Several legislative committees met over the last two weeks and advanced legislation affecting local school districts.  Below is a summary of recent committee activity.

Senate Education Committee

Recruiting Male Minority TeachersS-703 directs the New Jersey Commissioner of Education to establish a pilot program to recruit male residents of New Jersey who are from disadvantaged or minority backgrounds to enroll in the alternate route teacher preparation program and to match them with teaching opportunities in an underperforming school. The legislation defines an “underperforming school” as one in which in each of the prior two school years: 1) the sum of the percentages of students scoring in the “not yet meeting expectations” and “partially meeting expectations” categories in each of the language arts and mathematics subject areas exceeded 40 percent; or 2) the sum of the percentages of students scoring in the “not yet meeting expectations” and “partially meeting expectations” categories in either the language arts or mathematics subject areas exceeded 65 percent. The commissioner would select six such schools to participate in the program. Two years after the establishment of the program, the commissioner would submit a report to the governor and Legislature regarding implementation of the pilot program, including a recommendation on the advisability of continuing and expanding the program. NJSBA supports the bill.

Epi-Pen Administration by Bus DriversS-1960 establishes requirements for the development of a policy for the emergency administration of epinephrine to a student for anaphylaxis. This bill would supplement existing law to include school bus drivers among the individuals permitted to administer epinephrine to a student. It permits a school bus driver to administer epinephrine to a student when the following conditions are met: (1) the student’s parent or guardian has provided written authorization for a school bus driver to administer epinephrine to the student in an emergency; and (2) the school bus driver has been properly trained in the administration of epinephrine via a pre-filled auto-injector mechanism using standardized training protocols established by the Department of Education in consultation with the Department of Health.  The training will be conducted by an entity or individual approved by the New Jersey Department of Education. The bill provides that school bus drivers, school districts, nonpublic schools, and school bus contractors that provide pupil transportation services under contract with a board of education will have immunity from liability for good faith acts or omissions consistent with the provisions of the bill.  NJSBA supports the bill.

New Anti-Bullying Task ForceS-2575 establishes an eleven-member task force to examine, evaluate, and make recommendations regarding the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.”  Nine members of the task force will have a background or special knowledge of the legal, policy, educational, social, or psychological aspects of bullying in public schools. The Senate President will appoint two of these members; the Assembly Speaker will appoint two and the governor will appoint five.  The task force also will include two members of the public, a family member of a student who has experienced bullying and a student over the age of 17 who personally has experienced bullying. The task force will examine and evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.” It will also examine any unintended consequences resulting from implementation of the act and its regulations including, but not limited to, impacts of the law on athletic coaches; and present any recommendations deemed necessary and appropriate to modify or update the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act” and its implementing regulations. The task force will hold at least one public hearing during the course of its work to receive public input on these issues. A final report of its findings and recommendations is to be presented to the governor and Legislature within 180 days of its organization. NJSBA supports the bill.

Sharing School Maps with Law EnforcementS-2676 requires boards of education and nonpublic schools to provide law enforcement authorities with copies of blueprints and maps of schools and school grounds. Under the bill, if a school building is located in a municipality which does not have a municipal police department, copies of the blueprints and maps will be provided to an entity designated by the Superintendent of State Police.  The bill directs a board of education and chief school administrator of a nonpublic school to provide revised copies to law enforcement whenever there is a change to the blueprints or maps.  Current State Board of Education regulations require all school districts to have a memorandum of agreement with law enforcement authorities. NJSBA supports the bill.

Mandatory Eye ExamsS-2804 directs the State Board of Education to require each child age six and under who is entering a public preschool, public school, or Head Start Program for the first time to have a comprehensive eye examination completed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist by January 1 of the child’s initial year of enrollment in the school or program.   A principal, director or other person in charge of a public preschool, public school, or Head Start Program must collect from the child’s parent or guardian evidence of the child’s comprehensive eye examination, as provided by regulation of the State Board.  For children without health insurance, or whose parents’ plans do not include vision benefits, the bill requires the Department of Health to maintain a list of organizations and programs that provide free or reduced cost exams. The bill would also create a fund where both state and private monies can be deposited to help pay for exams for uninsured children and children without comprehensive eye exam coverage. NJSBA supports the bill.

