It’s a Wrap! NJPSA Goals for Lame Duck Session Achieved

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By Debra Bradley and Jennie Lamon, NJPSA Government Relations


After two months of intense legislative activity during a time period known as the Lame Duck Session,  NJPSA’s Government Relations Team has been actively representing your interests as school leaders.  A flurry of legislative attention was focused on the world of education, with numerous bills being considered. Some were pending bills that were previously filed during this two year legislative cycle, and others were newly filed in the last weeks of the session.  


The final week of the legislative session, and the final week of the 2022-2023 Legislative Session means the rules change a bit for bills. Unlike the typical process where the governor has 45 days to take action on a bill that has been sent to him, at the end of a session, the governor has seven days after the end of the session to sign into law any of the measures sent to him during the last 10 days of the session. All those bills he does not sign are vetoed automatically in what is called a pocket veto. The week after a legislative session is the only time these automatic pocket vetoes occur.


As we enter a new legislative session, there are 37 new legislators with six of those members moving from the General Assembly to the State Senate. This means that nearly one-third of the Legislature is new this session! Additionally, new committees and new chairpersons are being announced in what promises to be yet another active legislative session!  Governor Murphy delivered his annual State of the State address to the newly constituted Legislature highlighting his achievements and goals for the future.  As we look forward, it is important to understand what occurred in the final days of the lame duck session.


Top Priorities

Fast-tracked Bills on Educator Evaluation and Virtual Instruction

On December 1, 2023, two bills initiated by the NJEA, were filed and fast-tracked for consideration.  NJPSA opposed both bills in the Assembly Education Committee a mere three days later.  We opposed these bills as initially drafted, but we were ultimately able to achieve important NJPSA recommended amendments to A-5877 (Lampitt) concerning educator evaluation, and to block A-5874 (Lampitt) which would significantly impact the use of remote instruction during our current statewide staffing crisis.  


We wish to thank every NJPSA member who reached out to legislative leadership and your local legislators to share our deep concerns with both bills, especially during the holiday season!  We commend the bill sponsors, Assembly Education Chair Pam Lampitt and Senate Education Chair Vin Gopal for listening to our concerns and working to find solutions that make sense for students and schools despite political pressures.  We also appreciate the partnership of our sister education organizations for working together to fight these two bills which would have hurt New Jersey students.  

Here are the details.


  • Educator Evaluation

A-5877 (Lampitt), as originally drafted, would have modified the annual evaluation requirements of the TEACH NJ law so that tenured teachers, principals and assistant principals, rated effective or highly effective, would not be evaluated for up to three years. Additionally, the bill would have eliminated SGOs and prohibited the collection of any student growth data by teachers.


While NJPSA does support the elimination of student growth objectives in evaluation and is receptive to exploring this issue further, the legislation went way beyond the paperwork burdens of SGOs, instead creating a complex system where struggling educators would be unsupported and unaccountable for their performance for up to three years. NJPSA members who reviewed this bill were deeply concerned about the bill’s impact on teacher observation, feedback and support, particularly when many novice teachers are working in our classrooms. For example the bill would have allowed newly tenured teachers to be evaluated two years after earning tenure, despite the research showing that novice teachers leave the field within the first five years due to lack of support in their careers.


As a result, NJPSA drafted amendments that would support the temporary suspension of SGOs in evaluation, while a Task Force of impacted educators and stakeholder groups would meet to fully review the current evaluation requirements and develop consensus recommendations for potential changes by July 31, 2024. The Assembly adopted these recommendations in a substitute bill on December 21st and passed this bill on January 8, 2024. The Senate version of the bill, S-4234 (Gopal) was not heard in committee or voted upon by the full Senate during the lame duck session. As a result, both bills will have to start the legislative process anew. The new legislative session began on January 9, 2024, with the reorganization of the State Legislature and the Governor’s State of the State Address.


