The final days of the 217th legislative session came to a close January 8 as a number of bills impacting students and schools land on Governor Chris Christie’s desk for consideration.
Unfortunately, it is unclear which of the bills will be signed by the Governor in the waning days of the legislative session. Typically a bill becomes law upon the Governor’s signature. However, bills passed in the last 10 days of a 2-year session may be “pocket vetoed” which basically means if no action is taken on the legislation (aka the Governor does not sign it) it dies due to non-action by the Executive branch. Stay tuned as we provide you updates on what becomes law in the coming days.
In the meantime, we have included a summary, with links, to relevant bills for your information.
S-3447 (Turner (D-15)) — Allows public schools to let certain students not enrolled in school participate in high school interscholastic athletics; allows public high schools in same district to enter into cooperative sports programs under certain conditions.
The bill requires the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to allow under certain conditions public high schools in the same school district to enter into a cooperative sports program for any sport at the varsity level if either of the schools demonstrates an inability to field a team at the varsity level due to: a decline in interest or participation in the sport at one of the schools that impacts the ability of that school to safely field a team; or budgetary constraints which force the elimination of certain sports programs at one of the schools. Under the current rules of the NJSIAA, schools are prohibited from entering into cooperative sports programs for basketball, baseball, softball and spring track, and in football if one of the schools is classified as a Group III school. This bill requires the NJSIAA to allow the schools to enter into cooperative sports programs regardless of the sport or the member schools’ Group classification.
The legislation was the result of one of the football programs at West Windsor Plainsboro Regional School District, High School North, losing its ability to safely field the football team. Their request to merge their program with High School South was denied at the West Jersey Football Conference, the NJSIAA, and the Department of Education.
NJPSA, in concert with NJSBA, was able to secure significant amendment to the bill including:
- Clarifying that the provisions of the bill only apply in the case of a high school interscholastic athletics team or squad;
- Permitting, rather than mandating, a school districts to allow charter school students, homeschooled students, and students who attend nonpublic schools to participate in high school interscholastic athletics in the student’s district of residence;
- Similarly, making it permissive, rather than mandatory, for charter schools to allow public school students to participate in high school interscholastic athletics at the charter school;
- Clarification that while a school district may permit students to participate in interscholastic sports under the provisions of the bill if the district or charter school is unable to field a team due to a decline in interest or participation in the sport that impacts the ability of the district or charter school to safely field a team or squad, this does not limit a district’s authority to allow these students to participate for reasons other than that a team or squad cannot be safely fielded;
- A provision which allows a school district to charge a student who participates in a school-sponsored high school interscholastic athletics team or squad a fee no greater than the actual cost per pupil of participating in the sport. This provision must be waived in the event that a student has financial hardship; and
- Modification of the effective date of the bill to July 1, 2018 rather than immediately.
Curriculum & Programming
A-3396 (McKnight (D31)) — Requires financial literacy instruction to pupils enrolled in grades kindergarten through eight.
Under this bill, schools must incorporate financial literacy standards into instruction for students in grades K-8. However, the state Board of Education is required to provide curriculum and sample instructional materials to schools covering topics such as budgeting, savings, credit, debt, insurance, investment and other issues related to personal financial responsibility.
NJPSA, in concert with NJSBA and NJASA, worked with the sponsors to address some concerns with the legislation as initially drafted. The bill would take effect immediately and first be applicable to the first full school year following enactment.
A-4165 (Chaparro (D-33)) — Requires driver education course, certain new driver brochures, and driver’s license written exam to include cyclist and pedestrian safety information.
This legislation requires the curriculum guidelines for approved classroom driver education courses and the informational brochure distributed by the MVC to the parents and guardians of beginning drivers under the age of 18 include information concerning operating a motor vehicle in a manner that safely shares the roadway with pedestrians, cyclists, skaters, riders of motorized-scooters, and other non-motorized vehicles. The curriculum guidelines and informational brochure are to include, but not be limited to, passing a cyclist on the roadway, recognizing bicycle lanes, navigating intersections with pedestrians and cyclists, and exiting a vehicle without endangering pedestrians and cyclists.
