In the last week, the Assembly Education Committee met and advanced over a half dozen pieces of legislation. The Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee approved a measure to combat compulsive gambling. In addition to the bill that would mitigate state aid losses for various school districts in fiscal year 2024, the full Senate met to advance various pieces of legislation related to PreK-12 education.

Assembly Education Committee

On March 16, the Assembly Education Committee approved:

Suicide Prevention Training S-528/A-2815 would require additional school district personnel to complete a training program on suicide prevention. Under current law, public school teaching staff members receive instruction in suicide prevention as part of their professional development requirements. This bill provides that a school district employee who is not subject to the current requirement, and an employee of a contracted service provider who has regular contact with students would be required to complete a one-time training program in suicide prevention, awareness and response identified by the New Jersey Department of Education. The bill also specifies certain circumstances under which a person required by this bill to complete the training would have a duty to warn and protect. The New Jersey School Boards Association supports the measure. In a previous session, the NJSBA obtained amendments to ensure that the required training would be provided free of charge.

Social Media Impact Study S-715/A-1992 would establish a “Commission on the Effects of Social Media Usage on Adolescents” to study the extent of social media usage in and out of public schools, and to determine the effects that use has on students’ health and academic performance. A previous version of the bill, passed by the Senate in October 2022, would have assigned the commission a broader purpose of studying the effects smartphone and social media usage has on students; the bill was amended last week to remove the reference to smartphone usage. The NJSBA supports the bill and would be one of several education organizations that would have a representative on the commission.

Lyme Disease Prevention Instruction S-2463/A-4820 would require school districts to incorporate guidelines developed by the New Jersey Department of Education regarding instruction in prevention of Lyme Disease and other tick-borne diseases into their Comprehensive Health and Physical Education curricula in grades K-12. A previous version of the bill would have also required districts to develop and implement policies for the discovery and removal of ticks; the committee amended the bill last week to remove that section from the bill. The NJSBA has expressed concerns that requiring districts to implement curriculum “guidelines” published by the NJDOE would impede on boards’ authority to develop curriculum locally, and prior to last week’s amendment, had previously noted the potential burden of the policy for tick discovery and removal required by the bill. S-2463 passed the Senate in June; the bills now await further action in the Assembly.

Military Impact Aid Reserve Account S-3089/A-4722 would permit a school district that received unanticipated state military impact aid revenue in the 2021-2022 school year (pursuant to P.L.2022, c.19, which ensured an allocation of military impact aid for Rockaway Township School District and Tinton Falls School District) to establish a state military impact aid reserve account. Such a district would be permitted to appropriate the unanticipated state military impact aid revenue to establish the reserve account in the district’s annual budget, or through transfer by a two-thirds affirmative vote of the authorized membership of the board, for withdrawal in any subsequent school year. Any transfer to the reserve account would not exceed the total amount of unanticipated state military impact aid revenue. The district, at its discretion, would be able to use the funds in the reserve account for general fund expenses. The bill would require the reserve account to be established and held in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and provides that the account would be subject to an annual audit. NJSBA supports the bill. S-3089 passed the Senate in November 2022; the bills now await further consideration on the Assembly floor.

Eliminate High School Exit Exam A-4639 would eliminate the high school graduation proficiency test, which is required under current law to be taken in the 11th grade. Specifically, the bill would prohibit the State Board of Education from requiring “as part of the standards from graduation from secondary school … that any secondary school pupil achieve a satisfactory performance on any Statewide proficiency test.” The bill would also allow adults and out-of-school youth that have not previously been granted a diploma, but met all other high school graduation requirements, to apply for a state-endorsed diploma. Last week’s vote follows a discussion-only hearing the committee had on the bill in February. The NJSBA supports the bill, which next heads to the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee for further consideration. Its Senate counterpart, S-3308, has not yet been scheduled for a committee vote.

Security Drills and Students with Disabilities A-1174 would take various steps designed to ensure that schools provide students with disabilities the supports and accommodations necessary to address their unique needs during fire drills, security drills and actual emergency situations. The bill would:

  • Require that school safety and security training provided to school employees under current law address the unique needs of students with disabilities in the event of a fire drill, security drill, or actual emergency. Schools would be required to make employees aware of the anticipated supports – such as those for mobility, medical and communication needs – that will be required for these students, and any services that must be provided under students’ individualized education plans, individualized health care plans and 504 plans.
  • Require that the building security drill guide and training materials developed by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security include information on the unique needs of students with disabilities, including protocol for accommodating those students.
  • Require school districts and nonpublic schools to ensure that students’ IEPs, individualized health care plans, 504 plans, or service plans (for nonpublic school students) document the student’s unique mobility, sensory, medical, social, communication, emotional, regulatory and decision-making needs in the event of a fire drill, school security drill, or actual emergency. NJSBA supports the bill. In 2019, the NJSBA participated in a Summit on School Safety convened by the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, which informed the council’s report, “School Safety Issues Affecting Students with Disabilities: A Call to Action.” That report recommended that schools include all students with disabilities in all school safety drills, and to include the needs of those students in school safety planning. The bill next heads to the full Assembly for further consideration. The bill’s Senate counterpart, S-2057, was approved by the Senate Education Committee in December 2022.

Expanding Medicaid-Funded Health Services A-3334 would expand the state’s Medicaid-funded school-based health services by requiring reimbursement to districts for covered behavioral health services, delivered in-person or via telehealth, to Medicaid students. Specifically, the bill would make reimbursable covered services:

  • Regardless of whether the student has an IEP, 504 Plan, Individualized Health Care Plan, or Individualized Family Service Plan.
  • Regardless of whether the service is provided at no charge to the student.
  • That are provided by a licensed medical practitioner approved as a Medicaid provider or a local educational agency approved as a Medicaid provider.

