Governor Chris Christie signed several measures affecting student and schools November 9. Included within the list of almost 40 bills signed by the Governor just hours before they would have become law were two measures related to the student assessment, a bill mandating training for bus drivers transporting special needs students, and a piece of school funding legislation.
The Governor signed two pieces of legislation related to standardized assessment.
- P.L. 2015, c.134 (A-3079 / S-2766 (Jasey, Diegnan, Mainor, Wimberly, Oliver, DeCroce, Turner, Ruiz)) – Prohibits administration of standardized assessments in kindergarten through second grade
The law would ban “commercially-developed” standardized tests in kindergarten through second grade, unless required by state or federal law. The law excludes diagnostic and formative assessments used by teaching staff members to identify particular student learning needs or the need for special services, or to modify instructional strategies for individual student learning. The law also provides that its provisions would not preclude a classroom teacher or a board of education from developing, administering, and scoring an assessment for students in those grades. NJPSA successfully argued to limit reporting to exclude truly diagnostic and formative assessments from exclusion.
- P.L..2015, c.157 (A-4485 / S-2881 (Diegnan, Jasey, Wimberly, McKeon, Lagana, Gill, Turner)) – Prohibits withholding of State school aid based on student participation rate on State assessments
The new law prohibits the Commissioner of Education from withholding State school aid from a school district based on the participation rate of its students on the State assessments. The law prevents districts from being penalized for matters beyond their control. The law passed the Assembly 60-15-3 and the Senate 30-7 back in late June. NJPSA supports the legislation as no student or school should feel the sting of lost State aid in light of student non-participation on a State assessment. Nonetheless, the Association expressed caution when the bill was heard in Committee in light of federal law which mandates a certain percentage of participation on State assessments.
School Bus Driver Training
P.L. 2015, c.123 (A-1029 / S-274) (Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Jasey, Tucker, Wimberly, Greenstein, Ruiz)) – Requires training program for school bus drivers and school bus aides on interacting with students with special needs, and requires development and use of student information cards
Specifically, the law requires that the Commissioner of Education develop a training program for school bus drivers and school bus aides on interacting with students with special needs. The training program would include appropriate behavior management, effective communication, the use and operation of adaptive equipment, and understanding behavior that may be related to specific disabilities. Once the training program is made available, boards of education and school bus contractors that provide student transportation services under contract with boards of education would be required to administer the training program to all school bus drivers and school bus aides that they employ. The employer would also require a school bus driver or school bus aide to certify that the individual has completed the training program within five business days of its completion. The employer would be required to retain a copy of the certification for the duration of that individual’s employment and forward a copy of the certification to the Department of Education.
The law also requires that the Commissioner of Education develop a student information card that contains information that should be readily available to school bus drivers and school bus aides for the purpose of promoting proper interaction with a student with special needs. The student information card would be completed by the parent or guardian of a student with an individualized education plan when the individualized education plan is developed or amended. Upon receiving consent from a student’s parent or guardian, the school district would provide the completed student information card to the school bus driver and school bus aide assigned to the student’s bus route.
The new law follows guidance released by the New Jersey Department of Education encouraging districts to have school bus personnel receive training. NJSPA supports this legislation.
Supplemental School Aid for AC
P.L.2015, c143 (A-3983 / S-2574) (Mazzeo, Burzichelli, Giblin, Sweeney, Whelan)) – Authorizes supplemental State aid to school districts in municipality with significant decrease in commercial property valuation; makes appropriation
This new law establishes an additional category of State school aid known as commercial valuation stabilization aid for the City of Atlantic City. Under the law, a school district may receive this aid, upon the recommendation of the Commissioner of Education, if it is situated in a municipality in which:
- commercial property accounted for at least 75 percent of the total assessed property valuation in 2008, and
- between 2008 and 2013, the assessed value of commercial property declined by at least 25 percent.
Under the new law, the Commissioner of Education would be required to perform a needs assessment to determine if the school district will receive the aid. The assessment includes a review of the district’s educational program offerings, the efficiency of the district’s expenditures, and the district’s capacity to raise a general fund tax levy sufficient to support the district’s operations. The commissioner would conduct the needs assessment in each subsequent school year to determine if the district should continue to receive the aid.
In addition to the laws signed by the Governor, the Administration also conditionally vetoed legislation, A-1468 / S-2513 (Diegnan, Lampitt, Caride, Barnes, Ruiz)). The legislation establishes a Task Force on Engineering Curriculum and Instruction.