New Jersey Senator Cory Booker met virtually with Michael Vrancik, NJSBA’s director of governmental relations and Sharon Seyler, legislative advocate, on Thursday, July 16, to discuss federal legislation and potential school reopening plans for public K-12 students. 

The discussion focused on federal funding, including the CARES Act for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). Local school districts have received the first round of ESSER Funds, through the New Jersey Department of Education. The distribution to districts is calculated based on a district’s percentage of Title I students. These funds can be used for technology and any other provisions that pertain to COVID-19. 

Sen. Booker and the NJSBA staff members also discussed statements made by the U.S. Secretary of Education that federal funds could be held back if a district does not open its school buildings for in-person instruction in September.

Booker also explained that drafts of bills on additional financial relief were being discussed, noting that it is hoped that the House and the Senate will reach an agreement by the end of this month before the summer break begins in Washington. 

NJSBA also talked about the issue of legal immunity for school districts when schools do reopen, emphasizing the importance of this topic on behalf of local boards of education.  

Sen. Booker praised the New Jersey School Boards Association and said he understood the frustrations that the Association and its member boards of education are having in moving forward while still dealing with the pandemic. He emphasized that fair funding to districts and transportation issues were two of his main concerns.