On Monday, Dec. 16, both houses of the Legislature passed A-6080/S-4289, NJSBA-supported legislation that would allow districts which are below adequacy and scheduled to lose state aid to exceed the state’s tax levy cap.

The bill now awaits action from Gov. Phil Murphy.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, a prime sponsor of S-4289, released a statement late Monday night saying the bill “would provide about 40 districts with the ability to maintain programs as Adjustment Aid is phased out over the next five years.”

The Senate bill, which passed 24-15, was cosponsored by Senator Sam Thompson. Assemblywoman Alicia McKnight sponsored the Assembly version of the bill, which was approved 41-26.

“The NJSBA urges Gov. Murphy to sign this important legislation,” 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,’ or the amount of local tax property dollars indicated by the state’s school funding law,” Feinsod explained.

In his statement, Sweeney said, “This legislation will provide cap relief to a limited number of school districts facing Adjustment Aid cuts that are spending below adequacy and not providing the Local Fair Share required under the school funding formula….

“We used the adequacy standard because that is the level established under the SFRA (School Funding Reform Act) and upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court as meeting the constitutional requirement for a ‘thorough and efficient’ education,” Sweeney said.

The legislation will ultimately provide cap relief to about 40 out of the 194 districts that received adjustment aid cuts this year and are currently spending below the adequacy level defined in the SFRA or would fall below adequacy between this year and the 2024-2025 school year when adjustment aid will be fully phased out.

Sweeney first announced plans for his cap relief initiative at the Nov. 23 NJSBA Delegate Assembly.

The bill is one of several proposals supported by the NJSBA that would help districts that 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.

Education Bills Approved, Sent to Governor

The following education-related bills have also passed both houses of the Legislature and are now on the governor’s desk.  The governor has until the end of the current two-year legislative session, which falls on Jan. 13, to act on the measures listed below.  He can either sign them into law, veto them outright, or return them to the Legislature with recommended changes. The Legislature will reorganize on Jan. 14, beginning a new session. All bills that were not approved during the previous session would have to be re-introduced to be considered.

Promoting School MealsS-2527/A-4062 requires the N.J. Department of Agriculture to develop promotional material for the “School Meal Program” and provide every school district with the “School Meal Program” promotional material, such as pamphlets, presentation material, webinars, and sample letters schools may send to parents. Read more.

Funding Apprenticeship ProgramsS-3066/A-4604 establishes a High-Growth Industry Regional Apprenticeship Development Grant Pilot Program to provide grants to help fund newly-established and federally-approved apprenticeship programs in high-growth industries. Read more.

Increasing Diversity in ApprenticeshipsS-3064/A-4656 establishes, in the State Employment and Training Commission, a Task Force to Develop a Statewide Plan to Diversify Apprenticeships. Read more.

Strengthening Gifted and Talented EducationA-4710/S-3258, entitled the “Strengthening Gifted and Talented Education Act,” establishes various school district responsibilities in educating gifted and talented students. Read more.

Emergency Action PlansS-2494/A-4723 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. Read more.

Heat and Humidity PolicyS-2443/A-4754 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. Read more.

Enrolling Immigrant StudentsS-2980/A-4956 states that a school district may not condition student enrollment in a district on the fact that the N.J. Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) does not have the name or address of a parent or guardian on file. Read more.

A related bill, S-2982/A-5324, was also approved and would clarify that a child may not be excluded from public school based on membership in a protected category under the “Law Against Discrimination” or immigration status.

Commission on Latino and Hispanic HeritageS-3327/A-4995 establishes the Commission on Latino and Hispanic Heritage within the N.J. Department of Education. Read more.

Seizure Action PlansS-4141/A-6011, entitled “Paul’s Law,” authorizes a parent or guardian to request use of an individualized health care plan for a student with epilepsy or seizure disorder. Read more.

“ACES” Scholarship ProgramS-3685/A-5345 establishes the “ACES” (“Accessing Careers in Engineering and Science”) scholarship program in order to increase the participation of underrepresented students in the state’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce.

Bills Passed Assembly

The following legislation passed the full Assembly and now heads to the Senate for further consideration:

Mandatory Immunizations for StudentsA-3818 /S2173 clarifies statutory exemptions from mandatory immunizations for students. This measure would mean better protection for public health in N.J., supporters say; opponents say it is a violation of their freedom of choice.  The bill was scheduled for a full vote in both the Senate and Assembly on Dec. 16.  It passed the Assembly by a vote of 45 to 25 with six abstentions. The vote was canceled in the Senate.  The bill may be posted for a vote again before the session ends on Jan. 13. NJSBA supports the legislation.

BOE Student RepresentativeA-5238 provides that each board of education of a school district that includes grades nine through 12 shall appoint or elect at a minimum one student, to serve as a nonvoting student representative on the board.  The student representative shall serve for a one school-year term. NJSBA supports the bill.

Bills Passed Senate

The Senate also approved the following bill, which now moves to the Assembly:

Special Education Unit in OALS-3759 creates a special education unit within the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) and requires an annual report. This bill would establish a unit within the 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.