On Monday, the Senate held a voting session and approved legislation that would retroactively reimburse school districts that performed lead testing on drinking water before the Legislature appropriated money for that purpose last summer. NJSBA has advocated for the funding.

 A-4284/S-2675 would provide financial relief to school districts that performed lead testing prior to the Legislature and governor including funds for such testing in the FY2017 budget. Specifically, the bill provides that school districts may receive reimbursement for costs incurred on or after Jan. 1, 2016 for testing school drinking water for lead. The annual state budget for fiscal year 2016-2017 included a $10 million appropriation for such reimbursement, but only for testing done after the date the money was made available (July 13, 2016). This bill allows for retroactive reimbursement back to the beginning of 2016 if the lead testing meets or exceeds the program requirements established by the Department of Education.

NJSBA supports this legislation. The bill will now return to the General Assembly, which passed an earlier version of the bill, to concur with amendments made by the Senate that apply its provisions to nonpublic schools.

Several other bills impacting public schools also advanced.

Homeless Student Costs A-3785/S-2396 requires the state to pay the educational costs of a student who resides for more than one year in a homeless shelter located outside the student’s district of residence. The purpose of the bill is to avoid concentrating the educational costs of students who live in homeless shelters for extended periods on the districts in which those shelters are located.

NJSBA supports this bill. The measure has already passed the General Assembly now heads to the governor’s desk.

College Cost InstructionS-990 provides that the State Board of Education will require that the high school graduation requirement on financial literacy include instruction on available state and federal tuition assistance programs, including grants, scholarships, and student loans. The instruction must incorporate issues associated with student loan debt, the requirements for repayment of that debt, and the consequences of the failure to repay student loan debt in a timely manner. The new requirement would first apply to the 2017-2018 ninth-grade class.

The bill also provides that a school district must ensure that a student enrolled in high school meets with a guidance counselor during either the second or third year of high school to discuss state and federal tuition assistance programs that may be available to the student to finance postsecondary educational opportunities. The guidance counselor must also discuss options available to the student for dual enrollment in high school and an institution of higher education that will enable the student to earn college credit while still in high school and reduce the overall cost of a higher education.

NJSBA supports this bill, which now heads to the General Assembly.

Textbooks for Every Student S-2138 requires a board of education to provide an individual textbook for each student enrolled in a class. “Textbook” means books, workbooks or manuals, whether bound or in looseleaf form, or electronic textbooks, intended as the principle source of study material for a given class. The bill now heads to the General Assembly for further consideration.

Computer Science Endorsement S-2397 directs the State Board of Education to authorize a computer science education endorsement to the instructional certificate. The endorsement would authorize the holder to teach computer science in all public schools, and would be required to teach computer science in grades 7 through 12 beginning at such time as the State Board determines that there are a sufficient number of teachers holding the computer science education endorsement to make the requirement feasible. The standards established by the State Board would require a candidate for the computer science education endorsement to complete computer science related coursework requirements determined by the State Board. The bill also includes a “grandfather clause” that would allow for the issuance of the endorsement to teachers who have taught computer science within the three years prior to the State Board making the endorsement a requirement to teach computer science.

The measure now goes to the General Assembly, where the Assembly Education has already approved identical legislation, A-3870.

Gas Tax Exemption for School Buses S-2748 exempts fuel used for the operation of school buses from the Petroleum Products Gross Receipts Tax and the motor fuel tax.  Under the bill, the exemption from the tax applies to fuel that is used for school buses operated for the transportation of pupils to or from school or a school sponsored activity or event by a religious or other charitable organization or corporation or by a person under contract with a public or governmental agency or a religious or other charitable organization or corporation.

Currently, if a school district operates its own school buses, the school district uses tax exempt fuel for those buses. However, if a school district uses contracted school bus transportation, the contractor does not receive a fuel tax exemption.  Thus, the contractor includes the cost of the fuel, including the fuel taxes the contractor pays, as part of the contract cost with the school district.

The NJSBA supports the bill, which has yet to be considered in the Assembly.