On Monday, Sept. 14, the governor signed the following education-related measure into law:
State School Nurse Consultant A-4378/S-2573 establishes the position of State School Nurse Consultant in the Department of Education. The State School Nurse Consultant would work with school districts and school nurses to facilitate best practices in school nursing by advancing comprehensive school health services to address the health and wellness of all students. The person appointed by the Commissioner of Education to the position is required to be a certified school nurse who holds a master’s degree and has demonstrated higher-level leadership with recent school nursing experience. Once appointed, the consultant will collaborate with the N.J. Department of Health, other state agencies, and associated stakeholders in executing the duties of the position. NJSBA supported the bill, which went into effect immediately.
Anti-Subcontracting Measure On Friday, Sept. 11, Gov. Murphy signed into law legislation that that will severely inhibit a board of education’s ability to subcontract out for various services. The measure 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.
NJSBA led a coalition of education, government and business organizations that opposed the bill.
Specifically, the bill S-2303/A-4140 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 this proposal, along with a separate bill that provides tenure-like protections for support staff. Earlier this year, Senate President Sweeney agreed to advance both bills when he struck a compromise with the New Jersey Education Association on school employees health benefits reforms. Enactment of both job protection bills have been longtime priorities of the statewide teachers’ union.
In addition to the 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.
In light of this new law, which went into effect immediately upon the governor signing it, boards of education should consult with their board attorney before taking any action toward the outsourcing of any non-instructional staff or services.
Senate Education Committee Meets
The Senate Education Committee met on Monday, Sept. 14 and passed the following bills:
Out-of-State Reciprocity S–2831 grants reciprocity to teachers with certain out-of-state certificates. In order to qualify, a candidate must have:
- The equivalent of a certificate of eligibility, provisional certificate or emergency certificate from another state in a subject or grade level also offered in New Jersey;
- Passed a subject-matter test to receive the out-of-state endorsement or passed the appropriate New Jersey subject-matter test;
- Passed a performance assessment approved by the state where the certificate was issued, or the candidate must pass a New Jersey–approved performance assessment; and
- One–year minimum of documented effective teaching experience.
Candidates who have not completed an approved educator preparation program can enroll in a state approved educator preparation program and complete any remaining college credits or coursework prior to the issuance of a standard instructional certificate. NJSBA supports this bill.
Easing Substitute Teacher Requirements S–2832 allows college students who have accumulated at least 30 college credits (sophomores and beyond) and are at least 20 years old to serve as substitute teachers. The current standard is 60 credits (juniors and beyond). NJSBA was able to have language inserted clarifying school districts may establish additional criteria for substitute teachers within their district. NJSBA has not currently taken a position, but continues to monitor the bill.
Remote Learning Pods S–2899 establishes the Safe Remote Learning Program to provide remote instructional facilities by school districts implementing virtual/remote instruction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These facilities would be for students learning remotely who, for whatever reason, cannot do so at home. NJDOE would draft guidelines concerning the establishment and maintenance of the facilities. At a minimum, these guidelines would require each facility to be:
- Used for the delivery of remote instruction to students in accordance with health and safety standards set forth by NJDOE and the New Jersey Department of Health;
- Provided with equipment necessary for every student at the facility to participate in remote instruction activities; and
- Staffed by appropriately qualified persons during all hours of operation.
Districts implementing a partial or full-time virtual/remote program would establish one or more remote instructional facilities by repurposing space within an existing school or acquiring space within a facility owned by a non-profit or college/university. If space is limited, preference would be given to: (1) students eligible for free/reduced meals; and (2) students whose parent, guardian, or other person having legal custody is considered an essential worker by NJDOE.
The bill also requires the state to reimburse school districts for the full costs incurred in establishing and maintaining remote instruction facilities. To the extent permitted by federal law, the NJDOE would be required to use Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act or any other financial assistance provided by the federal government to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for reimbursement. If insufficient federal funding is available to defray these costs, the state would be required to make up the difference.
During committee testimony, concerns were expressed about ensuring proper cleaning, especially in light of the current health pandemic. The committee chair, who also sponsors the bill, committed to addressing these concerns through further amendments before a final vote of the full Senate. NJSBA has not currently taken a position, but continues to monitor the bill.
Miscellaneous Revenue/4% Surplus S–2691 allows school budgets to have excess anticipated miscellaneous revenue due to COVID-19 and authorizes school districts to maintain surplus at 4% for 2020-2021. Under current law, a school district, other than a county vocational school district, may only maintain a surplus of 2%. The bill also provides that for this upcoming school year, the transfer of surplus funds between line items and program categories will not need New Jersey Department of Education approval. NJSBA supports this bill. Its Assembly counterpart, A-4310, has also passed through committee. Both are now primed for floor votes.
Federal Meal Service Waivers S-2849 directs the N.J. Department of Agriculture (NJDA) to request necessary waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide food and meals during school closures due to COVID-19 public health emergency. NJSBA supports the bill.
The bill instructs the NJDA to request the waivers to authorize participating schools or providers to:
- extend the implementation of the Summer Food Service Program throughout the calendar year;
- provide emergency food, non-congregate feeding services, and grab-and-go meals with no time restrictions under the Summer Food Service Program, the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, or any other child and adult community food programs administered by the United States Department of Agriculture; and
- offer food, meals or other services through any of those programs on the grounds of a school, notwithstanding any restrictions otherwise imposed on providing the programs and services on school grounds.
- The bill defines “participating school” as a school that provides food and meals through the Summer Food Service Program, the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, or any other child and adult community food programs administered by the USDA.
Mental Health and Security Staff on School Report Card S-2811 requires the school report card to include information concerning the number of school psychologists and security personnel employed by each school district. The bill was amended to include other kinds of school-based mental health professionals. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration. NJSBA is monitoring the bill.