This week, the Legislature resumed a full schedule of committee hearings on May 15 and 18 following its annual Budget break where its focus has been solely on the fact-gathering process for the State Budget. The following committees met to consider legislation impacting our public schools:
SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE:
- S2366/ A3058 (Oroho / Space / Taliaferro / Dancer) – Establishes Farm to School Coordinating Council.
This bill establishes the Coordinating Council in the Department of Agriculture consisting of five members, the Secretary of Agriculture, Education Commissioner, and three members of public with knowledge of program. The Council’s role is to examine issues with program expansion including procurement rules. NJPSA is monitoring the bill.
- S2402/ A3944 (Diegnan / Vitale / Mazzeo / Lagana / Vainieri Huttle) – Requires NJDOE to develop aneducational fact sheet for distribution to parents of student-athletes and cheerleaders concerning use and misuse of prescription opioids.
This legislation requires the Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health, to develop an educational fact sheet that provides information concerning the use and misuse of opioid drugs in the event that a student-athlete or cheerleader is prescribed an opioid for a sports-related injury. The bill requires school districts and nonpublic schools that participate in interscholastic sports or cheerleading programs to distribute the fact sheet annually to the parents or guardians of student-athletes and cheerleaders, and to obtain a signed acknowledgement of the receipt of the fact sheet by the student and his parent or guardian. NJPSA supported the bill as it promotes parent/student awareness and follows the process already utilized in cases of brain injury.
- S2638(Cruz-Perez / Van Drew) – Requires school bus transporting students using wheelchairs to be equipped with four-point securement system; requires school bus operator to secure students using wheelchairs.
This legislation codifies federal law by requiring that school buses that provide transportation for students using wheelchairs must be equipped with a four-point securement system for each student using a wheelchair on the school bus. A four-point securement system is defined as a complete four-point system that includes four wheelchair restraints to secure a wheelchair to the vehicle floor; a lap and shoulder belt that integrates to the rear wheelchair restraints; and floor anchorages installed in the vehicle floor. Under the bill, students using wheelchairs are required to be secured using the four-point securement system at all times while the bus is in operation.
When the Assembly companion bill was considered, the Assembly amended the bill to also include a school bus aide on all buses transporting students in wheelchairs. NJPSA and other education associations raised concerns about a new unfunded mandate on schools in these times of fiscal uncertainty. The Office of Legislative Services estimates that the legislation would cost our public schools an additional 17.6 million to implement as amended. Fortunately, the Senate Education Committee moved the legislation without the amendment requiring an aide on each bus.
- S2704(Diegnan) – Establishes grant program for school districts and charter schools to develop dual language immersion programs.
S-2704 directs the Commissioner of Education to establish a dual language immersion program. Under the program, the commissioner will provide grants to school districts and charter schools to develop dual language immersion programs in Chinese, Spanish, French, or any other language approved by the commissioner. The school district or charter school would be eligible to receive funds if it uses an instructional model that provides at least 50 percent of its instruction in English and 50 percent of its instruction in Chinese, Spanish, French, or any other language approved by the commissioner. The program would have to begin in kindergarten or in grade one and would need to meet any other requirements established by the commissioner. The commissioner will select grant recipients in the northern, central, and southern regions of the State and would allocate to each selected recipient a grant in such amount as the commissioner deems necessary to support the dual language immersion program. To fund this grant, the bill establishes the Dual Language Immersion Program Fund as a non-lapsing revolving fund in the Department of Education. NJPSA supported this legislation, if funded, as providing opportunities for districts to enhance foreign language fluency among our students.
- S2808/ A4175 (Ruiz / Caride / McKnight / Holley) – Requires Commissioner of Education to develop guidance on identifying English language learners for gifted and talented programs.
This legislation directs the Commissioner of Education to develop guidance for school districts regarding the identification of English language learners for gifted and talented programs. National statistics indicate that ELL students are often overlooked and underrepresented in gifted programs due to language bariers that can mask their advanced abilities. This legislation seeks to provide awareness of the issues, identification strategies, and resource options including professional development resources to assist local districts and educators. The guidance will include, but not be limited to, information on the following: recognizing and addressing potential challenges in the process of identifying English language learners who are gifted and talented; the use of multiple methods and measures in assessing the eligibility of English language learners for gifted and talented programs; and the importance of professional development for and collaboration among teachers in the identification process. NJPSA supports this legislation.