The bill further provides that the written examination, which is to be passed in order to be issued a basic driver’s license, special learner’s permit, or examination permit, is to include questions on cyclist and pedestrian safety, and that the MVC may include these questions as part of the 20 questions that may be added to the exam on subjects to be determined by the MVC that are of particular relevance to youthful drivers.
NJPSA is neutral on this legislation.
S-2397 (Ruiz (D-29)) — Directs State Board of Education to authorize computer science education endorsement to instructional certificate.
The legislation directs the State Board of Education to authorize a computer science education endorsement to the instructional certificate. The endorsement would authorize the holder to teach computer science in all public schools, and would be required to teach computer science in grades 9 through 12 beginning at such time as the State board determines that there is a sufficient number of teachers holding the computer science education endorsement to make the requirement feasible.
The standards established by the State board would require a candidate for the computer science education endorsement to:
- hold a standard instructional certificate with at least one other teaching endorsement; and
- provide documentation of the completion of computer science related coursework requirements determined by the State board up to a maximum of 15 credits.
The bill includes a grandfather provision that permits a teacher to be issued a computer science education endorsement upon application to the State Board of Examiners, if the person is teaching computer science within the three years prior to such time as the State board determines to require a computer science education endorsement to teach computer science.
NJPSA worked with the sponsors to seek several amendments that would vest the Board with the responsibility to determine what coursework would be appropriate for the endorsement rather than set the criteria within the legislation. We also successfully garnered an amendment that make the legislation null until such time as the State Board determines there is a sufficient number of teachers with the endorsement to require only such educators to teach high school computer science courses.
S-2485 (Diegnan (D-18)) — Requires school districts to offer course in computer science and DOE to adopt changes to NJ Student Learning Standards in computer science.
This legislation requires schools districts to offer computer science classes beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. This is already a requirement under New Jersey’s Learning Standards (standards). The bill also mandates that the State Board of Education make any necessary changes to the standards in light of the current review process underway at the Department.
NJPSA worked to achieve several amendments to the legislation including:
- Eliminating the original bill’s requirement that beginning with the 2022-2023 grade nine class, students complete a course in computer science in order to graduate high school;
- Require that the computer science course required to be offered by public schools be informed by the work being done by the Department of Education pursuant to P.L.2015, c.229, which provides that the department review the New Jersey Student Learning Standards to ensure that modern computer science standards are incorporated, where appropriate; and
- Provide that by the 2022-2023 school year the State Board of Education will adopt appropriate changes to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards and to high school graduation requirements that reflect the work being done by the Department of Education pursuant to P.L.2015, c.229.
S-2704 (Diegnan (D-18)) — Establishes grant program for school districts and charter schools to develop dual language immersion programs.
The bill requires that the Commissioner of Education, with the approval of the State Board of Education, develop a program to award grants to school districts and charter schools to develop dual language immersion programs. In order to be eligible to receive a grant, the immersion program must:
- provide 50 percent of its instruction in Chinese, Spanish, French, or any other language approved by the commissioner, with the balance of the instruction being in English; and
- begin in kindergarten or the first grade.
The Commissioner would select grant recipients from among school districts and charter schools that submit applications based on the quality of the proposed program and the potential to increase biliteracy. The bill also creates a non-lapsing fund in the Department of Education, known as the Dual Language Immersion Program Fund, which would be credited with moneys appropriated by the Legislature, and gifts, grants, or donations to the fund, as well as any interest received on moneys deposited in the fund.
NJPSA supports the initiative as it is permissive, rather than mandatory, that districts participate.
S-447 (Allen (R-7)) — Requires Commissioner of Education to include data on chronic absenteeism and disciplinary suspensions on School Report Card and requires public schools to make certain efforts to combat chronic absenteeism.
This legislation requires that, if 10 percent or more of the students enrolled in a public school are chronically absent, the school must develop a corrective action plan to improve absenteeism rates. The plan include, but need not be limited to:
- identifying problems and barriers to school attendance;
- developing recommendations to address those problems and barriers;
- outlining communication strategies to educate parents on the importance of school attendance;
- establishing protocols on informing and engaging parents when a child begins to show a pattern of absences; and
- reviewing school policies to ensure that they support improved school attendance.