NepotismS-2637/ A-557 requires adoption of nepotism policies by school districts and charter schools. Under regulations adopted by the Commissioner of Education, the board of education of a school district or county vocational school district was required to adopt a nepotism policy by Oct. 1, 2008. These bills codify those requirements and add new requirements including: adding in-house school board attorneys and directors of personnel to the list of school staff covered by the nepotism rules. It also adds a provision providing that if a school board member, chief school administrator, school business administrator, school board attorney, or director of personnel ceases to be employed by the school district, and his relative becomes employed in an office or position in the school district within  three months, then the school board member, chief school administrator, school business administrator, school board attorney, or director of personnel may not be employed by the district for a period of 12 months from his last date of service or employment.  The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

Promoting Backpack SafetySR-67 urges school administrators, teachers, parents, and students to be better educated about potential health impacts of heavy backpacks and take proactive measures to avoid injury. Elementary and secondary school students often carry textbooks, binders, calculators, personal computers, lunches, a change of clothing, sports equipment, and other items for school, all of which cause backpacks to weigh as much as 25 percent of the child’s body weight. These overloaded backpacks are causing an increasing problem of back pain and spinal strain for students. In order to promote backpack safety and lessen back and shoulder injuries, schools should consider measures such as switching to electronic textbooks; encouraging that the heaviest textbooks be left at school and handouts or workbooks be used for homework assignments; encouraging the use of ergonomic backpacks; and encouraging the use of wide, padded adjustable straps to fit a child’s body. NJSBA supports the resolution.

Recognizing Support StaffSJR-53 designates the second Friday in December of each year “PSRPs in Our Schools Day” in New Jersey to recognize the contributions of paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRPs).

Assembly Education Committee

Promoting ApprenticeshipsA-131/S-372 requires the New Jersey Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the New Jersey Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, to develop guidelines for use by high school counselors to coordinate services with representatives of the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council for purposes of encouraging student participation in apprenticeships and raising awareness of apprenticeship opportunities. The commissioner will post the guidelines on the education department’s website and will update the information annually. NJSBA supports the legislation.

Health/Phys Ed Endorsement RequirementA-674/S-858 requires that teachers appointed to teach health, health and physical education, or physical education in grades kindergarten through six, possess the appropriate endorsement to their instructional certificate. Under existing state regulations, an elementary teacher is not required to have a specific endorsement in order to teach these subjects. The bill includes a “grandfather” provision, which will permit any teacher who has obtained an elementary school endorsement prior to the bill’s effective date to continue teaching health and/or physical education without obtaining the appropriate endorsements in those subject areas. The legislation also permits an individual who holds a school nurse endorsement to teach health in elementary schools.

LGBT InstructionA-1335/S-1569 requires each board of education to provide instruction on the political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in an appropriate place in the curriculum of middle school and high school students as part of the district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. It is modeled on a law adopted in California, the “Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education (FAIR) Act,” which took effect on January 1, 2012.  NJSBA supported the bill as amended. The committee amended the bill to: 1) specify that a board of education must have policies and procedures in place pertaining to the selection of the instructional materials necessary to implement the bill’s requirements; 2) update a reference to the Core Curriculum Content Standards to reflect the current name of the State standards, the New Jersey Student Learning Standards, and eliminate specific reference to the Social Studies Standards; and 3) make the bill’s provisions first applicable to the 2020-2021 school year.

Recruiting Male Minority TeachersA-3141 directs the New Jersey Commissioner of Education to establish a pilot program to recruit male residents of New Jersey who are from disadvantaged or minority backgrounds to enroll in the alternate route teacher preparation program and to match them with teaching opportunities in an underperforming school.  The Senate counterpart to this bill, S-703, was also approved by the Senate Education Committee Thursday (see above). NJSBA supports the bill.

CTE Scholar AwardsA-3448 requires the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, to establish an awards program to be known as the “Career and Technical Education Scholar Awards.”  The awards program will annually recognize outstanding career and technical education students who: 1) demonstrate a high level of achievement in a career and technical education program; 2) demonstrate a high level of achievement in at least three academic classes; 3) successfully complete a college-level course or a work-based learning experience; and 4) participate in a career and technical education student organization or a community service project that demonstrates the application of career and technical skills.  NJSBA supports the bill.

Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee

Pupil Transportation Contracts A-4574 requires contracts for student transportation to include a provision that requires termination of the contract if the school bus contractor knowingly allows an individual to operate a school bus more than 24 hours after the school bus contractor has received notice that the individual is no longer authorized to operate a school bus due to suspension or revocation of the individual’s commercial driver license, passenger endorsement, or school bus endorsement, or knowingly allows any other unauthorized individual to operate a school bus, including but not limited to, an individual who does not possess a valid commercial driver license, passenger endorsement, or school bus endorsement.  The contract is also required to include a provision requiring the school bus contractor to pay for any increase in costs incurred by the school district related to the provision of student transportation that arises out of the termination of the contract.  NJSBA supports the measure.

Senate Labor Committee

Apprenticeship Pilot ProgramS-3065 directs the Commissioner of Education to establish a three-year youth apprenticeship pilot program to provide high school and college students between the ages of 16 and 21 an opportunity to develop valuable work skills while continuing their traditional education program. Under the bill, a school district or institution of higher education that wants to participate in the program must submit a proposal to the commissioner which outlines the district’s or institution’s plan to offer intensive career counseling and a customized learning experience to participating students. The commissioner will select two districts in each of the southern, central, and northern regions of the state and will select, in collaboration with the Secretary of Higher Education, four institutions of higher education to participate in the program. The Commissioner of Education is directed to submit a report to the governor and the Legislature on the implementation of the pilot program and his recommendation on the feasibility of implementing the program on a statewide basis. NJSBA supports the measure.

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee

STEM Grant Program S-688 establishes the four-year “New Jersey Early Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program” in the New Jersey Department of Education to fund non-traditional science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs for students in grades kindergarten through eight.  It supports the participation of students in nonprofit STEM competitions, promotes innovation and broadens interest in careers in STEM fields, and encourages collaboration among students, engineers, and professional mentors. A school district may submit to the Commissioner of Education an application that includes a description of how the school district will establish STEM teaching programs that use a non-traditional STEM teaching method, identifying and recruiting partners and mentors to help implement these programs, while supporting teachers and participants. The application will also contain information on how the district will assess the impact of the STEM teaching programs. The commissioner will award six one-time, upfront grants of up to $150,000 each. In awarding the grants, the commissioner will give priority to applications from districts that intend to target activities in a rural or urban school, a low-performing school, or a school or school district that serves low-income students. The districts will be permitted to use the grant funds for up to four years. The grant will promote STEM education and career activities; purchase supplies needed for participation in non-traditional STEM teaching programs; finance the expenses of student participation in regional and national nonprofit STEM competitions; and provide incentives and stipends for teachers involved in non-traditional STEM teaching methods outside of their regular teaching duties. A school district that receives a grant will provide district matching funds in an amount equal to 25 percent of the grant amount. In addition, the district must secure matching funds or in-kind contributions from corporate donors or other private sector donors in an amount equal to 25 percent of the grant amount. NJSBA supports the bill.

Deaf Student’s Bill of RightsS-2044 creates a “Deaf Student’s Bill of Rights Act” recognizing that children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind, who use one or more modes of communication have the same rights and potential as children who are not deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.  NJSBA sought and received amendments to the bill that would clarify students are entitled to these rights under the federal Individual with Disabilities Education Act and other laws.  Additionally, another NJSBA-backed amendment would make the bill effective 30 days from enactment to allow districts to make whatever adjustments to programs may be needed to comply with the bill’s provisions.

Senate Law and Public Safety / Assembly Appropriations Committee

Class III SLEO Revisions Both committees have advanced legislation that would makes various changes to the law governing Class III Special Law Enforcement Officers (SLEOs).  The original Class III law was enacted in 2016 and established an additional category of “Class III” special law enforcement officers who provide security in schools and county colleges. NJSBA supports this measure, which is intended to increase the pool of applicants who may serve as Class III officers.

Specifically, S-3245/A-1400 makes the following changes to the law:

  1. Authorizes law enforcement officers who served in any law enforcement position eligible for participation in the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, or who served as a law enforcement officer for a federal or bi-state law enforcement agency, to be appointed as a Class III special law enforcement officer.
  2. Removes the requirement that the officer be retired from their law enforcement position within three years of appointment as a Class III special officer.
  3. Establishes that Class III special law enforcement officers may not be assigned to an extracurricular or after-school function at a school or college unless that assignment has first been made available to full-time members employed by the municipality, school, or county college; and
  4. Includes county vocational schools in the definition of a county college to clarify that Class III SLEOs are authorized to serve in county vocational schools.