Governor Chris Christie signed several pieces of legislation January 19 related to students, schools and school leaders, pocket vetoing a number of other measures, including a bill that would have eliminated the administrative cap.
The Governor pocket vetoed legislation, S-3244 / A-2740 (Ruiz / Diegnan) which sought to eliminate the current 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 must be the lower of: the district’s prior year per pupil administrative costs; or 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.
This bill would have eliminated the per pupil administrative cost limit for school districts and sought to define more specifically “Administrative costs” to include expenditures related to general administration, school administration, and business and other support services. The elimination of the per pupil administrative cost limit did not impact the school district’s tax levy cap.
NJPSA argued that since 2010, districts have been operating under a second, more stringent cap – the two percent tax levy cap enacted by P.L. 2010, c. 44., which has effectively limited the overall growth of school budgets, yet contains few cap exemptions. As a result, the administrative costs portion of local budgets has been doubly capped to the detriment of implementation efforts in a time of key school reforms on items such as educator evaluation (NJPSA Testimony). NJPSA was disappointed to see this key initiative pocket vetoed.
CURRICULUM & GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS
The Governor did sign a number of measures related to curriculum and graduation requirements. These included:
P.L..2015, c. 262 (A-311 / S-2426 (Bramnick/Ruiz)) – Requires public schools to weight courses in visual and performing arts equally with other courses worth same number of credits in calculating grade point average.
- Specifically, the legislation requires public schools to weight courses in the visual and performing arts equally with other courses of the same level of academic rigor and worth the same number of credits in calculating a pupil’s grade point average. The new law defines “academic rigor” as a course’s classification as a general education course, an honors course, or an advanced placement course. NJPSA successfully sought amendments that maintain local discretion around the weight of courses generally although the bill creates consistency between similarly situated types of courses (e.g. AP, honors or regular). NJPSA supported the legislation as amended. The new law, P.L.2015, c.262 is effective the beginning of next school year.
P.L.2015, c.274 (A-2597 / S-2161 (Singleton / Ruiz)) – Provides that beginning with the 2016-2017 grade nine class, Advanced Placement computer science course may satisfy a part of the mathematics credits required for high school graduation.
- The legislation would allow, beginning with the 2014-2015 grade nine class, an Advanced Placement computer science course to satisfy a part of either the mathematics or science credits required for high school graduation. NJPSA supported the legislation. The new law, P.L.2015, c.274 is first effective wi the 2016-2017 freshman class.
P.L.2015, c.303 (A-4415 / S-3279 (Fuentes / Turner)– Establishes State Seal of Biliteracy to recognize high school graduates who have attained a high level of bilingual proficiency.
- The new law establishes the State Seal of Biliteracy to recognize high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more world languages in addition to English. Under the legislation, the State Board of Education is tasked with establishing the criteria for awarding the State Seal of Biliteracy. The criteria will require a student to demonstrate proficiency in English by meeting State high school graduation requirements in English, including State assessments and credits, and proficiency in one or more world languages other than English. A State Seal of Biliteracy would be awarded by a participating school district to graduating high school seniors who meet the criteria established by the State board. The NJDOE is tasked with preparing and delivering to participating school districts a certificate to be awarded to a qualifying student and an appropriate insignia to be affixed to the student’s transcript. A student would be permitted to demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English through multiple methods, including nationally or internationally recognized language proficiency tests. World languages would also include American Sign Language and Native American languages. School district participation in the program to award the State Seal is voluntary. NJPSA supported the creation of this option for New Jersey students. The Association successfully sought amendment to the bill in the Assembly. That amendment ensured that districts articulate successful attainment of the seal on a student’s transcript rather than a separate diploma (as outlined in the original bill) (NJSPA Testimony). Currently, twelve states in our nation have enacted laws establishing a Seal of Biliteracy. At graduation, students are recognized for their accomplishment through the Seal and a notation of their achievement on their high school transcript or diploma. For the past two years, a pilot program has begun in our state, with seven (7) districts voluntarily participating in the first year and 12 participating this year. The new law, P.L.2015, c.303, is effective at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.
P.L.2015, c.229 (S-2032 / A-3440 (Codey / Riley)– Requires DOE to review Core Curriculum Content Standards to ensure that they incorporate modern computer science standards where appropriate.
