On January 7 2009 the New Jersey Department of Education announced that it had issued the final accountability regulations which became effective on December 18 2008. These regulations are no longer “draft” regulations but are official regulations that should now guide all districts. The accountability regulations contain a number of improvements over previous versions of the regulations including increased flexibility regarding travel expenditures and a greater role for NJPSA members to participate in regionalization studies to be performed in each county. A number of the revisions adopted by the Commissioner were in direct response to the advocacy efforts of the NJPSA and other education organizations. We have listed below a brief summary of the improvements made in the final regulations:
- Improved Definition of “Regular School District Business Travel” – The final regulations permit boards to adopt policies which allow for regular business travel without prior board approval. Regular business travel now includes in-state professional development programs that cost $150 or less per person per program. The regulations also provide that the $150 amount may be adjusted in future years for inflation. In the earlier draft regular business travel had been limited to $100 per event with no adjustment for inflation. See N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-1.2.
- No More Cap on Number of Attendees for In-State Professional Development – The final regulations eliminate the cap on the number of persons permitted to attend in-state professional development programs without first receiving prior written approval from the executive county superintendent. Prior written approval from the executive county superintendent is only required for in-state travel that costs more than $5000 for a single event. See N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-5.9(c). For out-of-state events the regulation now provides for prior written approval of the executive county superintendent for attendance of more than five persons or for out-of-state travel that exceeds $5000 for a single event.
- Protections for Collective Bargaining Explicitly Included – The final regulations explicitly include language taken directly from the authorizing statute making it clear that the regulations cannot be used to interfere in any manner with collective bargaining. This underscores the fact that nothing in the regulations can be used to interfere with collectively negotiated contract terms. See N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-2.1(b).
- Reasonable Meal Expenses May be Reimbursed – The final regulations now provide for “full” reasonable reimbursement for out-of-district one day training sessions which include lunch in the lump-sum registration fee This should alleviate concerns regarding professional development which include reasonable meal costs in the registration fee. In addition the regulations now permit refreshments to be provided in out of district training sessions. The regulations now also permit reimbursement for the cost of an official luncheon or dinner up to $7 and $10 respectively where the meal is scheduled as an integral part of an official proceeding or program related to school district business and the employee’s responsibilities.
- Input for NJPSA Members in County Regionalization Studies – The final regulations require each executive county superintendent to form an advisory committee to study school district regionalization and consolidation of services. The final regulations require that at least on a quarterly basis county representatives from the NJPSA and the other education organizations which are a part of LEE (Leadership for Educational Excellence which includes the NJPSA NJASA NJEA NJASBO NJPTA NJSBA) attend and participate in meetings of the advisory committee to be convened by the Executive County Superintendent. This critical change in the code will ensure that NJPSA representatives have the opportunity for sustained input into every county’s regionalization and consolidation study.
Members may click on the links below for additional information regarding the regulations and related statutory provisions.
- Suggested provisions to include in local board policy related to travel expenditures;
- A summary of protections for existing contracts and collective bargaining agreements; and
- A sample board resolution that provides a means for a board to approve attendance at FEA professional development programs.
Members with questions should contact NJPSA’s Legal Department at (609) 860-1200.