Senate Ed Committee Begins Ed Work of 216th Legislative Session

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The Senate Education Committee met January 30, hearing a slew of revived bills from the last legislative session as well as legislation that would require School Board input when a Superintendent seeks to close a school.

The Bills 

  • S225 (Allen / Ruiz): Establishes the four-year "New Jersey Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program" in DOE to fund non-traditional science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs. 

Specifically, the pilot program would award grants to school districts to support non-traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teaching methods for students in grades 9 through 12, support the participation of students in nonprofit STEM competitions, foster innovation and broaden interest in careers in STEM fields, and encourage collaboration among students, engineers, and professional mentors.    Under the bill, a school district would submit an application to Commissioner an that includes a description of how the school district would establish STEM teaching programs that use a non-traditional STEM teaching method, identify and recruit partners and mentors to help implement these programs, and support teachers and participants.  The application would also have to contain information on how the district will assess the impact of the STEM teaching programs on participating students.

The Commissioner could award a total of six one-time, up-front grants of up to $150,000 each.  Two grants would be awarded to districts located in the northern region of the State, two to districts in the central region, and two to districts in the southern region.  In awarding the grants, the Commissioner would be required to give priority to applications from districts that intend to target activities in a rural or urban school, a low-performing school, or a school or school district that serves low-income students.  Districts would be permitted to use the grant funds for a period of up to four years.  Districts would be required to provide district matching funds in an amount equal to 25% of the grant amount, and secure matching funds or in-kind contributions from corporate donors or other private sector donors in an amount equal to 25% of the grant amount.

NJPSA supports this legislation.

  • S322 (Gordon / Allen): Provides that nonpublic school nursing services may include nursing services for a preschool pupil in the event of an emergency. 

N.J.S.A. 18A:40-23 et seq., requires Boards of Education in which a nonpublic school is located to provide certain nursing services for pupils who are enrolled full-time in the nonpublic school in grades kindergarten through 12.  This bill would extend that coverage in the event of an emergency, to a preschool pupil enrolled in the nonpublic school.  NJPSA is neutral on this legislation. 

  • S441 (Ruiz / Allen): Requires school districts to adopt policies concerning electronic communications between employees and students.   The policy must include provisions designed to prevent improper communications between school employees and students made via e-mail, cellular phones, social networking websites, and other Internet-based social media.  NJPSA supports this legislation.
  • S520 (Gill / Ruiz): Establishes loan redemption program for teachers to redeem loan amounts received under the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students Loan Program through employment in public or nonpublic schools in New Jersey.  The program would allow a person to redeem a portion of his NJCLASS loan amounts for each year of service as a teacher in a public or nonpublic school in New Jersey.

In order to participate in the loan redemption program, a person must have been an undergraduate student borrower in the NJCLASS Loan Program and be a resident of the State who obtained initial employment in a public or nonpublic school after the effective date of the bill.  The redemption of loans under the loan redemption program would amount to 10% of principal and interest of the NJCLASS loan amounts for a full year of service.  NJPSA supports this legislation.

  • S966 (Rice): Establishes procedures for the approval of the closure of a public school. 

Specifically, under the bill, a school district board of education or State district superintendent would be required to obtain approval from the Commissioner of Education prior to implementing a school closure.       The bill also requires that a State district superintendent obtain the approval of the school district board of education prior to submitting a school closure plan to the commissioner.  The bill’s provisions would be applicable to any school closure plan submitted for approval on or after January 1, 2014.  NJPSA is tracking this legislation.