On Monday, Jan. 3, the Assembly Education Committee convened remotely for what is expected to be its last meeting of the 2020-2021 legislative session, which ends next week. The committee advanced the following measures, which appear likely to receive final legislative approval and be sent to the governor before the close of the session:

Hiring Retired Staff  A-5576/S-3685 permits a retired teacher and professional staff member who provides special services to return to employment for up to two years without reenrollment in the pension system. The bill would apply to retirees hired during the current and 2022-2023 school years. Examples of the types of staff members covered by the bill include speech language specialists or therapists.

Current law has a substantially similar provision to permit retirees to return to work with a board of education in a pensioned position as a certificated superintendent or administrator for a limited period of time and without reenrolling in the pension system. And a recently enacted state law permits the employment of retired school nurses on an interim basis during the current state of emergency.  Longstanding New Jersey School Boards Association policy holds to the belief that school districts should have the flexibility to secure qualified staff for vacancies, including the hiring of retirees, particularly when attempting to fill positions of critical need. Therefore, NJSBA supports the measure. The bill is scheduled for consideration by the Assembly Appropriations Committee after which it can go to the floor. The Senate has already passed an earlier version of the bill.

Due Process for COVID-Related Claims  A-6226 extends the period of time for filing special education due process petitions related to COVID-19 school closures and periods of virtual, remote, hybrid, or in-person instruction. This bill would allow a parent, guardian, or local educational agency to file a request for a due process hearing regarding the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or the provision of a free and appropriate public education of a child with a disability during a COVID-19 school closure or a period of virtual, remote, hybrid, or in-person instruction occurring between March 18, 2020, and Sept. 1, 2021, at any time prior to Sept. 1, 2023.

Under the bill, a local educational agency is required, not later than Dec. 31, 2022, or earlier if requested by a parent or guardian, to hold an IEP team meeting to discuss the need for compensatory education and services for every student with a disability who had an individualized education program at any time between March 18, 2020, and Sept. 1, 2021.  The bill provides that a parent or guardian may file for a due process hearing at any time, up to and including Sept. 1, 2023, to challenge the determinations of the IEP team if the parent or guardian disagrees with the determinations. For those IEP teams that have not yet resolved the issue of needed compensatory services for which individual students may be eligible, this bill would give districts an additional year to resolve those issues before going to the Office of Administrative Law.

As introduced, the bill would have allowed parents to request a due process hearing up to four years following the date of an alleged action that forms the basis for the petition. The Association worked with various stakeholders to develop this alternative approach. Therefore, NJSBA supports the bill, as amended. A-6226 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The bill’s Senate counterpart, S-4245, received approval by the Senate Education Committee in December and is scheduled for consideration by the Budget and Appropriations Committee this Thursday. The measure is expected to land on the governor’s desk before the session ends.

Title IX Information S-2162/A-3012 requires each public school to post on its website in an easily accessible location the following information regarding Title IX:

  • The rights afforded to a student and the responsibilities of the school under Title IX.
  • The name and contact information of the Title IX coordinator for the school, including the Title IX coordinator’s phone number and email address.
  • The procedure to file a complaint under Title IX.

Under the bill, the commissioner of education must annually disseminate through electronic means a letter to each school informing the school of the rights afforded to a student and the responsibilities of the school under Title IX. The bill, which NJSBA supports, may now be posted for a final vote in the Assembly.

Legislative Youth Council  S-3164/A-4987 creates the “New Jersey Legislative Youth Council.”  The purpose of the council is to provide a forum for New Jersey’s youth to participate in the democratic process; to advise the Legislature on the perspectives, opinions, needs, development, and welfare of the youth of the state; and on the most effective and efficient policies, programs and services that the state could provide for the youth.  The council would also research, analyze, discuss and make specific recommendations in the areas of civics education; drugs and substance abuse; emotional and physical health; employment and economic opportunities; environmental protection; gun violence and school safety; homelessness and poverty; mental health; safe environment for youth; sexual harassment and violence; youth services; and youth bias and hate crimes.

The council would be comprised of 44 members – 40 members of the public between the ages of 15 and 23 representing each of the state’s legislative districts, and four members of the New Jersey Legislature. For each legislative session, the council will submit to the Legislature a series of policy recommendations.