Last week, the full Senate and full Assembly met to advance various education-related pieces of legislation.

As Dr. Timothy Purnell, executive director and CEO of the New Jersey School Boards Association, announced in a March 31 letter to members, among the measures passed was the bill restoring 66% of state aid cuts initially included in Gov. Phil Murphy’s fiscal year 2024 budget proposal pursuant to the School Funding Reform Act and S-2. On Monday, April 3, Murphy signed the bill into law.

S-3732 offers additional funding to school districts that will see a reduction in school aid from the state in the fiscal year 2024 budget as a result of S-2. The legislation will make available a total of $103,023,579 to restore 66% of the initially proposed fiscal year 2024 school aid cuts to nearly 170 eligible districts. The bill requires districts to submit to the New Jersey Department of Education “a written plan explaining how the district will allocate these funds and how the district will fund operations in future school years in which the district does not receive” the supplemental aid. Per the governor’s announcement, all eligible districts that submit a request to the NJDOE with the required written plan will receive this supplemental funding. For additional information, please see Purnell’s letter to members.

Governor Also Signs “Elections Transparency Act” into Law

The governor also signed S-2866, the “Elections Transparency Act.” Among other provisions, the law increases campaign contribution limits and modifies reporting requirements for various elections, including school board elections. The provisions concerning school board election contribution limits take effect after the 2023 primary election; they will first apply to the 2023 general election.

Final Legislative Approval: Awaiting Action by the Governor

In addition to the S-2 relief bill described above, on March 30 both the Senate and the Assembly approved the following bills, which now await further action by the governor.

Lyme Disease Prevention Instruction S-2463/A-4820 would require school districts to incorporate guidelines developed by the NJDOE regarding instruction in prevention of Lyme Disease and other tick-borne diseases into their Comprehensive Health and Physical Education curricula in grades K-12. A previous version of the bill would have also required districts to develop and implement policies for the discovery and removal of ticks; the Assembly Education Committee amended the bill in March to remove that section. The NJSBA has expressed concerns that requiring districts to implement curriculum “guidelines” published by the NJDOE would impede on boards’ authority to develop curriculum locally, and prior to the Assembly Education Committee amendment, had previously noted the potential burden of the policy for tick discovery and removal required by the bill.

Tuition for Nonresident Students S-3349/A-5327 would require boards of education to charge all nonresident students admitted to the district a uniform tuition amount, with exceptions for county vocational technical schools, children of teaching staff members, certain children of members of the New Jersey National Guard or reserve component of the armed forces (as allowed under current law), or pursuant to any federal law, state law, regulation, or court order governing tuition charges. The bill would require executive county superintendents to approve the uniform tuition amount.

Assembly Voting Session

In addition to the bills described above, on March 30 the Assembly passed:

Social Media Impact Study S-715/A-1992 would establish a “Commission on the Effects of Social Media Usage on Adolescents” to study the extent of social media usage in and out of public schools, and to determine the effects that use has on students’ health and academic performance. A previous version of the bill, passed by the Senate in October 2022, would have assigned the commission a broader purpose of studying the effects smartphone and social media usage has on students; in March the bill was amended by the Assembly Education Committee to remove the reference to smartphone usage. The NJSBA supports the bill and would be one of several education organizations that would have a representative on the commission. Since the bill was amended in the Assembly following its passage in the Senate, it now returns to the Senate for further consideration.

Suicide Prevention Training S-528/A-2815 would require additional school district personnel to complete a training program on suicide prevention. Under current law, public school teaching staff members receive instruction in suicide prevention as part of their professional development requirements. This bill provides that a school district employee who is not subject to the current requirement, and an employee of a contracted service provider who has regular contact with students would be required to complete a one-time training program in suicide prevention, awareness and response identified by the New Jersey Department of Education. The bill also specifies certain circumstances under which a person required by this bill to complete the training would have a duty to warn and protect. The New Jersey School Boards Association supports the measure. In a previous session, the NJSBA obtained amendments to ensure that the required training would be provided free of charge. Since the bill received a minor amendment in the Assembly following its approval by the Senate in October 2022, it now returns to the Senate for further consideration.