- This legislation was conditionally vetoed by the Governor earlier this year, in light of the fact that it required the New Jersey Department of Education to develop NEW middle and high school curriculum guidelines in computer science. The conditional veto text which was adopted by the Legislature merely requires the Department of Education to conduct a review of the current Core Curriculum Content Standards to ensure that those standards include appropriate and up-to-date requirements concerning computer science. NJPSA supported the legislation as re-adopted. The new law, P.L.2015, c.229, is effective immediately.
P.L.2015, c.221 (S-489 / A-4926 (Cunningham / Diegnan)) – Authorizes institutions of higher education to grant college credit to high school students who complete the Jersey Boys State or Jersey Girls State program.
- NJPSA supported this measure. The new law, P.L.2015, c.221, is effective immediately.
In the area of assessment, the Governor signed a number of measures. These include:
P.L.2015, c.243 (S-2922 / A-4925 (Ruiz / Diegnan)) – Requires DOE on its website to link to Department of Treasury’s website where list is maintained of all third party individuals and vendors employed or retained for work associated with State assessments.
- NJPSA supported the measure. The new law, P.L.2015, c.243, is effective immediately
P.L.2015, c.244 (S-2923 / A-4901 (Ruiz / Jasey)) – Requires school district or charter school to provide notification to parent or guardian of enrolled student on upcoming administration of State assessments or commercially-developed standardized assessments.
- This legislation requires that no later than October 1 of each school year, a school district and a charter school must provide to the parents or guardians of a student enrolled in the district or school information on any State assessment or commercially-developed standardized assessment that will be administered to the student in that school year. The Commissioner of Education is 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 new law 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. The specific information items listed in the bill will be required to be included in the commissioner’s regulations. The information provided annually to parents or guardians must also 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. NJPSA worked last legislative session to address some concerns with the bill. NJPSA supported the legislation as amended. The new law, P.L.2015, c.244, is effective at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.
Similarly, in the area of special education, the Governor affirmatively approved:
P.L. 2015, c.219 (S-451 / A-1103 (Ruiz / Vainieri Huttle)) – Establishes Office of the Special Education Ombudsman in DOE.
- The new law establishes an ombudsman to serve as a resource to parents, students and educators, providing them with information on special-education rights and services. The ombudsman would also provide information on resolving disputes between parents and school districts, identify patterns of complaints and make recommendations to the Department of Education. NJPSA supported this legislation. The new law, P.L.2015, c.219, is effective immediately.
Further, the Governor approved several measures related to student transportation. These include:
P.L. 2015, c.255 (A-1455 / S-2011 (Diegnan/Madden)) – 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 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 supported this measure as it increases school bus safety for our students. The new law, P.L.2015, c.255, applies to new buses manufactured after March 18, 2016.
P.L.2015, c.268 (A-1466 (Diegnan)) – Allows for waiver of school bus requirements for mobility assistance vehicle technicians who transport students with medical needs to and from school.
- The new law provides that a board of education, the governing body of a nonpublic school, or a State agency may authorize a person who is certified as a mobility assistance vehicle technician, to transport a student with medical needs to and from school or related school activities in a mobility assistance vehicle without being required to be licensed or regulated as a school bus driver. Under the law’s provisions, the mobility assistance vehicle would be exempt from all registration, equipment, inspection, and maintenance requirements that are applicable to a school bus. The legislation requires that each year prior to transporting students under the bill’s provisions, a mobility assistance vehicle technician would be required to submit to the executive county superintendent of schools a criminal history background check and evidence of a check for alcohol and drug-related motor vehicle violations. The law defines a “student with medical needs” as a school-aged child who suffers from a life-threatening medical condition, and as a result of such condition, requires more individualized and continuous care. The new law is effective immediately.
In addition, the Governor approved several measures related to student attendance and residency.
P.L.2015, c.269 (A-1667 / S-2155 (Johnson/Van Drew))-Permits child whose parent or guardian is ordered into active military service to remain enrolled in school district where child’s parent or guardian resided prior to active military service.
- The legislation permits a child whose parent or guardian is a member of the New Jersey National Guard or a member of the reserve component of the armed forces of the United States and who has been ordered into active military service in any of the armed forces of the United States in a time of war or national emergency to remain enrolled in the school district in which the child’s parent or guardian is domiciled at the time of being ordered into active military service, regardless of where the child resides during the period of active duty. The law also provides that the school district is not be responsible for providing transportation for the child if the child lives outside of the district. Following the return of the child’s parent or guardian from active military service, the child’s eligibility to remain enrolled in the school district will cease at the end of the current school year unless the parent or guardian is domiciled in the school district. NJPSA supported this measure. The new law, P.L.2015, c.269, is effective immediately.
