On Thursday, May 23, the full General Assembly approved two measures that have long been opposed by NJSBA and would impede a board of education’s ability to effectively manage district staff and resources.
One, A-3395, would constrain school districts’ authority to subcontract various services. The second bill, A-3664, establishes overreaching job protections for school support staff. The bills now head to the Senate, where the Senate versions have yet to be heard by committee. Senate leadership has given no indication that they will hear the bills in this session.
The following organizations have joined NJSBA in opposition to A-3395: the Garden State Coalition of Schools, the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey, the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, and the New Jersey Association of Counties.
When these bills surfaced in previous legislative sessions, the NJSBA was successful in defeating them before they reached the governor’s desk, or obtained gubernatorial vetoes following legislative passage. The NJSBA continues to ask our members to join in the Association’s advocacy efforts by approving resolutions formally opposing both measures. Updated versions of the resolutions can be accessed through the links below. The Association greatly appreciates our member districts’ participation in our quest to ensure these bills do not reach the finish line.
- Resolution Opposing A-3395/S-296 (Undermining a School Board’s Ability to Subcontract Services)
- Resolution Opposing A-3664/S-3089 (Requiring Binding Arbitration Over Personnel Decisions)
Any questions on the bills or the sample resolutions may be directed to Jonathan Pushman, NJSBA legislative advocate, at (609) 278-5248 or via email.
The following provides a summary of these two measures along with any other school-related bills approved by the Assembly on May 23.
Anti-Subcontracting Measure A-3395 concerns subcontracting agreements entered into by public school districts and county colleges and places several burdensome and expensive hurdles in the way of districts seeking to outsource non-instructional programs and services. Specifically, the bill imposes the following conditions and requirements on any school district considering the subcontracting of non-instructional services and personnel, such as paraprofessionals, food services, pupil transportation, custodial services, building and grounds:
- Makes the employer’s decision to subcontract a mandatory subject of negotiations;
- Prohibits subcontracting during the term that a collective bargaining agreement is in effect;
- Requires the employer to provide written notice to any union that may be impacted by the decision to subcontract at least 90 days prior to soliciting bids for a subcontracting agreement;
- Provides the union the right to meet and consult with the board of education to discuss the decision to subcontract and the opportunity to engage in negotiations over the impact of subcontracting; and
- Grants any employee replaced or displaced by the subcontracting agreement any previously acquired seniority and recall rights whenever the subcontracting ends.
Taken together, the onerous and costly provisions of A-3395 would severely inhibit the ability of a board of education to subcontract services. The NJSBA believes the decision to subcontract a service is – and must remain – a non-negotiable, managerial prerogative so that boards of education can effectively and efficiently manage their resources and quickly respond to a fiscal emergency. The lengthy negotiation, notice and arbitration requirements would impede a district’s ability to use subcontracting to respond to a budget crisis and effectively makes the subcontracting option no option at all.
The NJSBA has argued that students and taxpayers would be harmed by the requirements imposed by A-3395. By essentially taking the subcontracting option off the table, boards of education will be forced to consider other alternatives to balance their budgets, such as cuts in programs and services, teacher layoffs, tax increases, or some combination of the three. None of these options is in the best interests of either students or taxpayers and should only be employed as a last resort.
School districts are under constant pressure to control the growth of property taxes while delivering high-quality educational programs and services. The 2% property tax levy cap combined with the state’s failure to meet its statutory obligations under the School Funding Reform Act have made this a difficult balancing act. Furthermore, with the recent changes to the school funding formula that will result in reductions in state aid for approximately one-third of the state’s school districts, it is critical that districts have the tools they need to maintain New Jersey’s status as having one the best educational systems in the nation. Subcontracting has a proven track record of success and is therefore a financial management tool that must remain available and viable to our members.
Some form of this legislation has been pending for nearly 30 years. Fortunately, it has never been signed into law as it either eventually stalled in the Legislature or was vetoed upon reaching the governor’s desk, most recently by former Gov. Chris Christie in 2013.