In developing the corrective action plan, the school must solicit input from parents through multiple means, including through the administration of a survey, engaging with the school’s parent organization, and, if the school does not have a parent organization, holding a public meeting to provide parents with the opportunity to provide input. The plan must also be presented to the board of education. The school would annually review and revise the plan, and present the revisions to the board, until the percent of students who are chronically absent is less than 10 percent.
The term “chronically absent,” as used in the bill, will be defined pursuant to rules and regulations promulgated by the Commissioner of Education within 90 days after enactment.
The bill also requires the Commissioner of Education to include on School Report Cards data on the number and percentage of students who were chronically absent and the number and percentage of students who received a disciplinary suspension. The bill directs the commissioner to review the chronic absenteeism rates of each school and school district annually, and report on the rates to the State Board of Education.
The Education Stakeholders, including NJPSA, vociferously advocated for several changes to the bill. Among them was the elimination of a definition of chronic absenteeism that varied from the current regulatory definition as well as a provision that would have required districts to develop a special ‘team’ at the school level that would have required the inclusion of a parent for purposes of addressing absenteeism. NJPSA, as well as fellow stakeholders raised student privacy and redundancy issues with the sponsors successfully. Interestingly, the State has already chosen to utilize chronic absenteeism as a metric for school performance and accountability purposes under federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requirements.
School & Student Safety & Security
A-1257 (Caride (D-36)) — Requires school bus transporting students using wheelchairs to be equipped with four-point securement system; requires school bus operator to secure students using wheelchairs.
The legislation codifies existing federal requirements as it relates to the transport of students in wheelchairs on a school bus. Specifically, it requires school bus transporting students using wheelchairs to be equipped with four-point securement system and requires school bus operator to secure students using wheelchairs.
NJPSA supports the legislation as it is already required under federal law. NJPSA, and fellow stakeholders successfully halted an amendment to the bill that would have required that a school bus that provides transportation for passengers using wheelchairs must have an aide to assist the passengers.
A-597 (Lagana (D-38)) — Establishes crimes of operating school bus with suspended or revoked driving privileges and being involved in accident causing bodily injury; permanently prohibits passenger and school bus CDL endorsements for persons convicted of those crimes.
The bill provides that a person who knowingly operates a school bus transporting one or more students while that person’s driving privileges have been suspended or revoked is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. The bill further provides that a person, knowingly operating a school bus while that person’s driving privileges have been suspended or revoked, who is involved in an accident resulting in bodily injury to another person is guilty of a crime of the third degree. The bill requires the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission to revoke for life the passenger and school bus endorsements on the commercial driver’s license of a person convicted of either offense. Finally, the bill specifies that a person convicted of either offense is permanently disqualified from employment as a school bus driver. The bill is scheduled to take effect on the first day of the seventh month after the date of enactment.
NJPSA supports the legislation.
S-3416 (Greenstein (D-14)) — Directs Division of Fire Safety in Department of Community Affairs to survey fire supression systems in public and nonpublic school buildings.
The legislation directs the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to survey fire suppression systems in public and non-public school buildings. The division would share the results of the survey with the Department of Education. For each building, the survey would have to include the following information:
- whether a fire suppression system is installed and operational;
- the year in which an existing fire suppression system was installed and any year in which additional piping or standpipes were added to the system or an additional system was installed in the same structure;
- the cost of curing any defect if an installed fire suppression system is not fully operational; and
- the cost of a reinstallation or annual maintenance of a fire suppression system that is inadequate or not fully operational.
NJPSA supports the legislation after having secured an amendment that vests the review responsibility with DCA rather than the Department of Education.
A-191 (Caputo (D-28)) — Requires school buildings to be equipped with emergency light and panic alarm linked to local law enforcement.
The bill requires school buildings to be equipped with emergency light and panic alarm linked to law enforcement and provides state funding to districts through the proceeds of bonds authorized by the School Development Authority.
NJPSA supports the measure after a funding source was incorporated into the legislation several sessions ago. Unfortunately, the bill has been repeatedly vetoed by the Administration so it is unclear whether it will be approved in this session.
