Jennie Lamon, Assistant Director of Government Relations
With the winter holidays rapidly approaching, the Legislature is convening its final committee meetings and voting sessions before the new year. The Joint Committee on the Public Schools met on Tuesday to take testimony from invited guests on the issue of student assessment. NJPSA Board President Dr. Arlene Rogo provided compelling testimony alongside several other hand picked statewide education leaders. On Wednesday, the State Board of Education was presented with long-awaited data from NJSLA student test scores, as well as NJPSS, Bilingual Education (Chapter 15) and Managing for Equality and Equity in Education (Chapter 7). The Assembly Education Committee met on Thursday, advancing three education-related bills and amending one. There are still a couple of bills that we are keeping a close eye on, as we expect action on them before the end of the calendar year. Information literacy has passed both houses and is awaiting action by the Governor. The bill eliminating edTPA is awaiting one final step in the General Assembly. Please read on for a complete wrap-up of everything that happened in our capital city this week.
Establishes the Office of Dropout Prevention and Reengagement of Out-of-School Youth in DOE, and the Student Dropout Prevention Task Force
The Assembly Education Committee voted to advance A-398, a bill that would establish an “Office of Dropout Prevention and Reengagement of Out-of-School Youth” in the NJDOE. The bill would also establish a Student Dropout Prevention Task Force. NJDOE’s Office of Dropout Prevention and Reengagement of Out-of-School Youth would be charged with developing a statewide strategic plan to prevent students from dropping out of school, address the needs for the reenrollment of student dropouts, and develop strategies to increase reenrollment. The office would be required to collaborate with school districts in the development of that plan. The purpose of the Student Dropout Prevention Task Force would be to analyze the causes of students leaving school prior to graduation, recommend best practices for reducing dropout rates, and develop strategies to increase the re-enrollment of students who have left school. The task force would consist of 18 members, including but not limited to representatives from the NJDOE, the New Jersey Department of Corrections, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, as well as superintendents, a principal, a guidance counselor, and teachers. The task force would be charged with issuing a final report to the governor and the Legislature detailing its findings and recommendations within nine months. NJPSA supports the bill.
Requires NJDOE to Establish Central Tutoring Registry
The Assembly Education Committee advanced A-4458, a bill that would require the NJDOE to establish a central registry of individuals and organizations interested in providing supplemental tutoring support to students. The registry will contain the name, contact information, subject matter expertise, and a tutoring availability schedule of each registrant. The DOE will make the registry publicly available to all New Jersey residents on its Internet website. Under the bill, the following individuals and organizations may apply to the DOE for inclusion on the central registry: (1) a teacher who holds a New Jersey provisional or standard instructional certificate; (2) a retired New Jersey teacher who was in good standing at the time of retirement; (3) a student enrolled in a two- or four-year institution of higher education in the State; (4) an industry professional with relevant subject matter expertise; (5) an organization with relevant subject matter expertise; and (6) any other person or organization the department deems appropriate. Registrants may not charge or receive any fee for services provided in connection with the registry. The DOE is required to inform users of the registry that the information provided on individuals and organizations listed on the registry has not been independently verified and is not meant to be an endorsement or recommendation by the department as to the quality of the tutoring services offered. NJPSA supports this bill.
Revises Law Governing Construction of School Facilities Projects and Operations of the SDA
On Thursday the Assembly Education Committee heard A-4496, a bill that revises various provisions of law governing construction of school facilities projects and operations of New Jersey Schools Development Authority, “for amendment only” under a new legislative rule. The amendments to A-4496 were significant and substantive, including extensive changes to the SDA procurement processes and labor protections, deletion of legislative approval of projects, and codification of current SDA school design processes in lieu of previously proposed model designs. However the new bill still keeps a provision that would allow charter schools to get state funding to build and renovate their buildings. NJPSA supports the new amendments as an improvement from the original draft of the bill as it was originally introduced, but still has some concerns about the bill, and looks forward to continuing to work with the sponsors on this proposal.
Establishes High Efficiency Accelerated Learning Grant Program and Tutoring Advisory Commission
The Assembly Education Committee also voted favorably to advance A-4890, a bill that would establish the High Efficiency Accelerated Learning Grant Program to provide high-impact tutoring opportunities to students in the State in order to mitigate the effect of learning loss or interrupted learning as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The bill would also establish the Tutoring Advisory Commission, which would oversee and evaluate the grant program. The High Efficiency Accelerated Learning Grant Program would support local education providers, defined as a public school district, charter school or renaissance school project, or a partnership between a public school district, charter school or renaissance school project and one or more public school districts, charter schools, renaissance school projects, or nonpublic schools, in creating and implementing high-impact tutoring programs.
