Assembly Ed Committee Moves Bundle of Bills In Last Minute Lame Duck Push

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The Assembly Education Committee moved a number of bills forward for final consideration by the Legislature in the twilight of the 216th Legislative session.  Moving the bills allows for their final consideration on Monday – the last day of the session.  Among the bills was the elimination of the administrative cap, a long time initiative of the Association.

Administrative Cap Elimination

Among the most impactful to NJPSA members in Monday’s round up of bills is A-2740 (Diegnan / Johnson / Jasey) which seeks to eliminate the school district budget per pupil administrative cost limits.

Under current law, the proposed budget submitted by a school district to the Commissioner of Education for approval may not include per pupil administrative costs which exceed its per pupil administrative cost limit.  The district’s limit would be the lower of: 1) the district’s prior year per pupil administrative costs; or 2) the prior year per pupil administrative cost limits for the district’s region inflated by the cost of living or 2.5%, whichever is greater.  Assembly bill A-2740 would eliminate the per pupil administrative cost limit for school districts.

NJPSA has long advocated for elimination of the administrative cap – particularly after the tax levy cap was imposed several years ago.  The issue has become a more acute need in light of additional administrative responsibilities wrought by the new tenure and evaluation law as well as other educational initiatives.  Arguing the cap, which puts a tight control on all ‘administrative costs,’ is a ‘cap within a cap’ in light of the two percent tax levy cap, that administrative costs include a number of key items from school security to evaluative staff and that New Jersey’s administrative costs currently put it at the bottom of the pack when it comes to such costs – the Association, in partnership with NJASA and NJSBA successfully saw the legislation approved by the full Assembly Education Committee January 7.

The measure’s Senate companion, S-3244 (Ruiz) was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee back in November.  The legislation is poised for approval by both legislative houses on Monday in light of today’s hearing.

Also approved for a first blush was A-4928 (Sumter) which seeks to eliminate the cap on cost of SDA district school facilities projects that may be constructed by district and included in capital outlay budget. NJPSA is monitoring this measure.

Red-shirting In Middle School

In addition, the Committee approved legislation, A-4832 / S-3221 (Burzichelli / Jasey / McKeon / Codey / Barnes, III), which would prohibit school districts from joining voluntary associations which oversee Statewide interscholastic sports programs, typically the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), unless NJSIAA requires that when a “hold-back repeat student” enters the ninth grade for the first time, the student would be eligible to participate in interscholastic athletics for only the next ensuing six consecutive semesters.  The bill defines a “hold-back repeat student” as a student who has successfully completed the academic requirements that have been established for the sixth, seventh, or eighth grades and who repeats one or more of these grades prior to entering the ninth grade for purposes of gaining athletic advantage.  The legislation is designed to help curtail the practice whereby student-athletes seek to gain athletic advantage at the high school level by repeating sixth, seventh, or eighth grade despite having met the academic requirements for those grades.  The Senate version of the bill was approved by the Senate back in early December by a 33-1 vote.  The bill is now poised for final consideration by the Legislature on January 11.  NJPSA is monitoring this legislation. 

Assessment Legislation

Additionally approved were several bills related to assessment.  Among these is A-4901 / S-2923 (Jasey / Ruiz / Turner) which requires school district or charter school to provide notification to parents or guardians of enrolled student on upcoming administration of State assessments or commercially-developed standardized assessments.  Specifically, the legislation requires that no later than October 1 of each school year, a school district and a charter school provide information on any State assessment or commercially-developed standardized assessment that will be administered to the student in that school year.   In addition, the legislation requires the Commissioner of Education to provide a model document to each school district and charter school to provide the required information to parents or guardians and information on the costs incurred by the State associated with the administration of the State assessment.  The bill also requires the commissioner to determine by regulation the information which will be provided to parents or guardians of students enrolled in the district or charter school but develops several minimum criteria which include:

  • the subject area of the assessment and grade levels covered by the assessment;
  • the date or range of potential dates for the administration of the assessment;
  • the time allotted for the student to take and complete the assessment;
  • any accommodations or accessibility options available to students;
  • information on how and when the student and his parent or guardian can access both sample question and answers to the assessment and the student’s results; and
  • whether the assessment is required by the State, the federal government, or both.

