Governor Conditionally Vetoes Host of Education Bills

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Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a number of measures related to students and schools August 10.  The Legislature now has the opportunity to review the changes wrought by the conditional veto and agree with them or attempt a 2/3 override if they do not agree with the changes.

Commission to Review Before & After School As well as Summer Programs

Senate bill S-300/A-4119 (Rice, Greenstein/Jasey, Quijano, DeCroce, Sumter, Wimberly) would create a “New Jersey Out-of-School Time Advisory Commission” to review before-school, after-school, and summer programs

Specifically, the bill would have established a New Jersey Out-of-School Time Advisory Commission. Under the bill, a commission of 20 members, including a representative from NJPSA, as well as members of other education stakeholder groups, and the Commissioners of Education, Human Services, and Children and Families, as well as the Secretary of Higher Education and an appointee by the Senate President and Speaker of the General Assembly, respectively would be tasked with:

  1. assessing the state of out-of-school time programs in New Jersey by reviewing the policies of all State agencies that fund before-school, after-school, or summer programs, as well as review existing research and best practices;
  2. adopting appropriate Statewide standards for out-of-school time program design, implementation, and assessment;
  3. examining the existing amount of funding available for out-of-school time programs and the source of the funding; and
  4. examining the development and operation of out-of-school time programs in urban, suburban, and rural school districts, and make recommendations to increase the accountability and quality of the before-school, after-school, and summer programs.

The commission would have been required to submit its findings and recommendations within two years of formation.

The Governor’s conditional veto shaved the membership of the commission to seven members, all appointed by the Governor, and also sought to include in the composition of the commission ‘representatives from actual out-of-school program providers.’

Deterring Steroid Use

Senate bill S-1857/A-2699 (Codey, Turner/Vainieri Huttle, Jasey, Caputo, Wimberly) would establish measures to deter steroid use among students, appropriating $45,000 to the NJDOE for testing of student-athletes for steroids and other performance enhancing substances by New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA).

Specifically, the legislation sought to implement the recommendations of the December 2005 report of the Governor’s Task Force on Steroid Use and Prevention, requiring the NJDOE and the NJSIAA to work jointly to develop and implement, by the 2015-2016 school year, a program of testing of student-athletes for steroids and other performance enhancing substances.

The NJSIAA currently has a program of testing student-athletes who qualify to compete in championship tournaments sanctioned by the association, for steroids and other performance enhancing substances.  Under this bill, the NJSIAA would be tasked with expand ingits program of random testing to other student-athletes.

In addition, coaches would be required to incorporate into the team’s training activities, upon review and approval by the district’s athletic director, a gender-specific program designed to reduce the use of steroids and performance enhancing supplements, alcohol, and drugs, and to promote healthy nutrition and exercise.  The third week in September would also be renamed “Steroid Awareness Week” in New Jersey and school districts would be required to organize activities to raise awareness of the hazards of using steroids and performance enhancing supplements.

Further, NJSIAA would be tasked with implementing by the coming school year a ‘steroid and performance enhancing supplement prevention information program’ for all public and nonpublic high school coaches and athletic directors, including a advertisements in all material produced for sale or distribution at a tournament sanctioned by the association.

To jump start the initiative the bill appropriated $45,000 to the Department of Education to fund the random testing of student-athletes for steroids and other performance enhancing substances.  The Governor’s CV indicated that the legislation was being conditionally vetoed ‘because it contains an unaccounted-for supplemental appropriation outside of the annual appropriations process.’

Recovery Alternative High School

Finally, S-2058/A-3738 (Lesniak/Diegnan, Sumter) would have authorized the NJDOE to establish three pilot recovery alternative high schools to provide high school education and substance dependency plans of recovery to students, testing the effectiveness of the model. The pilots would serve students diagnosed with substance use disorder or dependency by providing a comprehensive four-year high school education in an alternative public school setting and a structured plan of recovery in the north, central and southern portions of the State.

Under the bill, school districts or county vocational school districts, would form arecovery alternative high school, thereby utilizing the existing vocational / special service district funding schema to fund schools.

School district could refer a currently enrolled student for enrollment in a recovery alternative high school upon the recommendation of a certified alcohol and drug counselor and the district’s board of education.  The sending district would pay a tuition rate to the school district that operates the high school in an amount not to exceed the actual cost per pupil as prescribed by the commissioner and approved by the State board.  The schools would be authorized for a period not to exceed four years.  Each year, the school districts that operate a recovery alternative high school, in consultation with the high school, would submit an analysis to the commissioner of the high schools’ educational outcomes, including, but not limited to, graduation and retention rates, course performance, and performance on State assessments.

The Governor’s CV argued that the bill, ‘unnecessarily restrict[ed] access to these programs as a result of overly burdensome State oversight and regulation.’  The CV sought to allow local  school districts to ‘establish programs, including recovery high schools, that the districts determine will best serve their students.

The Legislature now has the opportunity to either accept the modifications wrought by the Governor’s conditional veto or attempt a 2/3 override.