Legislative Update Week of January 11th – January 15th, 2021

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On Monday of this week, both Houses of the Legislature met for voting sessions.  The Senate advanced A-4461, a bill that would require the State to enter into contracts and coordinate with certain cooperative purchasing systems for the procurement of COVID-19 related goods and services by school districts, by a vote of 33-0 and now awaits final action by the Assembly. NJPSA supported this initiative.


The General Assembly advanced A-4454, a bill that requires school districts to include instruction on diversity and inclusion as part of implementation of New Jersey Student Learning Standards. This bill was voted out of the Assembly by a vote of 46-29-9, has now passed both Houses, and has been sent to the Governor for his consideration.


Also on Monday, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order #214 that will implement new policies for the 2020-2021 school year as follows:


The graduation assessment test requirement for all 12th grade students will be waived.

Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) will be removed from educator summative evaluations.

Substitute teachers who are in the process of obtaining their teaching certificate or who are certified in an area other than what they are teaching will be able to continue as substitutes longer.


NJPSA Executive Director Pat Wright was appreciative of the Governor’s understanding of the circumstances faced by educators and students during this difficult year. “On behalf of the Principals and Supervisors Association of New Jersey, I want to thank Governor Murphy and the Department of Education for recognizing the impact these extraordinary times have had on our students and educators by granting much-needed flexibility on two issues related to state testing scores, the issues of high school graduation and teacher and principal evaluation,” Wright said. “The Governor’s action balances our collective desire for student readiness post-high school with the realities of schooling during a pandemic when multiple pathways to graduation were simply not available to too many students. 


“Similarly, we welcome the appropriate elimination of the requirement of student growth objectives (SGOs) from educator evaluations for the 2020-21 school year due to the difficulty we have faced in data collection and data quality due to the pandemic’s impact on schooling,” Wright continued. “These common sense changes, including an extension of time that substitutes can legally work in our schools, will help everyone in the school community move forward in reaching our goals to help our students learn in these unprecedented times.”


On Thursday, the Senate Education Committee convened to consider 13 education related measures, including a package of teacher workforce bills. 


S-54 (Singer) – Requires under certain circumstances development by school nurse of student individualized health care plan and individualized emergency health care plan for student with severe allergies.  Under the legislation, S54, the school nurse will develop an individualized health care plan, an emergency health care plan, and provide training to all school personnel who may come in contact with the student with allergies. Each individualized health care plan is required to include the symptoms of an allergic reaction, recommended treatment, and accommodations for school trips and other school-related activities. This bill was amended by the Committee to replace “severe allergy” with “life-threatening allergy or anaphylaxis” and to include that the provision of care shall be consistent with the directions and recommendations of the student’s health care provider.  


S-225 (Diegnan) – Provides that student-athlete who sustains concussion must return to regular school activities prior to return to competition; requires school districts to implement five-step return-to-competition process.  Under the bill, student-athletes that have sustained a concussion would be prohibited from returning to competition until they have returned to regular school activities and are symptom-free. The Committee amended this bill to update the language to reflect that the return of the student-athlete or cheerleader would be required to be in accordance with the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) graduated, six-step “Return to Play Progression” recommendations, which address time frames for participating in: light aerobic activity; moderate activity; heavy, non-contact activity; practice and full contact; and competition. The bill would require the Department of Education to revise its athletic head injury safety training program to include information on the CDC’s graduated, six-step “Return to Play Progression” recommendations, and would also require school districts to revise their written policy concerning the prevention and treatment of sports-related concussions and other head injuries. The bill was released by the committee with a vote of 6-0. 


S-990 (Weinberg/Ruiz) – Requires school district to report to DOE on various aspects of computer science courses. This bill will require each school district to issue a report to the Commissioner of Education by April 30 of each school year on the computer science courses offered in the district. The sponsors believe tracking data specific to the demographic make-up, availability, and content of computer science courses in New Jersey schools will provide insight needed to address gaps in populations that are underrepresented in computer science fields and that gathering this information will help New Jersey in its commitment to increasing the participation of female and other underrepresented students in computer science fields.

The report will include, but not be limited to, (1) the total number of computer science courses offered in each school in the district, including any advanced placement computer science courses; (2) the subject matter covered in each computer science course offered; (3) the total number of computer science teachers in each school in the district disaggregated by gender, terminal degree, and instructional certificate endorsement; and (4) the total number and percentage of students enrolled in computer science courses in each school in the district disaggregated by gender, race and ethnicity, special education status, English language learner status, eligibility for the free and reduced price lunch program, and grade level.


S-2827 (Ruiz) – Requires teachers to biennially complete two hours of professional development related to cultural competence.  State Board of Education Regulations require all active teachers in a school district to complete a minimum of 20 hours of approved professional development each year.  This bill requires the board, as part of the professional development requirement, to require each public school teacher to complete two hours of instruction in cultural competency in each two-year period.  The instruction must include, but need not be limited to, a discussion of: personal and interpersonal awareness and sensitivities; acts of microaggression in the classroom; and implicit bias.   


NJPSA’s Director of Government Relations Debra Bradley testified on the package of teacher workforce bill package and is working with the sponsor on possible amendments:


S-2825 (Ruiz) – Establishes loan redemption program for certain bilingual education teachers. The bill establishes a loan redemption program in the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (authority) for teachers who teach in a bilingual education or English as a second language program at public schools.


