Senate Ed Hears Bevy of Bills In Lame Duck Push
The Senate Education Committee moved a host of bills at its December 14 meeting, in the continued lame duck push. Among the measures, legislation to raise the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18, changes in school nurse certification, and a bill that seeks to eliminate the administrative cap.
S-2798 / S-658 (Cruz-Perez / Pou / Ruiz)- Raises age requirement of compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18 years old.
The legislation raises the age requirement for compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18 years of age, except for students who graduate from high school prior to their eighteenth birthday. This change would first apply to children who are in the eighth grade at the time of the bill’s enactment.
NJPSA raised serious concerns with the legislation as drafted, arguing that absent other resources and a sharing of best practices and strategies from around the State, the mandate would prove extraordinarily difficult for schools to accomplish
S-3244 (Ruiz / Sarlo) – Eliminates 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 eliminates the per pupil administrative cost limit for school districts and seeks 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 does not impact the school district’s tax levy cap – that will remain at the current 2%.
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 urged the committee to support this legislation.
S-3279 / A-4415 (Turner / Fuentes / Diegnan / Garcia) – Establishes State Seal of Biliteracy to recognize high school graduates who have attained a high level of bilingual proficiency.
This bill 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 bill, 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.
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.
NJPSA supports the creation of this option for New Jersey students. The Association successfully sought amendment to the bill in the Assembly. That amendment ensures that districts articulate successful attainment of the seal on a student’s transcript rather than a separate diploma (as outlined in the original bill).
The Assembly version of the legislation passed the lower house back in late June by a vote of 74-2-0. The legislation now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
S-1501 / A-1431 (Bateman / Addiego / Caride / Singleton / Jasey) – Requires State Board of Education regulations regarding school nurse certification to include certain minimum eligibility requirements.
State Board of Education regulations at N.J.A.C.6A:9B-14.3 and 14.4 govern school nurse certification. In July of 2013, the State board adopted amendments to the certification requirements, which reduced credit requirements for a school nurse endorsement from 30 to 21 semester hour credits, and reduced 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.
The Assembly version of the bill passed the Assembly back in June by a vote of 71-5-1. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
NJPSA supported the measure as it focuses 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.
S-2161 / A-2597 (Ruiz / Singleton / Diegnan / DiMaio) – Provides that beginning with the 2014-2015 grade nine class, Advanced Placement computer science course may satisfy a part of either the mathematics or science credits required for high school graduation.
Under the bill, the State Board of Education would require school districts to permit an Advanced Placement computer science course to satisfy a part of the mathematics credit requirements for high school graduation beginning with the 2016-2017 grade nine class. In order for the student to use the course to satisfy a part of the mathematics credit requirement, however, the student must be concurrently enrolled in or have successfully completed algebra I and geometry or the content equivalent. This limitation on using an Advanced Placement computer science course to satisfy a part of the mathematics credit requirements reflects the current State Board of Education requirements in that area of study as set forth in N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1. The committee amended the bill to eliminate the option for students to use an Advanced Placement computer science course to satisfy a part of the science credit requirements for high school graduation.
NJPSA supported the legislation as amended in that it balances the benefits of the computer science course option with other important course prerequisites, laboratory experiences, and graduation requirements in math and science.
S-2426 (Ruiz / Kean) – 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.
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 bill 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 to the Assembly version of the bill to 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 supports this legislation as amended.
S-2633 (Turner / Bateman) – Requires board of education to establish community service credit program for high school students.
The bill authorizes a board of education that includes grades 9 through 12 to establish a community service credit program. The program will allow a high school student to earn credit as an optional elective towards the high school graduation requirements upon the completion of an approved community service activity.
The Assembly version of the bill, A-4036 (Vainieri Huttle), was heard in the Assembly Education Committee in November. The bill, as initially drafted required a board of education that includes grades 9 through 12 to establish a community service credit program. NJPSA successfully sought flexibility which permitted a district to choose to create such a program, rather than mandate a program.
S-3006 (Allen) – Mandates public school teachers complete professional development related to appropriate professional teacher-student relationships.
The measure would require each public school teacher to complete, as part of the teacher’s professional development, training on maintaining appropriate professional teacher-student relationships. The training would be in accordance with the Professional Standards for Teachers and would include information on the legal and ethical responsibilities of teachers with respect to teacher-student relationships, best practices for maintaining appropriate relationships with students, and the role of social media in appropriate teacher-student relationships. The bill provides that a board of education is permitted to make the professional development opportunities available to other staff as the board deems appropriate. The State Board of Education would be tasked with establishing appropriate requirements for the training including a minimum hour requirement. NJPSA is monitoring this legislation.
S-2155 / A-1667 (Van Drew / Bucco / Johnson / DeAngelo / Andrzejczak) – Permits a child whose parent or guardian is ordered into active military service to remain enrolled in the school district where the 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 bill also provides that the school district will 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. The Assembly version of the bill was approved by the lower house in 2014 by a vote of 75-0. NJPSA supports this measure.
S-2731 / A-4148 (Van Drew / Beach / Andrzejczak / Benson / Wilson) – 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 bill 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. NJPSA is monitoring this legislation.
S-3230 (Sarlo) – Permits newly created regional school districts or enlarging regional school districts to determine apportionment methodology for their boards of education on basis other than population.
Under current law, most boards of education of regional school districts consist of nine members, with at least one from each constituent district. The remaining seats are allocated to constituent districts on the basis of population. This bill would maintain the size of the regional school district board of education, but permit a newly created regional school district or a regional school district that will enlarge by adding one or more constituent districts, to determine, with the approval of the Commissioner of Education, an alternative apportionment method for its board. The bill also would permit a special election on the enlargement of a regional school district to be held on any of the special election dates set forth in section 2 of P.L.1995, c.278 (C.19:60-2) – the fourth Tuesday in January, the second Tuesday in March, the last Tuesday in September, or the second Tuesday in December. Under current law, a special election for this purpose may only be held on the September date. In addition to all the special election dates, the election for enlargement of a regional district will also be permitted on the third Tuesday in April, which is the date of the annual school election for those districts which have not chosen to move their annual school election date to November. NJPSA is monitoring this legislation.
SJR-64 (Ruiz) – Designates the second Friday of December of each year as “Paraprofessional and School-Related Personnel (PSRPs) in Our Schools Day” in New Jersey to recognize the contributions of paraprofessionals and school-related personnel.
This joint resolution designates the second Friday in December of each year “PSRPs in Our Schools Day” in New Jersey to recognize the contributions of paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRPs). The resolution outlines the services PSRPs provide within the State’s schools, including: one-on-one or small-group tutoring for students; assisting with classroom management; acting as a translator; providing instructional support; supervising students during non-instructional times; preparing and serving nutritious meals; maintaining a clean, safe, and attractive learning environment; and assisting in the transportation of students to and from school. NJPSA supports this resolution.
SR-38 (Barnes, III) – Urges school administrators, teachers, parents, and students to be better educated about potential health impacts of heavy backpacks and take proactive measures to avoid injury.
The resolution urges school administrators, teachers, parents, and students to be better educated about the potential health impacts of heavy backpacks and to take proactive measures to avoid student injury and encourages schools to work with their parent-teacher organizations to assess the extent to which students use overweight backpacks and to promote innovative homework strategies that lessen the need to carry school materials and books between home and school each day. NJPSA supports the measure as a way of highlighting the issue without mandating action.