- S3020(Turner) – Provides that salary and other costs associated with Commissioner of Education’s appointment of State monitor and other staff under “School District Fiscal Accountability Act” will be paid by State.
This legislation provides that salary and other costs associated with Commissioner of Education’s appointment of a State monitor and other staff under “School District Fiscal Accountability Act” will be paid by State. NJPSA supports S-3020.
- S3067(Ruiz / Vitale) – Requires Commissioner of Education to develop guidelines for school districts regarding transgender students.
This legislation requires the Commissioner to develop guidelines for school districts regarding transgender students. The guidelines are intended to ‘provide direction for schools in addressing common issues concerning the needs of transgender students, and to assist schools in establishing policies and procedures that ensure a supportive and nondiscriminatory environment for transgender students.”
The guidelines must include:
- definitions of terms relevant to an understanding of transgender issues;
- maintaining a safe and supportive learning environment free from discrimination and harassment;
- confidentiality and privacy concerns regarding a student’s transgender or transitioning status;
- procedures for the maintenance of official school records;
- use of the name and pronoun that corresponds to a student’s gender identity;
- issuance of school documentation such as student ID’s in the name that corresponds to a student’s gender identity, and permitting transgender students to dress in accordance with their gender identity;
- equal opportunities for participation in physical education;
- participation in gender-segregated school activities in accordance with a student’s gender identity;
- the use of restrooms and locker rooms;
- ensuring that school counselors are knowledgeable regarding issues and concerns relevant to transgender students; and 11) permitting and supporting the formation of student clubs or programs regarding issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.
The Guidelines must also information on organizations or other resources available to students and parents that provide support to transgender individuals.
The bill also directs the commissioner to periodically review the guidelines and update or modify them, as appropriate, in accordance with current State or federal laws and regulations concerning the rights of transgender students.
Finally, the bill requires the commissioner to provide school districts with guidance and resources regarding: (1) the provision of professional development opportunities to teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, bus drivers, coaches, and other school staff regarding issues and concerns relevant to LGBTQ students; and (2) making developmentally appropriate information about LGBTQ issues available in school facilities, which may include providing pamphlets or books in school libraries, counseling offices, and nurses offices.
NJPSA supports this legislation.
- S3191(Sweeney) – Extends voting rights of representatives of sending districts on receiving district board of education. (pending intro & referral)
This bill broadens the voting rights of representatives of sending districts who are eligible for membership on the receiving district board of education. Currently, state statute permits the representatives to vote on:
- the tuition which the receiving district will charge the sending district and certain bill lists or contracts;
- New capital construction to be utilized by sending district pupils;
- the appointment, transfer or removal of certain teaching staff members and professional administrative staff; and
- the addition or deletion of curricular and extracurricular programs involving pupils of the sending district.
This bill provides that the representative would also be authorized to vote on:
- any matter directly involving the sending district pupils or programs and services utilized by them;
- approval of the annual receiving district budget;
- any collectively negotiated agreement involving employees who provide services utilized by sending district pupils;
- any individual employee contracts not covered by a collectively negotiated agreement, if those employees provide or oversee programs or services utilized by sending district pupils; and
- any matter concerning governance of the receiving board, including, but not limited to, the selection of the board president and vice-president, approval of board bylaws, and the employment of professionals or consultants such as attorneys, architects, engineers, or others who provide services to the receiving district board of education.
- SR59(Gordon / Turner) – Urges school districts and nonpublic schools to adopt policy to address abuse of prescription opioids by students.
This bill permissively urges school districts and nonpublic schools to adopt a policy, as suggested by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Medical Advisory Committee, to address the abuse of prescription opioids by students. The proposed Policy would include: notification to the school nurse by the student’s parent or guardian if an opioid medication has been prescribed; and drug monitoring if the student demonstrates any signs or symptoms that raise the possibility of opioid abuse during or beyond the duration of the prescription. This proposed Senate Resolution, if passed, is to be distributed by the State Board of Education to all public and nonpublic schools to raise awareness. NJPSA supports this measure.