S-1163 (Sweeney (D-3)) – Establishes certain requirements for use of restraint and seclusion on students with disabilities in school districts, educational services commissions, and approved private schools for students with disabilities.
The legislation requires a school district, an educational services commission, or an approved private school for students with disabilities that chooses to utilize physical restraint on students with disabilities to ensure that:
- physical restraint is used only in an emergency in which the student is exhibiting behavior that places the student or others in immediate physical danger;
- a student is not restrained in the prone position unless the student’s primary care physician authorizes, in writing, the use of this restraint technique;
- staff members who are involved in the restraint of a student receive training in safe techniques for physical restraint from an entity determined by the board of education to be qualified to provide such training. This training must be updated at least annually; and
- the parent or guardian of a student is immediately notified by telephone or through some means of electronic communication when physical restraint has been used on the student. A full written report of the incident must be provided to the parent or guardian within 48 hours of the occurrence of the incident.
The bill also requires a school district, educational services commission, or private school for students with disabilities to ensure that a seclusion technique is used on a student with disabilities only in an emergency in which the student is exhibiting behavior that places the student or others in immediate physical danger.
In the event of the use of either physical restraints or seclusion techniques:
- each incident must be continuously visually monitored to ensure that it was used in accordance with established procedures set forth in a board policy developed in conjunction with the entity that provides staff training, so as to ensure the safety of the child and others;
- each incident must be documented in writing in detail so it can be used to develop or improve the behavior intervention plan at the next individualized education plan (IEP) meeting; and
- attempts must be made to minimize the use of these measures through the inclusion of positive behavior supports in the student’s behavior intervention plans developed by the IEP team.
The legislation additionally requires the Department of Education to establish guidelines to ensure a review process is in place for school districts, educational services commissions, and approved private schools for students with disabilities to review the use of physical restraints and seclusion techniques in emergency situations and the repeated use of these measures on a single student, within a single classroom, or by a single individual. The student’s IEP team may use this review process to revise the behavioral intervention plan or classroom supports, and the school district, educational services commission, or approved private school for students with disabilities may use the review process to determine whether to revise a staff member’s professional development plan.
NJPSA monitored the legislation after several integral discussions with the bill sponsors led to substantial modification of the bill.
A-4906 (Lampitt (D-6)) — Requires public and nonpublic schools to notify students and parents of availability of summer meals programs and locations where meals are served.
This bill requires each school district and nonpublic school in the State to notify each student enrolled in the school district or nonpublic school and the student’s parent or guardian of the availability of, and criteria of eligibility for, the summer meals program and the locations in the local school district where the summer meals are available. Notification would be made by distributing flyers provided by the Department of Agriculture, which the bill directs the department to develop and distribute to each school district and nonpublic school in the State. Additionally, the school districts and schools are permitted to provide electronic notice of the information through the usual means by which the school district or school communicates with parents and students electronically.
Schools currently notify parents of summer feeding options, this legislation seeks to codify that requirement.
A-4467 (Mazzeo (D-2)) — Clarifies that authorized persons and entities may administer a single dose of any opoid antidote, or multiple doses of any intranasal or intramuscular opioid antidote to overdose victims, with immunity under “Overdose Prevention Act.”
The legislation provides that any person or entity authorized to administer an opioid antidote to an overdose victim, pursuant to the “Overdose Prevention Act” (OPA), may administer, with full immunity:
- a single dose of any type of opioid antidote that has been approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the treatment of an opioid overdose; and
- up to three doses of an opioid antidote that is administered through intranasal application, or through an intramuscular auto-injector, as may be necessary to revive the victim.
The bill specifies that prior consultation with, or approval by, a third-party physician or other medical personnel shall not be required for an authorized person or entity to administer up to three doses of an opioid antidote, through intranasal application, or through an intramuscular auto-injector, to the same overdose victim.
The bill also clarifies certain definitions in the OPA to include reference to certain persons and entities that were not previously specified therein. Specifically, the bill provides that the term “emergency medical responder” includes, but is not limited to, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and fire fighters; and that the term “emergency medical response entity” includes, but is not limited to, first aid, ambulance, and rescue squads, basic life support and advanced life support ambulance squads, air medical service providers, and fire-fighting squads.
