold hazards in residential buildings and school facilities, and certification programs for mold inspectors and mold hazard abatement workers.
  • A-1796: Prohibits school district from denying student school breakfast or school lunch because payment is in arrears without prior notice to parent.
  • Career and Technical Education Bill Package:
    • A-3334: Requires New Jersey School Report Card to include indicators of student career readiness.
    • A-3335: Requires preparation programs for teachers and school counselors to include coursework to support improved student career readiness.
    • A-3337: Establishes four-year County Vocational School District Partnership Grant Program in DOE. (NOTE: FY15 includes a $3 million appropriation for this program.)
    • A-3338: 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.
    • A-3339: 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.
    • A-3340: Provides additional State school aid to county vocational school districts in which enrollment increases by more than 10%.
    • A-3341: Provides State aid for certain adult education programs.

Last Updated: 09/24/2014