The Assembly Education Committee favorably released the following bills on May 18:
- A-493/ S-293 (Russo / Rumana / McKeon / Vitale / Smith, B) – Prohibits use of smokeless tobacco in public schools.
This legislation, which has already passed the New Jersey Assembly, prohibits the use of smokeless tobacco in any area of any building of, or on the grounds of, any public school. The bill contains specific requirements including the board’s obligation to place signs about the law’s provisions on-site at schools. The bill also mandates that a board of education must adopt a policy prohibiting a student from extracurricular activities and parking privileges if a student violates the law on the school site. The legislation also contains financial penalties for adults who violate the law. NJPSA believes that local school districts should develop their own policies and consequences for students
- A-3444(Space) – “The Smarter Lunchroom Act;” promotes healthy food choices in school cafeterias.
This permissive legislation encourages school districts, public schools, and nonpublic schools to adopt the strategies of The Smarter Lunchroom Movement. Strategies include highlighting fruit and other nutritional foods by placing them near the cash register and placing the most nutrient-filled foods as students enter the serving line and first on the menu board. The bill also requires that information on The Smarter Lunchroom Movement be available for public inspection on the Department of Education’s Internet site in a user-friendly, plain language format.
This bill authorizes the use of school bus monitoring systems utilizing cameras to capture digital images of drivers who pass a school bus. The bill contains a system of fines for violations. The bill authorizes municipalities and school boards to contract with vendors who provide these school bus monitoring systems. This bill involves the vendor who provided the controversial red-light camera program in New Jersey. NJPSA supports the bill as a measure to promote student safety as they board and exit school buses.
A4453 (Downey / Houghtaling) – Requires pupils who reside on certain federal property to enroll in resident school district in accordance with schedule determined by Executive County Superintendent of schools.
P.L.1988, c.12 authorized the Executive County Superintendent of schools in Monmouth County to designate a school district as the district of residence for the students who reside on federal property at the Naval Weapons Station Earle. The property on which Earle is located is within the geographic boundaries of two separate school districts. Pursuant to that law and since the 1988-89 school year, the Tinton Falls School District has provided educational services to children who reside on Earle.
A-4453 provides that beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, the pupils who reside on the federal property will be enrolled in the schools of the district in which the pupils reside in accordance with an enrollment schedule determined by the executive county superintendent of schools. The bill allows a pupil an option to continue in the school of the designated district he is attending on the bill’s effective date until graduation from that school.
A4772 (Muoio / Caride) – Establishes Working Group on Deaf Education and directs DOE to develop parent resource guide and select early intervention assessments for use in identifying language delays in deaf and hard of hearing children.
This legislation establishes new NJDOE Working Group on Deaf Education to make recommendations on issues related to the early linguistic development of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. It will be the duty of the working group to examine, research, and make recommendations to the Department of Education for:
- the development of a parent resource guide for parents to monitor and track deaf and hard of hearing children’s expressive and receptive language acquisition and developmental stages toward English literacy; and
- the selection of one or more early intervention assessments to be used by educators to assess the language and literacy development of deaf and hard of hearing children.
The Working Group must release report within one year. The NJDOE must develop the parent resource guide and choose an early intervention assessment out of the Working Group’s recommendations. Additionally, the Department of Education must annually collect and publicly report data on the language acquisition and developmental progress of children from age two to age five who are deaf or hard of hearing. Similarly, the Department of Health must annually collect and publicly report data from the Early Intervention Program for infants and toddlers from birth to age two. NJPSA supports this bill.
AR202 (Houghtaling / Downey) – Urges federal government to increase appropriations for impact aid payments to eligible school districts.
NJPSA supports this Resolution which urges the federal government to increase funding for the Impact Aid Program.
SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMITTEE
S-2567 (Cruz-Perez) – Establishes “High School to College Readiness Commission” to examine issues and develop recommendations to enhance student preparation for postsecondary education.
Under the bill, the Commission, consisting of 18 members, including NJPSA, will study and develop recommendations on issues related to enhancing student preparation for postsecondary education. Additionally, the Commission will work to enhance awareness of students and parents on the admissions and financial requirements related to postsecondary education including dual enrollment programs, the expansion of financial literacy, and the early identification of students at risk of not being college ready. The Commission Report will be issued to the Governor and Legislature within a year.
NJPSA supports this bill.