School Board Notes • February 20, 2013 • Vol. XXXVI No. 28

Legislative Update

Senate Hears Bills Affecting Subcontracting, Arbitration, Required Recess

Updated February 22

Several bills that affect local school boards are making their way through the state Legislature, including measures concerning a board’s ability to subcontract services, a daily recess requirement, and the imposition of binding arbitration for certain disputes.

The Senate Education Committee on Thursday released the bills. Some of the notable proposals include:

  • Subcontracting: S-1191 would limit the ability of school districts and higher education institutions to enter into subcontracting agreements for services such as busing, custodial or cafeteria services.  The bill would make the current subcontracting much more difficult by making such decisions mandatory subjects of negotiations.  NJSBA opposes this bill.  The Assembly version of the bill, A-3627, was released last week from the Assembly Education Committee and is on second reading in the Assembly. NJSBA’s position statement on the legislation will provide information for local boards to consider when contacting lawmakers about this legislation. In 2009, an NJSBA survey into subcontracting attracted responses from approximately 40 percent of school districts. The responding districts reported a collective annual savings ranging from $34.3 million to $38.8 million through subcontracting of services.
  • Required recess: S-1501 would require a public school district to provide a daily recess period for students in kindergarten through grade five.  NJSBA believes that this issue should be determined by individual districts and not state statute. 
  • Arbitration: S-2163 concerns arbitration for certain non-teaching school staff.  The bill would give non-teaching school employees the right to go to binding arbitration for any dispute regarding whether there is just cause for a disciplinary action. It would include termination, non-renewal, expiration or lapse of an employment contract or term, or lack of continuation of employment, irrespective of the reason for the employer's action or failure to act, and irrespective of any contractual or negotiated provision. The bill places the burden of proof in the arbitration on the employer.  NJSBA opposes this bill.

NJSBA strongly encourages local board members to contact their legislators regarding these proposals.  Local school officials should urge vigorous opposition, particularly to S-1191 and S-2163. The Office of Legislative Services provides a “Find Your Legislator” link with a list of Senate Assembly representatives by legislative district and by municipality.

STEM Proposal Another notable bill released by the Senate Education Committee this week includes A-2015/S-2562, which establishes the four-year "Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program" in the state Department of Education to fund non-traditional programs dealing with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). 

School districts applying for the program would need to match at least 25 percent of the grant with local funds, and they must match 25 percent with matching funds or in-kind contributions from corporate or private donors. The pilot program would include six one-time grants of $150,000 each to rural or urban low-performing districts in different areas of the state, or districts that contain a high percentage of low-income students.