The information provided annually would also have to be available at the meeting of the board of education of the school district or the meeting of the board of trustees of the charter school at which the annual School Performance Reports are presented to the public.

The Senate version of the bill passed unanimously back in late June.  The legislation now moves the full Assembly for final legislative consideration.   NJPSA worked last legislative session to address some concerns with the bill.  NJPSA supports the legislation as amended.

Also approved was A-4925 / S-2922 (Ruiz / Turner) which requires the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to include on its website a link to Department of Treasury’s website where a list is maintained of all third party individuals and vendors employed or retained for work associated with State assessments.  The Senate version of the bill unanimously passed back in late June.  The bill now moves for final consideration by the Assembly.  NJPSA supports this measure as well. 

Ed State of Emergency In Struggling Schools

The Committee also took testimony on A-4779 (Gusciora / Spencer) which would require the  Commissioner of Education to declare educational state of emergency for certain districts with low proficiency rates in language arts and literacy and provides for corrective measures.  Under the bill, an educational state of emergency must be declared for a district in which, for at least 75 percent of the schools in the district, 65 percent or more of the students in the school have not achieved proficiency in the English language arts/literacy portion of the State assessment.

Specifically, the bill authorizes the commissioner, upon declaring an educational state of emergency, to distribute supplementary State aid to the school district, which will be in addition to the aid the district receives under the State school funding law, P.L.2007, c.260 (C.18A:7F-43 et al.), or any other law.  The supplementary aid would be used for the specific purpose of establishing a mandatory extended day program for students in grades kindergarten through three that is designed to increase student proficiency in English language arts and literacy.  The supplementary aid would also be used for establishing voluntary literacy programs for students in other grades, including after school programs and summer programs.  A school district would be required to implement these programs for a minimum of three years, or for as long as the district continues to meet the bill’s criteria for an educational state of emergency, whichever is longer.

The bill also directs the executive county superintendent of schools to hold a public meeting when an educational state of emergency is declared for a school district in order to discuss community involvement and potential corrective measures to address the district’s low proficiency rate in English language arts and literacy.  The meeting would include interested stakeholders for the district, including parents, students, teachers, school administrators, community leaders, and business leaders.

The bill had its first outing at the Committee, with the chief sponsor, Assemblyman Gusciora, voicing his commitment to work thru the bill in light of concerns expressed by Committee members as well as education stakeholders, including NJPSA and NJEA.  Among the focus of the conversation was a need for a larger conversation on the establishment of community schools, the value of existing programs such as the 21st century learning program, and the need to align the bill with current federal changes in light of the ESSA.  NJPSA is committed to sitting down with the Assemblyman and her fellow education stakeholders on the legislation to prepare it for the 217th Legislative Session to commence January 12. 

Other Legislation Approved

In addition, the Committee unanimously approved the following measures:

  • A-4924 / S-1687 (Ruiz / Vitale) – Permits students made homeless by act of terrorism or natural disaster to attend tuition-free the school district in which they resided prior to being homeless for two school years after the event. The Senate version of the bill passed the Senate back in late October by a vote of 39-0.  NJPSA is monitoring this legislation. 
  • A-4926 / S-489 (Cunningham / Kean) – Authorizes institutions of higher education to grant college credit to high school students who complete the Jersey Boys State or Jersey Girls State program. The Senate version of the bill passed the Senate back in June of 2014 by a vote of 38-0.  NJPSA supports this measure. 
  • A-1849 (Lampitt / Spencer) – Prohibits State Board of Education from limiting number of certain two-year college credits that may be applied towards meeting teacher certification requirements. NJPSA is monitoring this legislation.
  • A-1976 / S-485 (Riley / Lampitt / Mosquera / Cunningham / Ruiz) – Requires president of public institution of higher education to regularly report on-campus criminal and fire events to the institution’s governing board.