  • Remote Instruction Restrictions

As originally introduced, A-5874, would have significantly restricted the use of virtual instruction in New Jersey schools when needed to meet instructional needs in a district. The bill would have further required New Jersey school districts to directly employ all teachers and certain licensed professionals with minor exceptions, to provide instructional and other direct student services, prohibiting the use of contracted employees and virtual instruction in most cases.  In light of the current staffing crisis, this bill will negatively impact student learning opportunities in our schools. Due to strong advocacy by NJPSA and other education partners, this legislation was not moved in the Senate. However, we do anticipate we will be revisiting this issue again early in this new session. We urge any member who is utilizing virtual learning options in your district to share this information with your Government Relations team at NJPSA to help inform our continuing advocacy efforts. 


  • FAFSA Graduation Requirement Established

Legislation creating a requirement that all high school students complete financial aid applications (the FAFSA) was passed by both houses of the Legislature despite oppositions from the K-12 community.  NJPSA was able to promote important amendments to A-1181 (Jasey) that provide safeguards for both students and school staff in implementing this new requirement. As amended, the bill will impact the 2023-24 , 2024-25, and 2025-26 grade 11 classes if the Governor signs the legislation. These students and their parents or guardians will be required to submit a financial aid application for post secondary schooling (FAFSA or equivalent form prescribed by the NJ Higher Education Student Assistance Authority NJHESAA) as a prerequisite to the student receiving a high school diploma unless a waiver is submitted to the school district prior to high school graduation. 


A student (age 18 or older) or his/her parent can be exempted from this requirement if a waiver form signed by the parent/guardian is submitted. If a waiver form cannot be reasonably obtained by the district, the student’s school counselor may authorize a waiver. School districts will have the obligation to annually notify students and their parents of this requirement. No adverse action can be taken by the district toward a student who files an exemption under the law. NJPSA was able to achieve protections for school staff with bill language that clearly states that school counselors or other school staff cannot be required to assist students in filling out the financial aid application and no cause of action can exist against school districts or staff in this regard. NJHESAA is required to provide resources, including webinars, presentations, guidance documents and a list of available State and federal resources to school districts and school counselors who must share the information with students and parents. 


This high school graduation requirement will sunset at the end of the 2025-26 school year. It is a statewide pilot program and the Executive Director of NJHESAA must collect data and file a report on the effectiveness of this pilot program at its conclusion. This bill passed both houses and is on the Governor’s desk for consideration. 


Education Bills Signed Into Law 

Governor: Murphy has already taken action on a number of measures with many more sent to him on Monday that are awaiting action. The bills that Governor has already signed into law this week are:


School Meals

S-530/A-5164 – Requires certain school meal information be provided to public school students’ parents and requires school districts to request that families apply for school meals under certain circumstances. Signed into Law P.L.2023, c.203


School Repair Bonds

S-1892/S-4501 – Authorizes certain boards of education to issue bonds to repair damages caused by natural disasters in certain circumstances. Signed into Law P.L.2023, c.211


Security Drills Updated Requirements

S-2057/A-1174 – Requires certain documentation of needs of students with disabilities during school security drills and emergency situations and in school security plans; requires staff training on needs of students with disabilities in emergency planning. Signed into Law P.L.2023, c.212


VETeach Program

S-2764/A-4361 – Education For NJ Veterans Bill ( Establishes “VETeach Pilot Program” in DOE to facilitate teacher certification of veterans Signed into Law P.L.2023, c.215


School Safety Task Force

S-3079/A-4977 – Establishes School Safety and Security Task Force. Signed into Law P.L.2023, c.218


Teacher Certification

A-5417/S-3890 Prohibits limiting the number of county college credits that may be applied towards educator preparation programs and teacher certification requirements. Signed into Law P.L.2023, c.251


Virtual Instruction

ACR-192/SCR-152 Urges DOE to collect data on use of virtual or remote instruction Filed with the Secretary of State 


Passed Both Houses and Sent to the Governor for his Consideration

There are currently 109 bills on Governor Murphy’s desk.  He has until Monday, January 16th to sign them.  Any bill not signed into law by Monday is considered automatically “pocket vetoed”. Among the 109 bills before Murphy, the following education bills are awaiting action. 