To effectuate this expanded program, the bill would require the New Jersey Department of Human Services to apply for any state plan for Medicaid amendments or waivers as are necessary. The bill would go into effect six months following federal approval.

The bill would also focus on the following:

  • Reinvestment of reimbursement payments: Require districts to utilize Medicaid reimbursement payments received under the bill to provide behavioral health services for students and families.
  • Administrative support for districts: Require the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Department of the Treasury and NJDOE to assist districts in submitting Medicaid claims, and ensure that the submission, reimbursement and administrative systems overlap as much as possible with procedures for the Special Education Medicaid Initiative, or SEMI. This system for additional school-based Medicaid claims would include the requirement that a district obtain parental or guardian consent prior to billing Medicaid for any service provided under the bill. Districts would be authorized to enter into an agreement with other districts to contract with a third-party entity to process and submit Medicaid claims for covered behavior health services provided under the bill.
  • Ensure Medicaid remains the payer of last resort: Require districts to take all reasonable measures to pursue claims for reimbursement against legally liable third parties in accordance with federal law.

The NJSBA supports the bill, which next heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further consideration. Its Senate counterpart, S-2416, was approved by the Senate Education Committee Sept. 29 and referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

School Safety and Security Task Force A-4977 would establish a School Safety and Security Task Force “to study and develop recommendations to improve school safety and security, and to ensure a safe learning environment for students and employees.” The Task Force would consist of 17 members, including representatives of various government agencies, education advocacy groups (including NJSBA), and members of the public with expertise in school security. The task force would be charged with developing recommendations regarding several school security issues, including but not limited to hardening the school perimeter and building entryways; strategies to ensure the needs of students with disabilities are reflected in all areas of emergency planning and response measures; and standards for architectural design for new construction. NJSBA supports the bill, which next heads to the Assembly floor for further consideration. Its Senate counterpart, S-3079, was approved by the Senate Education Committee in October 2022 and now awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee 

On March 20, the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee approved:

Instruction in Compulsive Gambling A-5308 would require each school district that includes any high school grades to incorporate instruction on “the potential risks of compulsive gambling” into the curriculum as part of the district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education. The NJDOE would be required to provide sample learning activities, resources, and a training module for high school teachers. The bill would go into effect in the school year following the next review and update of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards by the State Board of Education.

Senate Voting Session

On March 20, the Senate approved:

Easing State Aid Cuts in FY24 S-3732 would offer additional state aid to school districts that would see a reduction in state aid in the governor’s proposed fiscal year 2024 budget as a result of S-2. The bill was considered by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee earlier in the day. In a rare move, the legislation was sent immediately to the Senate floor on the same day. It unanimously passed through both committee and the full Senate. NJSBA testified in support of the bill. For additional information, please see the NJSBA’s School Board Notes article.

Survey on Holocaust Instruction A-4720/S-3145 would require the NJDOE to develop and distribute to school districts a survey regarding instruction on the Holocaust and genocides. The survey would be designed to assess whether and how school districts are implementing existing instructional requirements regarding the Holocaust and genocides, and any additional resources or training that teachers need to provide the instruction. The bill would allow the NJDOE to require a school district identified by the survey as not meeting those requirements to complete a corrective action plan. The NJDOE would be required to submit a report to the governor and Legislature within 210 days detailing the findings of the survey and, if needed, offer recommendations to strengthen the instructional requirement. The NJSBA is monitoring the bill, which now awaits action by the governor.

Ticket Prices at Postseason Athletic Events S-2902 revises legislation enacted in 2007 related to ticket prices at postseason athletic events. Under the bill, a school district would not be permitted to join any voluntary association that oversees activities associated with statewide interscholastic sports programs if the association requires increased ticket prices for attendance at playoff games compared to regular season games, unless those increased ticket prices are required to offset event-related expenses including, but not limited to, rental, staffing, security, or insurance costs. The bill would provide that in addition to the requirement that prices of postseason tickets be increased only to offset event-related expenses, in the case of a playoff game held at a public school, a school district would not be permitted to join an association that increases adult ticket prices at that playoff game by more than 300% of the cost of a regular season adult ticket charged for a comparable event at the school district where the playoff game is held.

The bill would also require that the association offer discounted prices on student tickets for playoff games due to economic hardship. In addition, the association would be permitted to offer discounted ticket prices for other groups as deemed necessary by the association in consultation with the school district where the playoff game is held. The association would be required to file playoff game ticket prices with the NJDOE no later than 60 days prior to the scheduled playoff game, although the association would be able to subsequently file adjusted playoff game ticket prices with the commissioner no later than 30 days prior to the scheduled playoff game.

The NJSBA is monitoring the bill, which passed the Senate Education Committee in December 2022 and next heads to the Assembly for further consideration.

Compostable Food Waste S-3153 would authorize a school to deliver its compostable or anaerobically digestible food waste to another school in the state, provided that the receiving school accepts the food waste and composts or digests the food waste using an on-site composting or anaerobic digestion system. NJSBA supports the bill, which passed the Senate Environment and Energy Committee in December 2022. Its Assembly counterpart, A-4548, was approved by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee in September 2022. The bills now await further consideration by the full Assembly.

Tuition for Nonresident Students S-3349 would require boards of education to charge all nonresident students admitted to the district a uniform tuition amount, with exceptions for children of teaching staff members, certain children of members of the New Jersey National Guard or reserve component of the armed forces (as allowed under current law), or pursuant to any federal law, state law, regulation, or court order governing tuition charges. The bill would require executive county superintendents to approve the uniform tuition amount. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee Jan. 12, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Feb. 13, and now heads to the Assembly for further consideration.

To view the full text of any of the bills summarized above, please visit the New Jersey Legislature’s website.