NJPSA supports the concept of this bill, but has made several recommendations, including that NJPSA have a seat on the Commission, and that local districts be permitted more flexibility. Read NJPSA’s full testimony on this bill here.
Requires Medicaid Reimbursement for Behavioral Health Services Provided by LEAs
The Assembly Human Services Committee advanced A-3334 on Thursday, legislation that would require Medicaid reimbursement for covered behavioral health services provided by a local education agency to any student who is eligible as a Medicaid beneficiary. Under the bill, Medicaid-covered behavioral health services provided to a Medicaid beneficiary would be reimbursable regardless of whether the student participates in an Individualized Education Program (IEP), 504 Accommodation Plan, Individualized Health Care Plan (IFSP), or Individualized Family Service Plan; or whether the covered services are provided at no charge to the student. The bill would require such services to be provided by a licensed medical practitioner approved as a Medicaid provider or a local education agency approved as a Medicaid provider. The bill comes in response to the reversal of a federal Medicaid policy which prohibited Medicaid reimbursement for school health services if the same services were provided free of charge to the general student population unless the services were specifically included in a student’s IEP, IFSP, or other similar educational plan. Currently, Medicaid reimbursement is only available in New Jersey for those services provided to students who qualify under the rule exception through the Special Education Medicaid Initiative (SEMI) program. NJPSA supports this bill.
Free Menstrual Products In School Bathrooms
On Monday, December 5th, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee unanimously advanced S-1221, a bill that would establish a program in the NJ Department of Education to reimburse school districts for providing menstrual products in certain public schools and require State to pay costs. S-1221 would require school districts to ensure that students in each school serving any of the grades 6-12 have direct access to menstrual products in at least half of female and gender-neutral school bathrooms free of charge. The state would be required to pay the cost of providing these products. The bill was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on May 9 and by the Senate Education Committee June 2. It next heads to the Senate floor for further consideration. Its Assembly counterpart, A-1349, has not moved yet. The NJDOE, in conjunction with the NJ Department of Health, would be required to periodically review and assess review and assess whether the provision of free menstrual products meets the needs of menstruating students, and, if necessary, make recommendations regarding the expansion of access to menstrual products to students in grades below grade six. NJPSA supports the legislation.
NJ State Board of Education Meeting December 7, 2022
The final meeting of 2022 for the NJ State Board of Education began on a celebratory note with the recognition of the 2022 Visionary Principal of the Year at the Elementary and Secondary levels. Mr. Christopher Turnbull, Principal of Bear Tavern Elementary School in the Hopewell Valley School District was recognized at the 2022 Visionary Principal of theYear -Elementary Level. And Ms. Stella Nwanguma, Principal of Winslow Township Middle School in the Winslow Township School District was recognized as the 2022 Visionary Principal of the Year – Secondary Level. We offer our heartiest congratulations to both of these visionary leaders.
Special recognitions continued beyond our state’s outstanding educational leaders, as the State Board next honored Dr. Ernest Lepore, who was serving at his last state board meeting, Dr. Lepore was first appointed to the New Jersey State Board of Education in 2004, and served under five Governors. NJPSA thanks Dr. Lepore for his service, dedication and commitment to public education in New Jersey.
At their meeting on Wednesday, the State Board also heard a presentation from the NJDOE on: an overview of the Statewide Assessment Data. As expected, the scores showed significant drops in proficiency on the tests from pre-pandemic years to the latest testing in the spring of 2022. The State Board also received a presentation on the newly announced statewide tutoring initiative NJPSS (New Jersey Partnership for Student Success); a presentation of the Second Discussion on Code proposal N.J.A.C. 6A:15, Bilingual Education; and a presentation at First Discussion on Code Proposal N.J.A.C. 6A:7, Managing for Equality and Equity in Education.
The NJ State Board of Education is currently accepting Public Testimony (accepting written testimony only) on Chapter 15, Bilingual Education (readoption with amendments).
If you have questions about these, or any other legislative measures, please reach out to your NJPSA Government Relations team, Debbie Bradley, Director, email@example.com or Jennie Lamon, Assistant Director, firstname.lastname@example.org.