On Thursday, Aug. 27, the New Jersey Senate gave final legislative passage to a bill that will severely inhibit a board of education’s ability to subcontract out for various services. The Senate passed previous version of the legislation, S-2303/A-4140, back in March, but the bill received minor amendments in the Assembly before that chamber passed the bill. Therefore, the bill had to return for concurrence in the Senate. Governor Murphy has already pledged to sign the bill into law once it reaches his desk.  

NJSBA led a coalition of education, government and business organizations that opposed the bill.  

The measure, S-2303/A-4140, 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 various services and personnel, such as paraprofessionals, food services, pupil transportation, custodial services, and 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.  

NJSBA has long-believed that the decision to subcontract a service should remain a prerogative of local boards of education so that they can efficiently manage resources and, if necessary, quickly respond to a fiscal emergency. A copy of NJSBA’s testimony on the bill can be found here.   

The Association had been successful in preventing the bill from becoming law since it was first proposed roughly 30 years ago, most recently obtaining an absolute veto of the bill under the administration of former Gov. Chris Christie. During his 2017 gubernatorial campaign, Governor Murphy publicly expressed his support for the proposal. Earlier this year, Senate President Sweeney agreed to advance the bill when he struck a compromise with the New Jersey Education Association on school employees health benefits reform. Enactment of the bill has been a longtime priority of the statewide teachers union. 

In addition to NJSBA, the coalition that opposed the legislation included the Garden State Coalition of Schools, the N.J. Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools, the N.J. Association of School Administrators, the N.J. Association of School Business Officials, the N.J. Business and Industry Association, the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey, the N.J. State Chamber of Commerce, the N.J. State League of Municipalities, the N.J. Association of Counties, and the N.J. Council of County Colleges. Joint letters sent by those organizations to the Senate and General Assembly can be accessed here and here. 

Postponing NJQSAC Due to COVID The following bill, which would grant districts flexibility in timing of their periodic QSAC reviews, also received final legislative approval on Thursday: 

A-4006/S-2404 postpones the comprehensive review of certain school districts under the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) until the 2021-2022 school year.  

Under current law, each school district is required to undergo a comprehensive review under the state monitoring system, the NJQSAC.  Each school district is currently required to undergo the comprehensive review once every three years according to a schedule established by the education commissioner.  As a result, only a certain number of school districts can be monitored during any given year.  

Under the bill, the comprehensive review of certain districts would be postponed to allow school districts and the NJDOE to focus additional resources on addressing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Specifically, the bill requires the comprehensive review to be conducted during the 2021-2022 school year for any school district that was required to undergo its review during (1) the 2019-2020 school year, whose review was not completed due to the COVID-19-related school closures; or (2) the 2020-2021 school year.    

If a school district receives a comprehensive review during the 2021-2022 school year as a result of the postponement, the district would be required to undergo its next review as if the postponement had not occurred (i.e., three years after the school year in which the review was originally scheduled to take place). The bill allows school districts to make a request to the commissioner for an exemption from the postponement. The bill also stipulates that the postponements required under the bill may not disrupt the schedule for any other school district’s comprehensive review. NJSBA supports the legislation.  

Senate Voting Session 

The following bill passed the full State Senate at its Aug. 27 voting session: 

Social-Emotional Learning Pilot S-2486 establishes the “Clayton Model Pilot Program” in the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to provide school-based social emotional learning to students in grades kindergarten through five at certain public schools. According to the sponsor’s statement, the Clayton Model has been shown to improve significantly students’ social and emotional health, academic performance, and caregivers’ supports. This bill would create a five-year pilot program in the NJDOE to expand the Clayton Model to 10 public schools in each of three counties. The commissioner of education will select either Morris or Sussex County to represent the northern area of the state and either Middlesex or Ocean County to represent the central area of the state. Under the bill, Gloucester County will represent the southern area.  

By June 30 of each year during the duration of the pilot program, the commissioner of education will provide interim reports to the State Board of Education, the governor, and the Legislature that will include various information, such as the costs of the program, the number and names of the school districts and schools participating in the program, and the number of students served. NJSBA supports the bill, which heads to the Assembly. 

Assembly Voting Session 

The following bills were approved by the full General Assembly and head to the Senate: 

Cooperative Purchasing of COVID-19 Related Goods A-4461 requires the state to enter into contracts and coordinate with certain cooperative purchasing systems to assist public schools (i.e., school districts, charter schools, and renaissance schools) and county colleges in the purchase of COVID-19 related goods and services. NJSBA supports the bill.   

Under the bill, the director of the Division of Purchase and Property in the state Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the New Jersey Commissioner of Education and the Secretary of Higher Education, would be required to award contracts for the procurement of COVID-19 related goods and services by public schools and county colleges. The bill also requires the director to coordinate with the lead agency of any state-approved cooperative purchasing system that includes a public school or county college to provide for the procurement of COVID-19 related goods and services. The bill permits the state to award contracts to more than one bidder.   

Additionally, the bill permits public schools and county colleges to purchase COVID-19 related goods and services, without advertising for bids, through any contract that is entered into by the Division of Purchase and Property, or made available through a state-approved cooperative purchasing system of which the school or college is a member. The bill also requires the NJDOE and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education to coordinate the purchase of COVID-19 related goods and services by public schools and county colleges, respectively. 

The Senate version of the bill, S-2698, was approved by the Senate Education Committee on August 20 and has been referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration. 

STEM Opportunities for Young Women & Minorities A-1625 directs the NJDOE to develop and administer an outreach program to encourage young women and minorities to pursue post-secondary degrees and careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field. NJSBA supports the bill, which now moves to the Senate.