Binding Arbitration & Support Staff A-3664 would establish tenure-like protections for school district support staff and would subject a board of education’s personnel decisions to costly, protracted challenges through binding arbitration. If enacted, the legislation would grant a non-teaching staff member the right to submit to binding arbitration virtually any disciplinary action taken by a board of education against the individual. The bill includes an expansive definition of disciplinary action to include reprimands, withholding of increments, terminations or non-renewals, expiration or lapse of employment, or lack of continuation of employment. Furthermore, it permits the employee to submit to binding arbitration any dispute regarding a disciplinary action regardless of the reason behind the employer’s action.
The NJSBA strongly opposes the measure as it would prevent districts from effectively managing employee conduct and performance. The provisions of A-3664 will impede a district’s ability to respond to a budgetary shortfall, a decline in enrollment, or changing educational needs or priorities. It will also likely lead to costly litigation that will force school districts to spend a greater share of their limited resources in the courtroom rather than in the classroom.
The Association expressed particularly strong concerns with the provision that could subject the non-renewal of a non-teaching staff member to binding arbitration. This essentially grants these staff members tenure-like employment security that takes their certificated staff counterparts four years of satisfactory performance in the classroom to earn. The NJSBA argued that the employees covered by this legislation operate under fixed-term contracts and that the board of education must annually decide, after thoughtful deliberation, whether or not they will be offered continued employment for another year. Non-renewals are not inherently disciplinary. Rather the decision to not renew a staff member is typically based on economic (i.e., reduced state aid) or educational (i.e., a drop in student enrollment) factors. Unfortunately, the legislation explicitly ignores any economic or educational rationale behind the board’s decision to not renew an individual’s employment.
Furthermore, as school districts across the state are experiencing declines in both enrollment and state aid, it is imperative that the Legislature not tie their hands when they are confronted with difficult but necessary personnel reductions. Instead, they should empower boards of education to make sound managerial decisions in order to make the most efficient use of their resources. Unfortunately, this legislation goes in the opposite direction.
Bills Headed to Governor’s Desk
The following NJSBA-tracked measures have now passed both houses of the Legislature and head to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk for his consideration:
Child Abuse Hotline S-2489/A-425 requires a board of education to prominently display information about the N.J. Department of Children and Families’ State Central Registry, a toll-free hotline for reporting child abuse, in each school of the district. The information must give instructions to call 911 for emergencies and must include directions for accessing the department’s website or social media platforms for more information on reporting abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Under the bill, the information is required to be in a format and language that is clear, simple, and understandable. The information must be on a poster and displayed at each school in at least one high-traffic, highly and clearly visible public area that is readily accessible to, and widely used by students. NJSBA supports the bill.
Health/Phys Ed Endorsement Requirement S-858/A-674 requires that teachers appointed to teach health, health and physical education, or physical education in grades kindergarten through six, possess the appropriate endorsement to their instructional certificate. Under existing state regulations, an elementary teacher is not required to have a specific endorsement to teach these subjects. The bill includes a “grandfather” provision, which will permit any teacher who has obtained an elementary school endorsement prior to the bill’s effective date to continue teaching health and/or physical education without obtaining the appropriate endorsements in those subject areas. The legislation also permits an individual who holds a school nurse endorsement to teach health in elementary schools.
If enacted, the legislation will go into effect in the 2019-2020 school year.
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. NJSBA supports the bill.
Child Trafficking Awareness and PreventionA-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 education commissioner 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.
Lactation Rooms in Public Buildings S-1735/A-1663 requires certain public facilities and offices to provide an on-site lactation room and for the N.J. Department of Health to provide information about lactation room availability. The legislation does not mandate that school districts make lactation rooms available in school facilities. However, the bill does direct the NJDOE to annually report to the governor and Legislature on the lactation-related policies that have been implemented at schools, colleges, and universities in the state.
Student Eye Exam Requirement S-2804/A-4310 directs the State Board of Education to require each child age six and under who is entering a public preschool, public school, or a Head Start Program for the first time to have a comprehensive eye examination completed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist by Jan. 1 of the child’s initial year of enrollment in the school or program. The New Jersey Department of Health will maintain a list of resources from which a parent or guardian may obtain a free or reduced price comprehensive eye examination. The list will be posted on the state Health Department’s website and will be provided to each public preschool, public school, and Head Start Program. A principal, director, or other person in charge of a public preschool, public school, or Head Start Program must collect from the child’s parent or guardian evidence of the child’s comprehensive eye examination, as provided by regulation of the State Board. A comprehensive eye examination that was performed no more than one year prior to a child’s initial enrollment in a public preschool, public school, or Head Start program will satisfy the requirements under the bill. NJSBA supports the bill.