Establishes Alternate Route for Montessori Credentialed Teachers

S-3172/A-4689 (Gopal/Turner/Lampitt/Matsikoudis) – Establishes teacher certification route for candidates with Montessori teaching credentials. Sent to the Governor 


Makes Changes to the School Development Authority (SDA)

A-4496/S-3247 (Coughlin/Lampitt/Karabinchak/Zwicker/Greenstein) – Revises various provisions of law governing construction of school facilities projects and operations of New Jersey Schools Development Authority; establishes “Charter School and Renaissance School Project Facilities Loan Program” in EDA. Sent to the Governor 


Makes Changes to School Budget Vote for Type II School Districts

S-4209/A-5879 Eliminates vote on school budgets for Type II school districts in April elections, except for separate proposals to spend above cap.  Sent to Governor 


FAFSA Graduation Requirement 

A-1181 (Jasey/Timberlake/Moen) – Requires high school students to complete financial aid applications.  Sent to Governor 


Paraprofessional Certification Pathway

A-5416/S-3883 Requires State Board of Education to authorize alternate route to expedite teacher certification of persons employed as paraprofessionals in school districts. Sent to Governor for the second time after Legislature accepted the changes proposed in Governor’s Conditional Veto


Male Teachers of Color Mentor Program

A-3945/S-1660 (Quijano/Reynolds-Jackson/Carter/Ruiz/Singleton) – Establishes “Male Teachers of Color Mentorship Pilot Program”; appropriates $95,000. Sent to Governor 


Establishes Timelines for Commissioner to Approve Annual Audits for APSDs

A-4396/S-2927 (Lampitt/Jasey/Caputo/Codey) – Establishes timelines for review and approval by Commissioner of Education of annual certified audits submitted by approved private schools for students with disabilities. Sent to Governor 


Establishes Nonpublic School Transportation Consortiums

A-5412/S-3850 (Greenwald/Swain/Jasey/Gopal/Singer) – Establishes nonpublic school transportation program to provide funding to consortiums of nonpublic schools that will assume responsibility for mandated nonpublic school busing. Sent to Governor


Revises “Working Class Families Anti-Hunger Act”

A-5684/S-4055 (Coughlin/Speight/Murphy/Ruiz) – Requires certain nonpublic schools to provide meals to all students under “Working Class Families Anti-Hunger Act”; authorizes limited expansion of income eligibility to qualify public and nonpublic school students for free lunch. Sent to the Governor 


Requires Report Regarding Suicide Prevention in Public Schools

S-1662/A-3526 (Ruiz/Codey/Lampitt/Benson) – Requires NJ Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Council to prepare report regarding suicide prevention instruction in public schools. Sent to Governor


Creates Excused Absence for Students Attending Civic Event

S-2304/A-1271 (Gopal/Beach/Stanley/Rooney/Park) – Permits excused absences for students who attend civic events. Sent to Governor


Establishes Twelfth Grade Postsecondary Transition Year Pilot Program 

S-2076/A-3319  (Zwicker/Greenstein) – Establishes “Twelfth Grade Postsecondary Transition Year Pilot Program” in the Department of Education. Sent to the Governor 


Establishes School Disconnection Prevention Task Force

S-3080 (Ruiz/Burgess/Caputo) – Establishes position of Youth Disconnection Prevention and Recovery Ombudsperson; establishes “School Disconnection Prevention Task Force.”; appropriates $200,000.  Sent to Governor


Extends Deadline for School Audits

A-4033/S-2657 Extends deadline for completion of school district’s annual audit.  Sent to Governor


State Board of Education Nomination – Advise and Consent

Jeanette Pena, Governor Phil Murphy’s nominee for the State Board of Education was passed by the Senate. Pena will replace Ernest Lepore, for the term prescribed by law, currently set to expire June 30, 2028. 


Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed another Murphy appointment, Mary Bennett, to the State Board.  Bennett will replace Board Member Mary Beth Gazi. Both Pena and Bennet could be sworn in as early as next week when the State Board meets for its monthly meeting on January 17th. 


Welcome 221st New Jersey Legislature!

We are excited to get to work with returning and new members alike, and we can’t wait to keep you posted all along the way. If you have any questions about any legislative or policy matter, please reach out to your NJPSA Government Relations team at Thank you for your advocacy, and for all that you do!