On Dec. 5, the Senate Budget Committee released S-4289, sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Sam Thompson. The bill allows districts that are below adequacy and are scheduled to lose state aid to exceed the state’s tax levy cap.

Sweeney first announced plans for the bill at the Nov. 23 NJSBA Delegate Assembly. The legislation is supported by the NJSBA based on policy adopted by the delegates from a resolution advanced by the Hillsborough school district in Somerset County.

“The NJSBA thanks Senator Sweeney for his support for cap relief,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, the Association’s executive director. “The proposal would not allow unrestricted property tax increases for the school districts scheduled to lose state aid over the next six years.

“Instead, it would allow adjustments to the 2% tax levy cap for a certain number of these districts, exclusively for the purpose of raising the ‘local share,’ that is, the amount of local tax property dollars indicated by the state’s school funding law,” Feinsod explained.

The bill is one of several proposals supported by the NJSBA that would help districts which are losing state aid. Further information and background on the status of school funding is available in the Nov. 19 online edition of School Board Notes.

The Assembly’s identical version of the bill, A-6080, sponsored by Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, is scheduled for committee consideration on Thursday, Dec. 12.

Summaries of action on other education-related legislation follows:

Assembly Higher Education Committee (Dec. 5)

A-3853/S-1831 would establish a Loan Redemption Program in the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) to allow teachers to redeem a portion of their NJCLASS loan amounts for service as a teacher in a high-need field in a “chronically failing school.” NJSBA supports the bill and believes that incentives, such as grants and loans, should be made available to attract outstanding students to the teaching profession, particularly in those areas of critical shortage. The Association also believes that loans to students who agree to teach a certain number of years in areas of critical shortage should be forgiven. The bill, which has already passed the full Senate, may now be posted for an Assembly floor vote.

A-4843/S-2303 requires a county college and a county vocational school district to enter into a Work and Learn Consortium for the purpose of creating certificate and degree programs that lead to employment in industries in which there is a high demand for qualified employees. The consortium will work in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the local workforce investment board to address the highest areas of labor demand in New Jersey.  The purpose of the programs developed by a consortium will be to foster collaboration between academic and non-academic entities; provide students with the opportunity to earn stackable credentials that will increase the likelihood of employment in industries of high demand and future growth in the state; develop a guided pathway for students to earn those credentials; and allow enrolled students to choose among multiple program “stop-out points” (a point at which a student may exit a program with an industry-valued credential, with the opportunity to re-enter the program without penalty or loss of progress). The bill, which has already passed the full Senate, may now be posted for an Assembly floor vote.

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee (Dec. 5)

S-3759  creates a special education unit within the Office of Administrative Law and requires an annual report. This bill would establish a unit within the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) dedicated to special education cases. The special education unit would consist of administrative law judges having expertise in special education law.  The number of administrative law judges in the unit would be proportional to the number and complexity of special education cases referred to the OAL.  Under the bill, all contested cases concerning special education law referred to the OAL would be assigned to and adjudicated by the administrative law judges in the special education unit. NJSBA supports the bill, which was approved by the committee and now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

S-4200  requires the state to pay the difference between the federal allocation and the total cost of reduced price breakfast or lunch; appropriates $4.5 million for that purpose. This bill provides that a student eligible for a reduced price breakfast or reduced price lunch will not be required to pay for any of the cost. Under the bill, the state will pay the difference between the federal allocation and the total cost of the reduced price breakfasts and reduced price lunches served to public school students. The bill directs the N.J. Department of Agriculture to adopt regulations establishing the schedule for, and the manner in which, reimbursements would be made to districts and any other provisions necessary to implement the bill. The bill appropriates $4.5 million for the state payment required under the bill.

Assembly Education Committee (Dec. 9)

A4723/ S2494  requires certain schools to establish emergency action plans for responding to serious or potentially life-threatening sports-related injuries. This bill requires that a public school district and a nonpublic school that includes any of the grades six through 12 establish and implement an emergency action plan for responding to a serious or potentially life-threatening sports-related injury. The plan will document the proper procedures to be followed when a student sustains a serious injury while participating in sports or other athletic activity. The plan will be specific to the activity site and is required to be developed in consultation with local emergency medical services personnel. The bill also requires that the emergency action plan be reviewed annually and updated as necessary.  In addition, the individuals who will be responsible for executing the plan in an emergency must rehearse the plan annually in each school. NJSBA supports the bill.

