The first meeting of the newly chaired and reorganized Assembly Education Committee included a number of bills that were pocket vetoed at the tail end of last legislative session, including legislation related to a creation of a new computer science endorsement, chronic absenteeism and legislation requiring the posting of information related to child abuse in school. NJPSA was on hand to weigh in on the legislative proposals.
Child Abuse Posting
Assembly bill A-425 (Mosquera / Jones / Holley) would require Boards of Education to post information about child abuse hotline in each school. Under the bill, the information must be prominently displayed, give instructions to call 911 for emergencies and must include directions for accessing the department’s website for more information on reporting abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Currently the Department of Children and Families (DCF) provides free posters to schools in both English and Spanish. NJPSA worked with the sponsors to ensure the bills language allowed for ease in posting of the required signage last session. The bill also made it to the Governor’s desk last term for final adoption. It is expected to move to final passage this term.
Chronic Absenteeism Reporting
The Committee also moved legislation, A-2192 (Vainieri Huttle), forward which requires the Commissioner of Education to include data on chronic absenteeism and disciplinary suspensions on the School Report Card and requires public schools to make certain efforts to combat absenteeism. Specifically the bill mandates districts develop a corrective action plan in the event the percentage of chronically absent students exceeds ten percent of the student population.
The Education Stakeholders, including NJPSA, vociferously advocated for several changes to the bill last session. 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 bill continues to move at the same time the Department of Education included chronic absenteeism as a metric for school performance and accountability purposes under federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requirements. Under New Jersey’s adopted plan, the metric accounts for 10 percent of the accountability system’s measurement process.
The bill vests the Department with the responsibility to develop a definition of chronic absence and to develop guidance for district who are required to develop a corrective action plan should their percentage of chronically absent students exceed 10 percent.
NJPSA supported the bill at today’s committee but urged that the provision that mandates how a school must engage parents (i.e. via surveys and PTO/A meetings be removed to allow schools flexibility, as based on the facts and circumstances occurring on the ground. NJPSA will continue to pursue this amendment with the bill sponsors who were not on hand for today’s committee meeting unfortunately.
Computer Science Endorsement
In addition, the Committee approved legislation, A-2193 (Jones), which would direct the State Board of Education to authorize a computer science education endorsement to instructional certificate.
Specifically, the bill 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.
Under the bill, the standards established by the State board would require a candidate for the computer science education endorsement to:
1) hold an instructional certificate with at least one other teaching endorsement; and
2) 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 also 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 bill sponsor last session 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 continue to seek amendatory language would eliminate the 15 credit requirement under the bill, instead allowing the State Board to set standards/course requirements. NJPSA will also continue to work with the sponsors to address concerns related to grandfathering under the bill (the bill would allow individuals teaching computer science within 3 years of the establishment of the endorsement to be grandfathered).
Further, the Committee approved legislation, A-542 (Mazzeo / Lagana / Andrzejczak), which requires certain schools to maintain supply of opioid antidotes and permits emergency administration of opioid antidote by school nurse or trained employee.
This bill would require a board of education, board of trustees of a charter school, and chief school administrator of a nonpublic school to develop a policy, pursuant to Department of Education guidelines, for the emergency administration of an opioid antidote to a student or staff member who is experiencing an opioid overdose.
The policy would:
- require a school that includes any of the grades nine through 12, and permit any other school, to obtain a standing order for opioid antidotes and to maintain a supply of opioid antidotes in a secure and easily accessible location; and
- permit the school nurse or trained employees to administer an opioid antidote to any student or staff member whom the nurse or trained employee in good faith believes is experiencing an opioid overdose.
The opioid antidotes must be accessible in the school during regular school hours and during school-sponsored functions that take place in the school or on school grounds adjacent to the school building. A board of education, board of trustees of a charter school, or chief school administrator of a nonpublic school may, in its discretion, make opioid antidotes accessible during school-sponsored functions that take place off school grounds.
Under the policy, the school nurse will have the primary responsibility for the emergency administration of an opioid antidote. The board of education, board of trustees of a charter school, or chief school administrator of a nonpublic school will designate additional employees who volunteer to administer an opioid antidote in the event that a student or staff member experiences an opioid overdose when the nurse is not physically present at the scene.
The bill directs the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Human Services and appropriate medical experts, to establish guidelines for school districts, charter schools, and nonpublic schools in developing their policies for the administration of opioid antidotes. The guidelines will require that each school nurse, and each employee designated by the board of education, board of trustees of a charter school, or chief school administrator of a nonpublic school pursuant to the bill’s provisions, receive training on standardized protocols for the administration of an opioid antidote to a student or staff member who experiences an opioid overdose. The training will include the overdose prevention information described in subsection a. of section 5 of the “Overdose Prevention Act,” P.L.2013, c.46 (C.24:6J-5).
The bill provides immunity from liability for school nurses and other employees or agents of a board of education, charter school, or nonpublic school, and prescribers of opioid antidotes for a school, for good faith acts or omissions consistent with the bill’s provisions. The bill also stipulates that school districts may enter into shared services arrangements for the provision of opioid antidotes; and that funds made available pursuant to P.L.1991, c.226 (C.18A:40-23 et seq.) may be used in nonpublic schools to comply with the provisions of the bill.
In addition, the bill amends the “Overdose Prevention Act,” P.L.2013, c.46 (C.24:6J-1 et seq.), to:
- include schools, school districts, and school nurses among the recipients that may be prescribed opioid antidotes through a standing order; and
- provide that immunity from liability for opioid antidote administration in accordance with the Overdose Prevention Act will be applicable to schools, school districts, school nurses, and other employees or agents of a board of education, charter school, or nonpublic school who administer, or permit the administration of, opioid antidotes in good faith under the provisions of the bill.
NJPSA, in addition to fellow stakeholders, supported the measure and urged the Legislature, Administration, Department of Education and stakeholders to work together to successfully implement this critical initiative.
Work Investment Board Reporting
Finally, the committee approved legislation, A-1845 (Lampitt), which would require a school district that includes any of grades 9 through 12 to biannually provide to local Workforce Investment Board list of students who left school prior to graduation.
The provisions of this bill mirror a December 6, 2000 directive sent from the Department of Education to school districts. The directive was based on a 1988 Attorney General’s opinion that Workforce Investment Boards have a right to access this information. Currently it would appear that such information is not always being routinely provided by school districts to these boards. The legislation merely codifies the requirement.
NJPSA supported the measure since it is consistent with existing guidance.