On Thursday, March 10, the Assembly Education Committee met and advanced the following measures:

Emergency Protocols  A-301 requires each school district to submit its current emergency communication policies and protocols to the New Jersey Department of Education for review. The purpose of the review is to ensure compliance with all relevant state laws and regulations and, when necessary, make recommendations to the school district for improving the policies and protocols. Each school district would also be required to review, update, and resubmit its emergency communication policies and protocols to the department every five years.  NJSBA supports the legislation.

Student Civic Engagement A-1271 permits excused absences for students who attend civic events. This bill would permit public school pupils in grades six through 12 one excused absence to attend a civic event each school year.  School districts would be permitted to provide additional excused absences for such purposes.  Excused absences taken under this bill would not be reflected on student attendance records. Parents or guardians of pupils who wish to use an excused absence under this bill would be required to provide at least five school days’ notice in advance of the intended excused absence and such documentation as the school district deems necessary to prove that the pupil meets the requirements for an excused absence pursuant to the provisions of this bill. NJSBA supports the legislation.

Reducing Student Meal Debt  A-1822 requires every school district to establish a “School Meal Fund” to assist students with school meal bills that are in arrears. The fund would be established for the purpose of accepting donations to assist students with the purchase of school breakfast or school lunch and to fund any arrears in the school breakfast or lunch bills of students. Each board of education would  provide information to students’ parents and to other residents of the school district and community organizations on the establishment of the fund, its purposes, and the procedures to be followed to make a donation to the fund. NJSBA is monitoring the bill.

Field Testing Exit Exam A-3196 requires the State Board of Education, in coordination with the commissioner of education, to administer the New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment as a field test for 11th grade students expected to graduate as part of the class of 2023. The bill also requires the State Board of Education and the commissioner of education to use the results of the test to assist in the development of state assessments for future graduating classes.  Nothing in the bill would be construed to alter or amend local graduation requirements adopted by a board of education. NJSBA supports the bill.

Assembly Higher Education Committee

Mandatory Filing of Financial Aid Forms A-1181 provides that, beginning with the 2022-2023 grade 11 class and for two years thereafter, the State Board of Education will require that the local graduation requirements adopted by a board of education or a board of trustees of a charter school include the requirement that a parent or student complete and submit a financial aid application in a form prescribed by the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority. A student shall be exempt from this requirement if the student or the student’s parent or guardian submits a waiver form to the school district or charter school. NJSBA expressed concerns about the mandatory nature of the bill and making it a graduation requirement. NJSBA recommended that the financial aid requirement be optional.