P.L.2015, c.228 (S-1687 / A-4924 (Ruiz / Diegnan)) – 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.
- This legislation would allow a student who moves from one school district to another as a result of being homeless due to an act of terrorism or a natural disaster, to continue to enroll in the school district in which the parent last resided prior to becoming homeless for up to two full school years. The new law further provides that during the two-year period, if the student is enrolled in the district in which the parent last resided prior to becoming homeless and the student’s parent remains homeless for that period, no tuition will be required to be paid for the student’s attendance in that district and the district will be responsible for the student’s transportation to and from school. The new law, P.L.2015, c.228, is effective immediately.
P.L.2015, c.297 (A-4148 / S-2731 (Andrezejczak / Van Drew)) – Provides an excused absence on Veterans Day for pupil who participates in certain activities for veterans or active duty members of United States Armed Forces or New Jersey National Guard.
- The legislation provides that any pupil of a public school who is absent from school on November 11, Veterans Day, attending a ceremony honoring a veteran or a member of the United States Armed Forces or the New Jersey National Guard returning from overseas deployments, or assisting a veteran at a hospital, food shelter, or any similar facility, have the absence recorded by the school district as an excused absence upon providing documentation of participation in the activity to the school district. The new law, P.L.2015, c.297, is effective immediately.
Also approved were a few ‘miscellaneous bills’ that affect students, schools or the profession. These include:
P.L.2015, c.254 (S-3240 / A-4878 (Lesniak / Spencer)) – Authorizes establishment of recovery high school alternative education programs.
- The legislation authorizes school districts to establish alternative education programs, including recovery high schools, with the approval of their boards of education. A sending district could enter into an agreement with a school district that has established a recovery high school alternative education program for the provision of services to a student who is currently enrolled in the sending district. If the student is admitted to the recovery high school alternative education program, the sending district would pay tuition to that district. Similar legislation was conditionally vetoed by the Governor earlier this year to allow local districts, in addition to county districts to establish these schools. NJPSA supported the bill as amended by the veto. The new law, P.L.2015, c.254, is effective immediately.
P.L.2015, c.257 (S-3247 / A-4928 (Ruiz / Sumter)) – Eliminates cap on cost of SDA district school facilities projects that may be constructed by district and included in capital outlay budget.
- Under prior law, an SDA (former Abbott) district could include in its annual capital outlay budget and construct one or more school facilities projects if the cost of each project did not exceed $500,000 and the Commissioner of Education approved the inclusion of the project upon a demonstration by the district that its budget includes sufficient funds to finance the project. The new law eliminates the $500,000 cap on the cost of projects that may be constructed by an SDA district and included in its annual capital outlay budget. The law also provides that the commissioner will approve the inclusion in consultation with the New Jersey Schools Development Authority. The commissioner’s approval may also contain specific conditions including, but not limited to, a requirement that the district follow the design requirements and materials and system standards established by the development authority. NJPSA supported the legislation. The new law, P.L.2015, c.257, is effective immediately.
Finally, the Governor pocket vetoed a number of measures, in addition to the aforementioned elimination of the administrative cap. These include:
A-1431 / S-1501 (Caride/Bateman) – Requires State Board of Education regulations regarding school nurse certification to include certain minimum eligibility requirements.
- In July of 2013, the State board adopted amendments to school nurse certification requirements, N.J.A.C. 6A:9B-14.3 and 14.4, reducing credit requirements for a school nurse endorsement from 30 to 21 semester hour credits, and reducing credit requirements for a non-instructional school nurse endorsement from 21 to 15 semester hour credits. The amendments also eliminated the requirement that a candidate for a school nurse endorsement complete a minimum of 6 credits in a college-supervised school nurse practicum, half of which is completed in a school nurse office and the balance of which is completed in a classroom.
- This bill sought to codify previous State board certification requirements that a candidate for a school nurse endorsement must complete a minimum of 30 semester hour credits that includes study in subject areas determined by the State board and clinical experience in a school nurse office, in addition to holding a license as a registered nurse and a bachelor’s degree. The bill also codified the previous certification requirement that a candidate for a school nurse endorsement must complete a college-supervised school nurse practicum experience in a school nurse office and a classroom. With regard to non-instructional school nurses, the bill codified the previous State board certification requirements that a candidate for a non-instructional school nurse endorsement must complete a minimum of 21 credits that includes study in subject areas determined by the State board and clinical experience in a school nurse office, in addition to holding a license as a registered nurse and a bachelor’s degree.
