In a preliminary step that could begin to clarify graduation requirements for 170,000 students, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted Feb. 7 to approve S-3381.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, would keep former state graduation requirements in place for juniors and seniors who were placed in limbo by a Dec. 31 Appellate Division decision. The appellate court’s decision threw out the state’s former graduation requirements, which required two assessments in high school while state law only permits one assessment in 11th grade.

The court’s decision to strike down the assessment regulations left thousands of students without clear guidance about whether they would be allowed to graduate.

Ruiz’s bill would let the old regulations stay in place so that students who have already taken the test can earn their diploma. Her bill has a long road to travel before it can become law. It must be approved by the full Senate, Assembly, and Gov. Murphy, who during his campaign promised to abolish the PARCC test. Murphy has not announced whether he will support Ruiz’s legislation.

Under current law, P.L.1979, c.241 (C.18A:7C-1 et seq.), the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education are required to establish a program of standards for graduation from high school, including the development of a statewide test in reading, writing, and computational skills.  The state graduation proficiency test is required to be administered to all 11th grade students, and to any 11th or 12th grade student who has not yet demonstrated proficiency on the test.

As amended, Ruiz’s bill changes the law concerning the graduation test to allow for the development of statewide tests in reading, writing, and computational skills. The bill also eliminates the requirement that the test be administered specifically in the 11th grade. Under the bill, the state would be required to administer a test for high school proficiency, and any student who initially does not pass the exam  must be given an opportunity to retest. The NJSBA supports the legislation.

The bill contains a grandfathering provision for students in the graduating classes of 2019 and 2020, saying that these students will graduate if they satisfy the State Board of Education regulations that were in place as of December 30, 2018.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for review.

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee

In addition to S-3381, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee advanced the following school-related measures:

Using Schools for Child Care ServicesS-3330 authorizes school districts to provide child care services at district facilities for children younger than school age. The child care services may be provided by the district itself, a sponsor approved by the school board, or a child care program licensed by the state. Placement preference is given to the children of residents of the school district and district employees. If space is still available, the district may provide child care service for residents outside the district. Any revenue raised beyond what is needed to cover costs incurred by providing these child care services must go to the general fund of the district budget.

The bill, referred to as the “Teddy Bear Academy” bill, is the result of an issue emanating from the Evesham school district. There, the school board had contracted with the Teddy Bear Academy to provide daycare at school facilities that had become vacant through attrition. Competitors of the Teddy Bear Academy objected that the law currently does not allow this arrangement. This bill fixes that issue.

School Readiness and Workforce Development ProgramS-371 establishes in the 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 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; child care; 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, which may now be posted for a Senate floor vote.

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 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 for the program. Two years after the program starts, the commissioner would submit a report to the governor and Legislature, including a recommendation on the advisability of continuing and expanding the program. NJSBA supports the bill.

The following sections provide a summary of other education-related bills that were advanced by legislative committees last Thursday.

Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee

Student Self-Administration of MedicationA-4799/S-3315 requires a district or nonpublic school to permit the self-administration by a pupil of hydrocortisone sodium succinate, a medication designed to treat adrenal insufficiency.  Adrenal insufficiency is a disorder in which the adrenal glands fail to produce sufficient amounts of steroid hormones, such as the stress hormone cortisol.  Inadequate levels of adrenal hormones can result in an adrenal crisis, which may be life threatening without proper immediate treatment.  The existing statutory provisions governing self-administration of medication for asthma or a life-threatening illness or allergic reaction would apply to the self-administration of adrenal insufficiency medication.  The bill also requires that school districts establish a policy for the emergency administration of such medication.  The policy would be modeled on the policy currently required for the emergency administration of epinephrine to pupils for anaphylaxis.  NJSBA supports the measure. The legislation has already passed the full General Assembly.

Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee

The committee approved the following non-binding resolution:

Addressing Adverse Childhood ExperiencesACR-212, a concurrent resolution, urges the governor to develop strategies to reduce children’s exposure to adverse childhood experiences and invest in preventive health care and other educational, social, and mental health interventions that will positively affect the lives of children in NJ and their families. NJSBA supports this resolution.

Senate Labor Committee

The committee approved a package of bills aimed at making apprenticeships more accessible for New Jersey residents.  The 2018 report of the NJSBA’s Task Force on Educational Opportunities for the Non-College-Bound Learner stressed that students should be exposed to the wide array of careers available to them and the multiple pathways to a successful career.  These pathways include earning job-specific professional certification and two-year degrees, as well as experience in apprenticeship and internships. The task force emphasized that students should have a broad range of post-secondary education, training, and career opportunities in addition to enrolling in a four-year college.  Therefore, the NJSBA supports the following measures:

S-3062 This bill provides businesses with a credit against the corporation business tax or the gross income tax for each employee employed in an apprenticeship registered with the United States Department of Labor (DOL). The purpose of the tax credit is to encourage employers to add highly skilled workers to New Jersey’s workforce.  The DOL-registered apprenticeship system combines technical instruction with structured on-the-job experience to match individuals with employers in need of qualified, skilled workers.

S-3064 establishes, in the State Employment and Training Commission, a Task Force to Develop a Statewide Plan to Diversify Apprenticeships. The task force would develop a plan to diversify apprenticeships including industry-specific recommendations for affirmative action plans to increase diversity in apprenticeship programs.  The development of the plan is to be based on the demographics of the state and data on historically under-represented groups, including groups designated by gender, race, and disability status.

S-3068 requires the New Jersey labor commissioner, in consultation with the education commissioner, and the chief diversity officer of New Jersey, to establish a peer-to-peer statewide apprenticeship mentoring program for women, minorities, and people with disabilities.

S-3070 provides funding for the New Jersey Pathways Leading Apprentices to a College Education (NJ PLACE) program to establish college credit towards degrees in connection with new and existing apprenticeship programs, and directs consortia that receive grants from the Youth Transitions to Work Partnership to use a portion of the grants to establish programs to provide linkages from apprenticeship to post-secondary education.