legupdateWith the intent of providing a new career ladder for New Jersey’s educators who choose to remain in the classroom rather than moving into an administrative or supervisory role, the Assembly Education Committee released legislation (A-448) on Jan. 15 that would establish a “teacher leader endorsement.”  The endorsement, which would be attached to the instructional certificate, would be available to a teacher who completes a program of study with a New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE)-approved provider (e.g. institution of higher education, educational organization, or other non-profit entity) and who also completes at least five years as a full-time certificated teacher.

A-448 also creates a Teacher Leader Endorsement Advisory Board that will make recommendations to NJDOE and the State Board of Education regarding the program of study for the teacher leader endorsement.  In addition, the advisory board must make recommendations to the state board regarding non-supervisory roles and responsibilities for which the endorsement should be required.  The 11-member advisory board would include one representative appointed upon the recommendation of the NJSBA.

The bill was unanimously voted out of committee and may now be posted for a vote by the full General Assembly, which passed an identical measure by a vote of 74-2-1 in the 2012-2013 legislative session.  S-165, the Senate counterpart to A-448, has also been reported out of committee, but has not been scheduled for a floor vote to date.

Facilities Construction The Assembly Education Committee also released one other piece of legislation, A-3970, which would amend the “Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act” (EFCFA) and authorize a county improvement authority to finance the construction of a new facility for a county vocational school district.  Upon the request of the board of education of a county vocational school district, the county improvement authority would issue its bonds to finance either the local share of a project that will receive an upfront grant for the state share of the project under EFCFA, or the total cost of a project that is eligible to receive state debt service aid under that same law. The NJSBA supports the measure, which may now go before the full Assembly.

Assembly Women & Children Committee Releases Bills  The Assembly Women and Children Committee released two bills that would impact New Jersey’s public school districts.

The first measure, A-3889, establishes a school breakfast kiosk pilot program.  This bill requires the state Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the NJDOE, to develop and administer a two-year school breakfast kiosk pilot program in three school districts selected by the education commissioner, in the northern, central, and southern regions of the state. The bill provides that a local or regional school district may establish a school breakfast kiosk pilot program at the school. The Department of Agriculture is required to award a pilot program to one school district in each of the three regions of the state.

The purpose of the school breakfast kiosk program is to increase student participation in the school breakfast program through increased accessibility to breakfast items in the school.  The program will help more children start the school day with a nutritious breakfast in order to learn, grow, and develop to their full potential.  Research shows that school breakfast increases attendance and decreases tardiness, improves academic performance both in class and on standardized tests, improves attentiveness, and reduces emotional and behavioral problems among students from all backgrounds.

NJSBA publicly supports A-3889, which would provide an alternative to school districts whose percentage of students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch is too low to implement the “breakfast after the bell” program.

The second bill, A-4030, would establish a “breakfast after the bell” incentive fund.  This bill requires the state Department of Agriculture, in consultation with NJDOE, to develop and administer an incentive fund that will provide a 10-cent per breakfast supplement to the existing federal reimbursement to school districts that participate in the federal school breakfast program.  The bill provides that a public school district with schools that participate in the federal school breakfast program that serve “breakfast after the bell” with 20 to 100 percent of its students eligible for free or reduced price breakfast would be eligible for this additional reimbursement.

The purpose of the fund is to provide an incentive for school districts to move to a school breakfast model that will reach more hungry students, since low to middle income school districts face more fiscal challenges in covering the cost of an effective breakfast program.

As both A-3889 and A-4030 would have a financial impact, they have been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for additional consideration.