NJPSA monitored the legislation during the deliberative process.
S-293 (Vitale (D-19)) — Prohibits use of smokeless tobacco in public schools.
The legislation prohibits the use of smokeless tobacco in any area of any building of, or on the grounds of, any public school and requires the board of education of each school district to ensure the placement, in every public entrance to a public school building in its district, of a sign indicating that the use of smokeless tobacco is prohibited in the school.
The penalties for using smokeless tobacco in violation of this bill would be a fine of not less than $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. However, these fines would not be applicable to a student who violates the bill’s provisions. In the case of such a student, he or she would be prohibited by the board of education of the district from participation in all extracurricular activities, including interscholastic athletics, and the revocation of any student parking permit that the student may possess. A board of education is required to adopt a policy that establishes the length of the suspension or revocation imposed on a student for an initial or subsequent violation.
Under the bill, in the event that the local board of health, or a similar entity, receives a written complaint, or has reason to suspect, that a public school is in violation of the bill’s provisions, then the board of health will provide written notification to the board of education and order that appropriate action be taken. The board of education would be subject to a fine in the event that it fails to comply with the order.
NJPSA is neutral on the legislation.
Other Legislation Awaiting Approval
A-155 (Tucker (D-28)) – Establishes public awareness campaign concerning the dangers of leaving children unattended in and around motor vehicles.
This legislation requires the Division of Highway Traffic Safety in the Department of Law and Public Safety, in consultation with the Department of Children and Families, to establish a public awareness campaign to inform the general public about the dangers of leaving children unattended in and around motor vehicles and the preventative measures that may be taken by parents or guardians to promote child safety and protect against injury or death.
A-492 (Russo (R-40)) — Protects employee rights to ownership and usage of employee inventions developed entirely on employee’s own time and without using employer’s resources.
Specifically, the legislation prohibits an employment contract between an employee and employer that requires the assignment by the employee of any employee invention developed entirely on the employee’s own time and without using the employer’s resources. However, this prohibition does not apply to any invention that relates to the employer’s business or actual or demonstrably anticipated research or development, or results from any work performed by the employee on behalf of the employer. To the extent that any provision in an employment contract applies, or intends to apply, to any employee invention falling under the scope of the bill, that provision is deemed against the public policy of this State and therefore unenforceable.
A-2220 (Benson (D-14))— Authorizes local units of government subject to “Local Public Contracts Law.” and “Public School Contracts Law” to use electronic procurement technologies.
The bill permits local units of government that are subject to the “Local Public Contracts Law,” P.L.1971, c.198 (C.40A:11-1 et seq.) and “Public School Contracts Law,” (N.J.S.18A:18A-1 et seq.) to use electronic procurement technologies. However, the bill requires a local unit that utilizes an electronic procurement system to continue to publish their advertising bids and requests for proposal in its official newspaper.
A-4814 (Rooney (R-40)) — Prohibits investment of pension and annuity funds by State in entities that avoid Superfund obligations to State.
This bill prohibits the investment of New Jersey public employee retirement funds in any business, country, country’s instrumentality, or business affiliate, if identified as a responsible party by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, in accordance with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. s.9601 et seq., for a Superfund site in the State. The bill requires that divestment occur within three years of the bill’s effective date or within three years of an initial identification of a business, country, or country’s instrumentality that it is in violation of the bill. The bill provides the Director of Division of Investment 180 days from the effective date of the bill to file with the Legislature a report of all investments held in violation of the bill.
S-2978 (Beach (D-6)) — Permits local units and school districts to invest in local government investment pools managed in accordance with applicable Governmental Accounting Standards Board guidelines.
The legislation revises current law governing the types of securities that may be purchased by local units and school districts to provide that local government investment pools must be managed in accordance with generally accepted accounting and financial reporting principles established by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). Current law requires local government investment pools to be managed pursuant to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations governing money market funds (17 C.F.R. s.270.2a-7). Local government investment pools function like money market funds in the private sector.