The Assembly and Senate Budget Committees moved a number of legislative proposals related to students and schools June 23. Among the proposals – several bills related to the Vocational package Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson, Bergen) has championed as well as measures to ensure schools have access to Economic Development Authority funds (EDA) for purposes of school security upgrades include panic alarms and lights, as well as legislation that seeks to infuse computer science guidelines into the existing technology and science standards where appropriate. NJPSA supports the measures.
Championed by the Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto as well as key members of the Assembly Education Committee including Chairman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) as well as Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex) the bills heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee related to several new funding streams for vocational and adult education. Specifically the bills:
- A-3337 (Prieto, Jimenez) – Establish a four-year county vocational school district facilities partnership grant program;
- A-3340 (Prieto, Jasey) – Provide additional state aid to county vocational school districts in which enrollment increases by more than 10 percent; and
- A-3341 (Prieto, Diegnan) – Provide state aid for adult education programs.
The bills are part of a larger legislative package the Assembly Speaker introduced back in January. The Speaker indicated that improving vocational education would be one of his top priorities, citing it as key to making sure all New Jersey students are ready for work in today's ever-changing economy. The larger bill package also includes:
- A-3334 (Prieto, Lagana) – Require New Jersey school report cards to include indicators of student career readiness;
- A-3335 (Prieto, Diegnan) – Require preparation programs for teachers and school counselors to include coursework to support improved student career readiness;
- A-3338 (Prieto, Diegnan) – Requires all school districts and public colleges to enter into dual enrollment agreements to provide college-level instruction to high school students through courses offered on the college or high school campus;
- A-3339 (Prieto, Diegnan) – Provides that if a career and technical education program of a vocational school district is taught in an industry setting, the off-site location will be exempt from certain state regulations;
Also approved by the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee was legislation, S-2091 / A-373 (Rice / Ruiz / Caputo / Diegnan / Spencer) which requires school buildings to be equipped with emergency light and panic alarm linked to local law enforcement.
Specifically, the bill requires that all public elementary and secondary schools be equipped with a panic alarm for use in a school security emergency including, but not limited to, a non-fire evacuation, lockdown, or active shooter situation. The panic alarm would be directly linked to law enforcement authorities.
The legislation also requires that all public elementary and secondary schools be equipped with a red emergency light that is affixed to the exterior of the school building in a highly visible location above or near the front entrance visible from the nearest public roadway or, if the school building is not visible from the nearest public roadway, then on that roadway. The bill requires that the emergency light be linked to the school’s panic alarm so that it turns on when the panic alarm is activated.
The bill directs that the proceeds of bonds authorized to be issued to fund the State share of the costs of Schools Development Authority district school facilities projects or the State share of the costs of school facilities projects in all other districts, including county vocational school districts, be used to fund the full cost of the panic alarms and emergency lights.
The bill made its way to the Governor’s desk in the last legislative session when it was vetoed. NJPSA successfully sought amendment last year to allow school districts in communities without a local police force to connect to the State Police. We also successfully sought funding for upgrades. NJPSA supports this measure.
Also approved by the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee was legislation, S-2032 (Codey), which requires public school students in grades 6 through 12 to take courses in computer science. NJPSA sought significant amendment to the bill to ensure that rather than a “continuum of courses” as originally required under the legislation, the bill now directs the State Board of Education to weave newly created computer science guidelines into the existing technology and science standards where appropriate.
The bill defines “computer science” to mean the study of computers and algorithmic processes and includes the study of computing principles, computer hardware and software design, computer applications, and the impact of computers on society. NJPSA supports the legislation as amended.