S-2826 (Ruiz) – Requires State Board of Education to establish procedures for issuance of limited certificate of eligibility with advanced standing and limited certificate of eligibility for certain teacher candidates.  This bill would create a limited CEAS and a limited CE for individuals who may not meet one of the general requirements for a CEAS or CE and who are seeking employment in a school district, charter school, or renaissance school after the effective date of the bill.  Individuals would be eligible for a limited CEAS if they do not meet one of the following requirements: the minimum GPA requirement, and all other alternative grade point average requirements and exceptions; or the requirement to achieve a minimum passing score on an appropriate State test of subject matter knowledge (Praxis II) and any related alternative requirements or exceptions.  Individuals would be eligible for a limited CE if they do not meet one of the following requirements: any requirement to complete a minimum number of subject area course credits; the minimum GPA requirement; the requirement to achieve a minimum score on a Commissioner of Education-approved test of basic reading, writing, and mathematical skills (Praxis Core) and all other alternative basic skills requirements or exceptions; or the requirement to achieve a minimum passing score on an appropriate State test of subject matter knowledge. 


S-2829 (Ruiz/Singleton) – Establishes “Male Teachers of Color Mentorship Pilot Program;” appropriates $50,000.  The Committee amended this bill to provide that a teacher serving as a mentor under the program will serve as a student’s mentor through the first two years of the student’s employment as a teacher if the student is hired for employment in the participating district upon the student’s graduation from an educator preparation program. The amendments also provide that a school district that provides mentoring services under the provisions of the bill will conduct a review of the student’s performance under the pilot program following completion of the student’s final year in an educator preparation program.  A school district that provides mentoring services to a student under the pilot program is required to make a good faith effort to hire a student following the student’s graduation from an educator preparation program, if the student receives a favorable performance review under the review conducted by the school district.


S-2830 (Ruiz/Singleton) – Requires educator preparation program to report passing rates of students who complete certain tests and to disseminate information on test fee waiver programs, and permits collection of student fee for certain testing costs.  This bill requires each educator preparation program to annually report to the Department of Education on the first-time and overall test pass rates of candidates for an instructional certificate, for each test required for instructional certification.  Under the bill, each educator preparation program must: annually publish the first-time and overall test pass rates of its students on its website; annually disseminate information to its students on the availability of fee waivers for tests required for instructional certification; and include in its student fees a separate fee to be applied towards the cost of the student completing the tests required for instructional certification. 


S-2833 (Ruiz) – Establishes Teacher Apprenticeship Program. This bill was amended by the Committee to change the date this act shall take effect to the first day of the 13th month next following the date of enactment. As amended, this bill establishes a Teacher Apprenticeship Program, the purpose of which is to offer stipends and provide program participants with the education and field experience necessary to obtain a New Jersey certificate of eligibility with advanced standing (CEAS), a credential that allows an individual to seek and accept employment as a teacher in a public school.  The Teacher Apprenticeship Program is open to public high school students entering grade 12 and paraprofessionals with an associate degree who are employed in a public school and meet certain eligibility criteria.


S-2834 (Ruiz) – Mandates training on culturally responsive teaching for all candidates for teaching certification. This bill provides that, beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, all candidates for teaching certification who have completed an educator preparation program at a commissioner-approved educator preparation program provider must have satisfactorily completed a course or training on culturally responsive teaching.

The bill defines “culturally responsive teaching” to mean: a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning, and which uses research-based teaching strategies that make meaningful connections between what students learn in school and their cultures, languages, and experiences.


S-2835 (Ruiz) – Requires compilation of data and issuance of annual reports on New Jersey teacher workforce.   This bill establishes certain reporting requirements in regard to the current and projected teacher workforce in the State.  The bill requires school districts to annually submit to the Commissioner of Education, no later than October 15, information for the current school year on teaching positions, including the number of vacant teaching positions, the number of new teaching positions, the number of teaching positions that were eliminated, and the anticipated teacher retirements.  The information will be submitted through the NJ SMART Education Data System.


S-2854/A-1625 (Pou/Lampitt/Jasey/Carter) – Directs DOE to develop outreach program to encourage young women and minorities to pursue post-secondary degrees and careers in STEM. This bill directs the Department of Education, in consultation with the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and the Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology, to develop and administer an outreach program to encourage young women and minorities to pursue post-secondary degrees and careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.The Committee amended the bill to clarify that for purposes of this act, STEM shall include, but not be limited  to, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science.


The Senate Economic Growth Committee advanced S-3033 on Thursday.  This bill establishes the School and Small Business Energy Efficiency Stimulus Program in the Board of Public Utilities. The purpose of the program is to ensure that school and small business heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are upgraded to safely prepare schools and small businesses for operating during the Coronavirus 2019 pandemic and to generally improve the health and safety of the school and small business environment. The program would also fund the upgrading of old, inefficient plumbing fixtures that waste water and energy.   The program would be funded by the Societal Benefits Charge, an existing surcharge on the energy bills of New Jersey’s seven investor-owned electric public utilities and gas public utilities.


The Assembly Higher Education Committee advanced A-1616 on Thursday.   This bill requires a public school that includes any of the grades seven through 12 and that issues student identification cards to have the telephone number for a suicide prevention hotline printed on the back of the student identification cards.  The bill also requires an institution of higher education that issues student identification cards to have the telephone number for a suicide prevention hotline printed on the back of the cards. 


Also newsworthy this week, veteran lawmaker Senator Loretta Weinberg announced her retirement at the end of her current term (January 2022). 

Your NJPSA Government Relations team is always available to answer any questions you may have about pending legislation.  Please feel free to reach out to us at any time with questions, concerns, or for more information about any of the bills that moved this week, or any others that are on your mind.  Debra Bradely Esq., Director of Government Relations dbradley@njpsa.org and Jennie Lamon, Assistant Director of Government Relations jlamon@njpsa.org.  Thank you for all that you do!