The Assembly Education Committee returned from election break November 16, moving a host of bills impacting students, school leaders and schools. NJPSA was onhand to weigh in on the proposals, successfully negotiating an amendment that encourages, rather than mandate districts institute a community service credit program at the high school level.
Examining Benefits of Full-Day K
Among the bills heard was legislation, A-447 (Jasey / DeCroce, B. / Caputo), which creates a task force to study issues related to the establishment of full-day kindergarten. Specifically, the bill establishes a 21-member task force, of which NJPSA is part, to study and evaluate issues associated with the establishment and implementation of full-day kindergarten. The task force will study and consider issues including:
- A review of existing research, studies, and data concerning full-day kindergarten, including studies that examine the long-term academic impact and the social and emotional impact of full-day kindergarten;
- Implementation issues associated with full-day kindergarten, including but not limited to, staffing needs, facility space, and class size;
- Funding needed for full-day kindergarten, including sources of funding;
- Curriculum comparisons between full-day kindergarten and half-day kindergarten;
- Opinions and recommendations of parents and elementary school teachers regarding full-day kindergarten; and
- The feasibility of offering full-day kindergarten in school districts Statewide.
This particular legislation made it to the Governor’s desk during the last legislative session but was vetoed by the Governor and the Legislature could not overcome the veto. The Governor argued in his veto that nearly three-quarters of school districts already provided full-day kindergarten, and that the purpose of the task force would be redundant with some of the work currently carried out by the division of early childhood education within the state Department of Education. NJPSA supports this legislation.
Also approved was legislation, A-2994 (McKeon / Jasey / Lagana) which permits high performing school districts to be monitored by the DOE under the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJ QSAC) every seven years rather than every three years. Specifically, the bill would modify the review requirement for high performing districts (those scoring above 80 percent on quality performance indicators in each of the five key components of school district effectiveness (instruction and program; personnel; fiscal management; operations; and governance)) from three to seven years. NJPSA has long supported this legislation.
Making Community Service Permissible
Additionally, the committee approved a bill, A-4036 (Vainieri Huttle / Wimberly / Benson) which permits boards of education to establish community service credit program for high school students. The bill initially required a board of education that includes grades 9 through 12 to establish a community service credit program. School Boards would be able to set how many hours of service a student must complete and the number of credits a student may earn. The volunteer work must be done with a board-approved organization. NJPSA supports this legislation in light of flexibility added by the sponsor that allows a district to choose to create such a program, rather than mandate a program.
Further, the committee approved A-4044 / S-1594 (Peterson / Lagana / Turner) which requires public school districts to provide a daily recess period of at least 20 minutes to students in grades kindergarten through 5. The recess period should be held outdoors, if feasible. The bill, first introduced in 2008, is a longtime initiative of the NJ Association of Physical Education, Health, Recreation and Dance (NJAPEHRD). The bill was surprisingly amended during the committee to create a special exception to the 20 minute rule for instances of harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB). It was also amended to include some clarification as it relates to special education students. NJPSA is currently reviewing the amendments. The Association supports the legislation as introduced. The bill has already cleared the first house back in June by a vote of 39-0.
The committee also approved several other measures, including:
- A-1455 (Diegnan / Mosquera) – Abigail’s Law; requires that newly-manufactured school buses be equipped with sensors. The legislation, designated “Abigail’s Law,” requires that all school buses manufactured on or after 180 days following the bill’s enactment be equipped with sensors to alert a bus driver when a child walks in front or back of the bus. The bill provides that the design and installation of the sensor must conform to regulations to be promulgated by the State Board of Education, in consultation with the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. NJPSA supports this measure as it increases school bus safety for our students.
- A-3921 (Diegnan / Jimenez / Singleton) – Allows board of education to award pupil transportation contracts that exceed bid threshold through request for proposals. Under current law, N.J.S.A.18A:39-3, if the amount of a contract for pupil transportation services will exceed the public bidding threshold, the board of education is required to advertise and publicly bid the contract. This legislation would provide the board of education with the option of utilizing the request for proposals process, or evaluative bidding process. Criteria would be developed by the Department of Education but must include the following:
- the previous experience of the contractor in transporting pupils;
- the name of each transportation company of which the contractor has been an owner or manager;
- a description of any safety programs implemented by the contractor;
- a record of accidents of the school buses under the control of the contractor;
- the driving history of the employees of the contractor;
- the inspection records and model year of the school buses under the control of the contractor;
- the maintenance schedule of the school buses under the control of the contractor;
- a financial analysis of the contractor; and
- compliance with insurance requirements.
NJPSA supports this legislation as a way of improving on the existing bid process.
- A-4567 (Wimberly) – Prohibits certain school districts under State intervention from leasing building if purchase price would be less than total costs of lease. The legislation would prohibit a school district under State intervention which has not had the governance component of school district effectiveness returned to local control, or the State acting on its behalf, from leasing a building as a lessee, if the total costs of the lease exceed the purchase price of the building. NJPSA is monitoring this legislation.