Bills Passed General Assembly
The following measures have passed the full General Assembly and now move to the Senate:
Pre-Expulsion I&R Services A-4150 require that, in the event that a student has experienced multiple suspensions or in the event he may be subject to a proposed expulsion, the principal must convene a meeting, as soon as practicable, between the student and a school psychologist. If the school does not have a school psychologist, the student would meet with a school counselor, a school social worker, a student assistance coordinator, or a member of the school’s intervention and referral services team. The purpose of the meeting required under the bill is to identify any behavior or health difficulties experienced by the student and, if appropriate, to provide the student with supportive interventions or referrals to school or community resources that may assist the student in addressing the identified difficulties. NJSBA supports the bill.
Strengthening Gifted and Talented Education A-4710, entitled the “Strengthening Gifted and Talented Education Act,” establishes various school district responsibilities in educating gifted and talented students. The bill codifies a requirement included in State Board of Education regulations that boards of education ensure appropriate instructional adaptations and educational services are provided to gifted and talented students in kindergarten through grade 12 to enable them to participate in, benefit from, and demonstrate knowledge and application of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. Under the bill, a school district would be required to:
- ensure that appropriate instructional adaptations are designed for gifted and talented students;
- make provisions for an ongoing identification process for gifted and talented students that includes multiple measures to identify student strengths in various academic areas;
- maintain a list of students identified as gifted and talented in each grade for each school within the school district;
- develop and document appropriate curricular and instructional modifications used for gifted and talented students indicating content, process, products, and learning environment;
- take into consideration the pre-K-grade 12 Gifted Programming Standards of the National Association for Gifted Children in developing programs for gifted and talented students;
- provide the time and resources to develop, review, and enhance instructional tools with modifications for helping gifted and talented students acquire and demonstrate mastery of the required knowledge and skills specified by the standards in one or more content areas at the instructional level of the student, not just the student’s grade level; and
- actively assist and support professional development for teachers, educational services staff, and school leaders in the area of gifted and talented instruction.
The bill also requires the N.J. Commissioner of Education to appoint a coordinator for gifted and talented programs, who will be responsible for reviewing the gifted and talented program implemented in each school district. School districts will be required to file periodically with the coordinator a report that includes information regarding its gifted and talented programs and services. In addition, the commissioner will develop a protocol for submitting a complaint alleging that a school district is not in compliance with the provisions of the bill and for the executive county superintendent of schools to investigate a complaint. The protocol will include procedures for remediating gifted and talented programs in school districts found to be in noncompliance.
The bill also requires school districts to post detailed information on their websites regarding the policies and procedures used to identify students as gifted and talented and the continuum of services offered within the school district. Finally, the bill provides that a student record must document that the student has been identified by the school district as a gifted and talented student.
NJSBA supports the legislation. Its upper house counterpart, S-3258, has received committee approval and awaits a Senate floor vote.
New Anti-Bullying Task Force S-2575/A-4848 establishes an 11-member task force to examine, evaluate, and make recommendations regarding the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.” Eight members of the task force will have a background or special knowledge of the legal, policy, educational, social, or psychological aspects of bullying in public schools. The chairperson of the Anti-Bullying Task Force established pursuant to a 2012 law will serve as one of the eleven members. The task force also will include two members of the public, a family member of a student who has experienced bullying and a student over the age of 17 who personally has experienced bullying.
The task force will examine and evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.” It will also examine any unintended consequences resulting from implementation of the act and its regulations including, but not limited to, impacts of the law on athletic coaches; and present any recommendations deemed necessary and appropriate to modify or update the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act” and its implementing regulations. NJSBA supports the bill. The measure now returns to the Senate, which passed a previous version of S-2575, to concur with amendments made in the Assembly.