On Monday, March 25, the state Senate and General Assembly convened at the State House for voting sessions and advanced several education-related bills and other measures that will impact local school districts. A summary of legislative activity being actively tracked by the NJSBA appears below.

Bills on Governor’s Desk

The following measures have now received final legislative approval and head to Gov. Murphy for his consideration:

Extending Statute of Limitations in Sex Abuse Cases  S-477/A-3648 extends the statute of limitations in civil actions for sexual abuse claims and expands the categories of potential defendants in civil actions.  The bill creates a two-year window for parties to make claims based on sexual abuse that were previously prohibited because, under the existing law, too much time had passed. This bill would provide minors who were victims of abuse with up to 37 years to pursue a claim against public and private entities, including school districts, in court.  NJSBA supported the intent of the legislation and the extension of the statute of limitations, but expressed concerns about a provision that would require these suits to be handled outside of the traditional pathways of the Tort Claims Act for suing public entities, since such litigation involves the use of public funds.

Governor Murphy has publicly indicated his support for the measure.  If signed into law in its current form, the bill will go into effect on Dec. 1.

Student ID & Passenger List Bill Returned to Governor Both the Assembly and Senate voted to concur with the governor’s conditional veto on A-4342/S-2855.  This bill would permit school districts to require K-12 public school students to carry identification cards at school-sponsored, off-campus activities. It would also authorize principals to keep lists of students on school buses used for school-sponsored activities in case of emergencies.

As originally approved by the Legislature last year, A-4342/S-2855 would have required K-12 public school students to carry ID cards at any school-sponsored, off-campus activities while also mandating that principals maintain the student passenger lists.  Gov. Murphy cited cost concerns as the rationale for not approving the measure. In his veto statement, he wrote, “the broad and mandatory nature of the provisions of this bill could be subject to a successful unfunded mandate challenge because the legislation does not authorize resources to offset the additional direct expenditures for affected school districts to implement its detailed provisions.” His recommended changes made the bill’s provisions permissive rather than mandatory.

The measure will go into effect 90 days after it is signed into law.

Recruiting Male Minority Teachers  S-703/A-3141 directs the New Jersey Commissioner of Education to establish a pilot program to recruit male residents of New Jersey who are from disadvantaged or minority backgrounds to enroll in the alternate route teacher preparation program and to match them with teaching opportunities in an underperforming school. Under the bill, the commissioner would select six underperforming schools from throughout the state for participation in the pilot program. The bill directs the commissioner to establish policies and procedures for the recruitment and selection of eligible participants for the program, and for matching the selected participants to teaching opportunities at participating schools under the alternate route program.  Two years after the program starts, the commissioner would submit a report to the governor and Legislature, including a recommendation on the advisability of continuing and expanding the program. NJSBA supports the bill. If signed into law, it would become effective immediately.

Sharing School Maps with Law Enforcement  S-2676/A-4112 requires boards of education and nonpublic schools to provide law enforcement authorities with copies of blueprints and maps of schools and school grounds. Under the bill, if a school building is located in a municipality which does not have a municipal police department, copies of the blueprints and maps will be provided to an entity designated by the superintendent of the State Police.  The bill directs a board of education and chief school administrator of a nonpublic school to provide revised copies to law enforcement whenever there is a change to the blueprints or maps.  Current State Board of Education regulations require all school districts to have a memorandum of agreement with law enforcement authorities. NJSBA supports the bill, which would go into effect immediately upon the governor’s approval.

Senate Voting Session

The Senate approved the following measures:

Sexual Abuse and Assault Awareness A-769/S-1130 would require each school district to incorporate age-appropriate sexual abuse/assault awareness and prevention education in grades preschool through 12. The bill directs the New Jersey Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, the New Jersey Children’s Alliance, and other entities with relevant expertise, to develop age-appropriate sample learning activities and resources. The commissioner would provide these materials to school districts to implement the requirement. The bill also provides that a teaching staff member may satisfy in each professional development cycle one or more hours of the professional development requirement established by the State Board of Education by participating in training programs on sexual abuse/assault awareness and prevention.

The NJSBA supports the bill. It now returns to the Assembly, which passed an earlier version of the legislation, to concur with amendments made in the Senate.

Child Trafficking Awareness and Prevention A-1428/S-2653 requires the New Jersey Department of Education, in consultation with the attorney general and the Department of Children and Families, to develop and distribute to school districts guidelines concerning child trafficking.  The guidelines would provide direction for schools concerning awareness of child trafficking, and how to prevent child trafficking.  In addition, the bill requires the commissioner of education to provide school districts with guidance and resources regarding professional development opportunities for school staff regarding child trafficking awareness and developmentally appropriate resources regarding child trafficking awareness.

NJSBA supports the bill.  The legislation must be reapproved by the Assembly, which passed an earlier version.

MAST School Transportation Costs  S-1796 would permit the school district of residence to provide aid in lieu of transportation to a pupil attending the Marine Academy of Science and Technology if the student lives outside of Monmouth County and more than 40 miles from the academy. Under existing law, the resident district is required to provide transportation to and from MAST for any of its resident pupils attending the school. Such a requirement can be very costly for a district that is not near the school. The bill includes a “grandfather clause” requiring the resident district to continue providing transportation to any student currently attending MAST until such student graduates. NJSBA supports the legislation, which now heads to the Assembly.

General Assembly Voting Session

The General Assembly approved the following education joint resolutions, both of which are supported by NJSBA:

Financial Literacy Month AJR-118 joint resolution designates April of each year as “Financial Literacy Month” in New Jersey to improve citizen’s understanding of critical financial issues such as credit management, savings, debt management, and home ownership, and to significantly increase an individual’s likelihood of financial success. The governor is requested to annually issue a proclamation recognizing April as “Financial Literacy Month” in New Jersey and calling upon schools, financial institutions, nonprofit financial educational organizations, and citizens to observe the month with appropriate activities and programs.

STEM Week  AJR-156 designates the second week of March in each year as “STEM Week” in New Jersey to emphasize the potential of every student from throughout the state to develop skills and learn lessons in personal resiliency from educational programming, internships, and work study programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Budget Review

Legislative activity will effectively pause for the next several weeks as the Senate and Assembly budget committees continue their examination of Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed Fiscal Year 2020 state budget. Both committees have already held one public hearing each and two more are scheduled this week.

Over the next two months, the committees will begin deliberations on the proposed budgets for various state departments and agencies.