- NJPSA supported the measure as it focused on ensuring staff are prepared upon entry into the profession. It is our understanding that the colleges/universities have not modified their curriculum to address these changes to date. Moreover, the Association argued that aspiring nurses, like aspiring teachers, should have access, and complete all developmental, clinical and educational requirements prior to entering the profession (NJPSA Statement).
A-1849 / S-1766 (Lampitt/Rice)–Prohibits State Board of Education from limiting number of certain two-year college credits that may be applied towards meeting teacher certification requirements.
- This bill prohibited the State Board of Education from limiting the number of professional education credits earned at a regionally accredited two-year college that may be applied towards meeting the requirements for teacher certification, provided that the credits are accepted by a State-approved college professional education preparation program. Current State board regulations provide that, for most candidates for teacher certification, no more than six credits earned in the field of professional education at a regionally accredited two-year college can be applied towards meeting the requirements for teacher certification. As a result, a student who has completed more than six credits in the field of professional education at a regionally accredited two-year college prior to his enrollment in a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year institution of higher education will have to repeat some of his coursework, resulting in increased education costs and a delay in program completion.
S-2716 / A-1962 (Ruiz / Pintor Marin) – Requires that school district’s request for permission to use unrecognized position title include list of abolished positions and positions in which there have been layoffs and detailed job descriptions for them.
- Under current State Board of Education regulation, N.J.A.C.6A:9B-5.5, if a board of education desires to use an unrecognized position title in the district, the board is required to submit to the executive county superintendent a written request for permission to use the proposed title prior to appointing a candidate. According to the regulation, the request must include a detailed job description for the proposed title.
- This bill would have required that the request also include: a list of all positions abolished in the school district in the prior calendar year, or that will be abolished upon the approval of the unrecognized position title, and a detailed job description for each of these positions; and a list of all positions in which there have been layoffs in the district in the prior calendar year, or positions in which there will be layoffs upon the approval of the unrecognized position title, and a detailed job description for each of these positions.
- In addition, the school district would also have to include in its request the number of times within the prior three school years that it has submitted a request for permission to use an unrecognized position title. If the detailed job description of the proposed unrecognized position title was substantially similar to the detailed job description of an abolished position or a position that will be abolished upon the approval of the unrecognized position title, or a position in which there has been a layoff or in which there will be a layoff upon the approval of the unrecognized position title, the executive county superintendent could not approve the unrecognized position. In this case the executive county superintendent would be required to forward the request to the Commissioner of Education, and it will be the commissioner’s responsibility to make the final determination on the request.
- NJPSA supported the measure, as striking a balance between flexibility and accountability for employees.
S-3067 / A-4653 (Barnes / Diegnan) – Requires teachers of health and physical education in grades kindergarten through six in public schools to possess appropriate endorsement to instructional certificate.
- Under existing State Board of Education regulations, in order to teach health and physical education, physical education, or health in grades kindergarten through six in a public school, a teacher is not required to have these specific endorsements to the instructional certificate. A teacher with an elementary school endorsement, pursuant to certain regulations, would be permitted to teach these courses. This bill required that teachers appointed to teach health, health and physical education, or physical education in grades kindergarten through six possess the appropriate endorsement to their instructional certificate. However, the bill exempted from the bill’s certification requirements persons who teach former Abbott district kindergarten students under a contract between the former Abbott district and a licensed child care center or other provider. The bill also included a “grandfather” provision that will allow teachers who received an elementary school endorsement prior to the bill’s effective date, to continue to be permitted to teach health and physical education, physical education, or health at these grade levels. NJPSA supported the legislation in light of the liberal grandfathering provision.
S-1594 / A-4044 (Turner / Lagana) – Requires a public school district to provide a daily recess period for students in grades kindergarten through 5.
- The bill required that a public school district must provide a daily recess period of at least 20 minutes for students in grades kindergarten through 5. The recess period was to be held outdoors, if feasible. Under the bill, a student could not be denied recess for any reason, other than for a code of conduct violation and not more than twice per week. NJPSA successfully sought an amendment to ensure that recess can be denied for a code of conduct violation, not just HIB violations.
A-2583 (DeAngelo) – Requires development of fact sheet about bedbugs to be posted on the Department of Education’s website.
- The bill required the Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health and the National Pest Management Association, to develop a fact sheet that provides information about bedbugs.