A-4754/S-2443 requires school districts that participate in statewide interscholastic sports programs to adopt the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association heat and humidity practice policy for conducting practice in all sports during times of high heat or humidity. Under the bill, the association’s policy must address:

  • the scheduling of practice during times of various heat and humidity levels
  • the ratio of time devoted to workouts to time allotted for rest and hydration during various heat and humidity levels
  • the heat and humidity levels at which practice will be canceled

Under the bill, guidelines included in the association’s policy will provide a default policy to those responsible or sharing duties for making decisions concerning the implementation of modifications or cancellation of practices and contests based on the presence of heat and humidity. The bill also requires these school districts to purchase a Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) tool to measure the heat stress in direct sunlight at the practice site. Heat stress consists of temperature, humidity, wind speed, the angle of the sun, and cloud coverage. NJSBA supports the bill.

A-5571/S-3817  allocates Amistad Commission in but not of the NJDOE; requires public schools to include instruction on accomplishments and contributions of African Americans to American society. The bill amends the statute that created the Amistad Commission to provide that the commission is allocated in but not of the N.J. Department of Education, rather than within the N.J. Department of State.  Notwithstanding this allocation, the commission will be independent of any supervision or control by the department. The bill also provides that the state support for the operations of the Amistad Commission will be appropriated by the Legislature to the commission through a separate line item in the annual appropriations act. In addition, the bill would supplement existing law to require all boards of education to include instruction that infuses into all courses on the United States, the centuries of accomplishments by African Americans in the building and development of America including, but not limited to, the areas of industry, the professions, local communities, culture, arts, and the sciences.  The instruction must enable students to know and understand the nation’s heritage of slavery and freedom and the contributions of African Americans to all areas of American society throughout history. The instruction must also emphasize the personal responsibility of each citizen to fight racism and hatred and to uphold the national ideals of freedom and justice.  The bill directs the N.J. Department of Education to work with the Amistad Commission to ensure that the assessment tools for New Jersey schools are inclusive of the curricular requirements established under the bill. NJSBA supports the bill as amended.

A-6011 This bill concerns the care provided to public school students with epilepsy or seizure disorders and is designated as “Paul’s Law.”  Under the bill’s provisions, the parents or guardians of a student with epilepsy or a seizure disorder who seek epilepsy or seizure disorder care for that student while at school will inform the school nurse.  The school nurse will develop an individualized health care plan and an individualized emergency health care plan for that student if the parent or guardian provides annual written authorization for the provision of epilepsy or seizure disorder care at school.

Under the bill, the school nurse will coordinate the provision of epilepsy and seizure disorder care at that school and ensure that all staff are trained every two years in the care of students with epilepsy and seizure disorders. The training is required to include a N.J. Department of Education-approved online or in-person course of instruction provided by a nonprofit national organization that supports the welfare of individuals with epilepsy and seizure disorders.  The bill provides that a school district must provide to a school bus driver who transports a pupil with epilepsy or a seizure disorder: a notice of the pupil’s condition; information on how to provide care in the case of epilepsy or a seizure disorder; emergency contact information; epilepsy and seizure disorder first aid training; and parent contact information. Finally, the bill provides that a school employee will not be liable for any good faith action taken in accordance with the bill’s provisions. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee on Nov. 14 and is now headed to Assembly Appropriations Committee.

A-5827/S-371 – School Readiness and Workforce Development Program – establishes in the New Jersey Department of Education a five-year, two-generational school readiness and workforce development pilot program. The purpose of the program is to foster family economic self-sufficiency in low-income households by delivering academic and job readiness support services across two generations in the same household. The New Jersey Commissioner of Education will designate the municipalities that will participate in the pilot program, each of which must have a poverty rate that is at least twice the statewide average. The pilot program will include services such as early learning programs; adult education; childcare; housing; job training; transportation; financial literacy; and other related support services such as health and mental health services. The program will also include a long-term plan to adopt a model for the delivery of these services on a statewide basis. The bill establishes an interagency working group to oversee the pilot program and submit a report four years following the bill’s effective date that includes information on program outcomes, and includes a recommendation on program expansion. NJSBA supports the measure. (Note: This bill was amended in committee. Updated text not yet available.)

Assembly Labor Committee (Dec. 9)

A-5105 establishes a Task Force on Maximizing Employment for People with Disabilities. The task force is directed to study and make recommendations to the governor and Legislature regarding the problem of unemployment and underemployment among disabled individuals in the state. The task force is directed to study the problem of unemployment among disabled individuals, review existing programs in New Jersey and other states, and issue a report which provides a vision and viable recommendations on how the state can increase opportunities, expand employment readiness and training programs and offer greater employment supports for individuals with disabilities.  NJSBA supports the bill, which was approved by the committee and now heads to the full Assembly for a vote.