On Jan. 14, the Senate Education Committee advanced eight bills, sponsored by committee chair Sen. Teresa Ruiz, aimed at increasing the diversity of the state’s education workforce, preventing teacher shortages, and cultivating inclusive learning environments.  

Ruiz said the bills would foster “more inclusive professional environments to help ensure our educators reflect the diversity we see in our classrooms and our communities.” She said the bills will “create new avenues for individuals to enter the profession, especially in high-need areas,” with supports in place to help new teachers succeed. The bill package will help plan for the classroom of the future,” she said, “and the type of professional that will lead it.” 

A brief summary of each bill follows below: 

S2825 would establish a loan redemption program for teachers who teach in a bilingual education or English as a second language (ESL) program at public schools. The amount of the loan redemption would equal 25% of the participant’s eligible student loan expenses, up to $5,000, in return for each consecutive year of full-time employment at a school in which at least 10% of the students are enrolled in a bilingual education or ESL program. NJSBA supports the bill. 

S2826 would require the State Board of Education to establish procedures for the issuance of  a limited certificate of eligibility with advanced standing (CEAS) and limited certificate of eligibility (CE) for certain teacher candidates. The bill creates new limited certificates for individuals who may not meet one of the general requirements for a CEAS or CE while seeking employment in a public schoolThose who hold a limited CEAS or limited CE would only be eligible for employment at school districts approved by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). Districts must demonstrate a sufficient capability to support new teachers while also showing that hiring a teacher with limited certification would fill a need. 

S2827 would require teachers to complete two hours of professional development related to cultural competence in every two-year period as part of their existing professional development requirement. The instruction must include a discussion of personal and interpersonal awareness and sensitivities; acts of microaggression in the classroom, and implicit bias.   

S2829 would establish a three-year “Male Teachers of Color Mentorship Pilot Program.” Under the program, the N.J. Commissioner of Education would select 10 male students of color from state public higher education institutions to work with 10 male teachers of color from participating schools. In that way, each student would be paired with a current teacher who would serve as the student’s mentor through the candidate’s last year of his educator preparation program and the first two years of the student’s teaching career. The teacher will receive a stipend of $5,000, funded by the state, for each year of participation in the program. 

The NJSBA supports the bill. The Association requested and obtained an amendment to the bill to remove a requirement that participating school districts commit to hiring each student participating in the program, upon each candidate’s graduation from an educator preparation program. Instead, such school districts shall make a “good faith effort” to hire a student if he or she receives a favorable performance review. 

S2830 would require each educator preparation program to annually report to the N.J. Department of Education on the first-time and overall test pass rates of candidates for an instructional certificate, and to disseminate information on test fee waiver programs to studentsThe bill provides that the educator preparation program must pay for testing fees for students seeking employment as a teacher in a subject area where there is a shortage of teachers. 

S2833 would establish a “Teacher Apprenticeship Program” to offer stipends and provide program participants with the education and field experience necessary to obtain a New Jersey certificate of eligibility with advanced standing (CEAS). The program would be open to public high school students entering twelfth grade and paraprofessionals with an associate degree who are employed in a public school. A public school and institution of higher education chosen to offer the program will jointly enter into an agreement with the NJDOE to provide program participants with the education and field experience necessary to obtain a CEAS. Program participants would receive yearly stipends and must adhere to certain performance standards stipulated in the bill. 

S2834 would mandate that all candidates for teaching certification complete a course or training on culturally responsive teachingThe bill defines “culturally responsive teaching” as a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning, using  research-based teaching strategies that make meaningful connections between what students learn in school and their cultures, languages, and experiences. This requirement would go into effect with the 2021-2022 school year. 

