On May 25, the full Assembly approved various education measures, including several bills from Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt’s package of proposals seeking to ease the teacher shortage and a measure expanding the scope of school district employee sick leave.
Expedited Certification Route for Paraprofessionals A-5416 would require the New Jersey State Board of Education to authorize an alternate, expedited route to teacher certification for paraprofessionals and instructional assistants. In developing the requirements for that expedited certification, the commissioner of education would be required to consult with representatives of the education community, including the New Jersey School Boards Association. The expedited route would include a formula for applying direct classroom service to any student teaching requirements, a formula for a GPA waiver, and “a requirement that the school district in which the candidate is currently employed permit the candidate to perform any required student teaching in the school district while, if possible, continuing employment as a paraprofessional or an instructional assistant.” The NJSBA supports the bill and has requested an amendment to ensure that the above-quoted requirement regarding simultaneous service as a student teacher and a paraprofessional/instructional assistant is not construed to require a school district to offer a paraprofessional pursuing teacher certification a spot as a student teacher. The NJSBA believes such decisions should be made locally and on an individual basis. The Assembly advanced the bill without the proposed amendments.
Teacher Certification Reimbursement Fund A-5418 would establish the “Teacher Certification Reimbursement Fund” in the NJDOE. The fund would reimburse costs associated with certification for new teachers and teachers seeking an additional endorsement. Costs eligible for reimbursement would include, but not be limited to, those associated with fingerprinting requirements, testing requirements, and certification fees. NJSBA supports the bill.
Eliminating the “Basic Skills” Requirement A-5419 would eliminate the requirement that candidates for instructional certificates complete a DOE-approved test of basic reading, writing and mathematics skills, including but not limited to the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators test. NJSBA supports the bill.
Student Teacher Stipend Program A-5420 would establish the New Jersey Student Educator Stipend Program in the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority. Under the program, HESAA, in coordination with the NJDOE, would award stipends of up to $7,200, which may be increased to include a cost-of-living adjustment, to eligible students for each semester of full-time clinical practice completed by the student at a New Jersey school, for up to two semesters. NJSBA supports the bill.
Special Ed, Bilingual and K-8 Endorsements A-5421 would require the NJDOE to establish endorsements to the instructional certificate in the following areas:
- Students with disabilities, preschool through Grade 12: authorize the holder to teach students with disabilities, with the exception of students who are blind or visually impaired or deaf or hard of hearing, in all public schools and in all grade levels.
- Kindergarten through grade eight: authorize the holder to teach all K-6 students and specialty subjects on the face of the certificate to students in grades seven and eight.
- Bilingual and bicultural, preschool through grade 12: authorize the holder to teach bilingual and bicultural education in all grade levels.
NJSBA supports the bill.
Tax Deduction for Classroom Supplies A-2227 would allow educators to deduct from their gross income for the taxable year up to $250 in unreimbursed expenses for the purchase of classroom supplies. K-12 teachers, counselors, speech language specialists, principals, and aides that provide at least 900 hours of service in a public or private school would be eligible. NJSBA supports the bill.
Each of the six bills described above aimed at easing the teacher shortage will now head to the Senate for further consideration. They all have Senate counterparts that may now be posted for a hearing.
Extending Flexibility to Hire Retirees A-5422/S-3798 would extend, to teachers hired in the 2023-2024 school year, the flexibilities signed into law in January 2022 (P.L.2021, c.408) allowing districts to temporarily hire teachers and professional staff members who retired from TPAF without reenrollment in the TPAF. The bill has already received full Senate approval, and now awaits action by the governor. NJSBA supports the bill.
Alternative Teaching Pathway S-1553/A-4525 would establish the “alternative certificate of eligibility.” A teacher candidate would be eligible for the alternative certificate of eligibility if the candidate meets all CE eligibility requirements except the basic skills requirement. Holders of the alternative CE would be eligible to receive their standard certification upon completion of four years of continuous employment using their alternative certificate, and provided that they complete all applicable requirements to earn their standard certificate. The bill prohibits the imposition of additional qualifications toward the acquisition of tenure on holders of an alternative CE and provides that employment accrued under an alternative CE must be applied toward eligibility for tenure in the same manner as employment accrued under a traditional CE. In February, the bill was amended in the Assembly Appropriations Committee to remove flexibilities in a previous version that would have also exempted teacher candidates from requirements to pass the appropriate Praxis II, the state’s test of subject matter knowledge. NJSBA supports the bill. S-1553 passed the Senate in June 2022. Since it was amended in the Assembly following Senate passage, the amended version now heads back to Senate for concurrence before it goes to the governor.
Expanding Scope of School District Employee Sick Leave: A-5060 would expand the scope of allowable uses of sick leave for school district employees, such as to care for an ill family member. NJSBA has testified against the bill, arguing that sick leave benefits beyond the current requirements of N.J.S.A. 18A:30-2 should remain subject to collective negotiations. Additional information on the bill can be found in the NJSBA’s May 23 SBN article “Legislative Update: NJSBA-Opposed Sick Leave Expansion Bill Advances; Staff Shortage Measures Build Momentum.” A copy of NJSBA’s position statement on the bill can be found here.
Other organizations joining the NJSBA in opposition include the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials and the Garden State Coalition of Schools.
The bill will next head to the Senate for further consideration. Its Senate counterpart, S-3440, currently sits in the education committee, but has not moved since its introduction in January.
April Election Second Question Certification Deadline A-5175 would make changes to various general election deadlines. Among the changes, the bill would move up the deadline for boards of education that hold an election in April to certify second questions with the county clerk. Specifically, the bill would change that deadline from 18 days before the April election to 60 days before the election.
Recognizing the conflict this change would pose with school districts’ budget timelines – specifically that it would essentially deprive April election districts of the ability to put up second questions by establishing a certification deadline before school districts receive their state aid notices – the NJSBA, in consultation with the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials, is seeking amendments to remove this provision from the bill. The Assembly advanced the bill without making the proposed amendments. It next heads to the Senate for further consideration. Its Senate counterpart, S-3593, has not yet moved.
Extend Service Life of School Buses A-5329 would extend the service life of school buses from 15 years to 20 years, while specifying that it does not “allow the use of any school bus for pupil transportation purposes if that school bus is determined to be unsafe or unfit for pupil transportation.” The bill next heads to the Senate for further consideration. Its Senate counterpart, S-3734, has not moved to date. NJSBA supports the bill.
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 bill now awaits action by the governor.
To view the full text of any of the bills summarized above, please visit the New Jersey Legislature’s website.