S2835 would establish the following reporting requirements concerning the current and projected teacher workforce in New Jersey: 

  1. School districts will annually submit to the New Jersey Commissioner of Education information for the current school year on teaching positions, (e.g., vacant positions, the number of new teaching positions, the number of positions that were eliminated, and anticipated teacher retirements); 
  2. School districts will also annually submit to the commissioner information on public school teacher retention, including the number of and reasons why teachers left employment with the district during the prior school year. The information would show the characteristics of the teachers who left the district, including age, sex, race, and tenure status; 
  3. The New Jersey Education to Earnings Data System will issue a report on teacher workforce projections for the state for the following two yearsAfter the issuance of this initial report, the Education to Earnings Data System will issue an annual report on teacher workforce projections for the subsequent three to five years; and 
  4. The Executive Leadership Council of the New Jersey Education to Earnings Data System will semi-annually report to the Legislature each year on the progress of the annual teacher workforce projection report. 

The education committee also advanced the following school-related bills: 

Severe Allergy Individualized Plans S-54 would require school nurses to develop an individualized health care plan and an individualized emergency health care plan for students when requested by the parent/guardian of a student with a severe allergy. Each plan would include:  

  • The symptoms of an allergic reaction and the recommended treatment;  
  • Accommodations for school-related activities;  
  • Instructions on how to recognize and treat allergic reactions and when to call for assistance for all personnel who may come in contact with the student; and 
  • How to maintain communications with all relevant parties. 

Additionally, the school nurse will be responsible for ensuring appropriate staff training in the care of students with allergies, including staff working with school-sponsored programs outside of the regular school day, as provided in the individualized plans. NJSBA continues to monitor the bill, but has taken no position. 

Concussion Protocols Under S-225, student athletes that have sustained a concussion would be prohibited from returning to competition until they have returned to regular school activities and are symptom free. The return of the student athlete or cheerleader would be required to be in accordance with the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) graduated, six-step “Return to Play Progression” recommendations, which address time frames for participating in light aerobic activity; moderate activity; heavy, non-contact activity; practice and full contact; and competition. NJSBA supported the bill. 

Computer Science S-990 would require each school district to annually issue a report to the New Jersey Commissioner of Education on the computer science courses offered in the district. 

STEM Opportunities for Young Women & Minorities S-2854/A-1625 directs the NJDOE to develop and administer an outreach program to encourage young women and minorities to pursue post-secondary degrees and careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field. NJSBA supports the bill, which has passed the full General Assembly. 

In addition to the Senate Education Committee, several other committees convened over the last week and advanced bills being tracked by NJSBA: 

Senate Economic Growth Committee  

Energy Efficiency Stimulus Program S-3033 would, among other things, help schools upgrade their water and ventilation systems to better protect the health of students, educators and workers. Through this bill, the School & Small Business Energy Efficiency Stimulus Program would provide resources ensuring heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in schools are upgraded to improve the health and safety of the environment and to allow safe operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The program would also fund improvements to old, inefficient plumbing fixtures that waste water and energy. The program would be funded through grants from the Societal Benefits Charge, an existing surcharge on the energy bills of New Jersey’s seven investor-owned electric public utilities and gas public utilities. 

This legislation also requires carbon dioxide monitors be installed in every classroom. At NJSBA’s urging, the bill was amended to ensure the costs for this new mandate will be paid for through the grant program. Upon release from the Senate Economic Growth Committee, the bill was second referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations committee. 

Assembly Higher Education Committee 

Suicide Prevention/Student ID Cards A-1616 would require that student identification cards for grades 7-12 have the telephone number for a suicide prevention hotline printed on the back of the card. NJSBA continues to monitor the bill, but has taken no position. The bill’s Senate counterpart, S-550, was released from committee in December.  

Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee 

Bias Training for Arbitrators A-5245/S-699 would require members of the panel of arbitrators who hear and decide tenure charge matters to receive training related to cultural diversity and bias. The requirement builds upon a 2019 law that requires such arbitrators to complete training on conduct that is unbecoming of an employee. NJSBA supports the bill, which has already passed the full Senate.