It was a busy week in Trenton, as State Street wasted no time shifting out of holiday mode. Governor Phil Murphy delivered his fifth State of the State speech to a full room at the State House. It was his first in-person State of the State address in three years. The State Board of Education met for their first monthly meeting of the new year. They are still meeting virtually. The Senate Education Committee also met this week and advanced a number of education-related measures including a statewide tutoring program, a bill package to improve access to school meals, and a bill that would require school districts to include in a student’s IEP the number of students and teachers present during the provision of special education services in a group setting. NJPSA Government Relations has your boots-on-the-ground report of everything that happened in and around the golden dome this week.
The State of the State
Governor Phil Murphy delivered his fifth State of the State speech on Tuesday, January 10. It was the first time the Governor delivered an in-person State of the State address in three years. K-12 education was noticeably not a central theme of the Governor’s speech this year and was only mentioned a handful of times. Murphy highlighted the largest investment in public education of nearly 2 billion dollars as direct property tax relief and touted our “best-in-the-nation public-education system” so every child, in every community, is given the skills they will need to compete and win. In sharing his vision for shaping the “Next New Jersey”, a couple of major takeaways from the Governor’s speech were:
- The deadline to apply for the new Anchor property tax relief program funded in this year’s budget has been extended for a second time. The new deadline to apply is February 28th
- Murphy said his budget for the coming year will include a proposed Boardwalk Fund, helping New Jersey Shore towns to make upgrades to what he called our “wooden Main Streets.”
- The Governor also called for sweeping reforms in liquor-sale licensing to enable more access to the licenses, explaining that the current “antiquated and confusing” system of allotting them by town population would be replaced with one driven by the market.
You can view the Governor’s 2023 State of the State Address here.
The New Jersey State Board of Education
The State Board of Education met for their monthly meeting on Wednesday, January 11th, 2023. NJDOE Assistant Commissioner Kathleen Ehling stood in for Acting Commissioner Allen-McMillan during the meeting.
The State Board passed a Resolution in Honor of New Jersey School Board Recognition Month. Assistant Commissioner Ehling gave an update on the NJ Partnership for Student Success (NJPSS), a statewide three-year effort that brings together experienced organizations with a goal to recruit, screen, train, support, and engage an additional 5,000 caring adults in roles serving as tutors, mentors, student success coaches, wraparound service coordinators, and post-secondary transition coaches. As of this week, the Department has received 330 volunteer applications.
Assistant Commissioner Ehling presented to the Board on the results of the fall Start Strong Administration. 2022-2023 Start Strong Results Presentation.pdf. As expected, the presentation revealed that the Start Strong test scores reflected similar trends seen in other statewide and national student assessments showing that New Jersey students are still struggling academically to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The State Board of Education voted, at Proposal level, the proposed readoption with amendments pertaining to Chapter 15, Bilingual Education. The proposed amendments seek to clarify the expectations regarding the full breadth of services, including language instruction educational programs (LIEPs), that school districts are expected to provide multilingual learners (MLs), including addressing: definitions (shifting to asset-based language), identification (including preschool), organization (strengthening program design) and building educator capacity. View the Department’s presentation to the State Board here.
The State Board also conducted a Second Discussion on the readoption with amendments of Chapter 7: Managing for Equality and Equity in Education. This chapter sets forth the applicable definitions, rules, and responsibilities of each district board of education in providing equal access to educational activities and services including the teaching of challenging curriculum based on the New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS), differentiated instruction, formative assessments aligned to the NJSLS, qualified teachers, and high teacher expectations for student learning. View the Department’s presentation on proposed amendments to Chapter 7 to the State Board here.
The State Board of Education is currently accepting Public Testimony (Written Testimony Only) on Chapter 9 Professional Standards, Chapter 9A New Jersey Educator Preparation Programs, Chapter 9B State Board of Examiners and Certification, Chapter 9C, Professional Development, Chapter 7, Managing for Equality and Equity in Education (readoption with amendments, as well as any other educational topic (it’s an “Open Topic” month). The deadline to comment on the proposed readoptions with amendments of N.J.A.C. 6A:9, Professional Standards, N.J.A.C. 6A:9A, New Jersey Educator Preparation Programs, N.J.A.C. 6A:9B, State Board of Examiners and Certification, and N.J.A.C. 6A:9C, Professional Development is February 17, 2023. If you would like to submit written testimony, visit the Proposed Rules page: https://www.nj.gov/education/code/proposed/index.shtml.
The Senate Education Committee
The Senate Education Committee, Chaired by Senator Vin Gopal, also met this week to consider and advance a number of education-related measures. NJPSA testified at the Committee hearing.
Ruiz Package to Expand and Improve Access to School Meals
S-530 (Ruiz) – Requires certain school meal information be provided to public school students’ parents and requires school districts to request that families apply for school meals under certain circumstances. This bill would require hard copies of school meal program information be provided to parents at the start of the school year, along with an application. The information provided would include a notice that an application for the free school lunch and breakfast programs may be submitted at any time during the year and must be resubmitted annually. Under the bill, parents would be required to either return the completed application or sign a card provided by the district stating they are aware of the program and are not interested in participating. NJPSA supports this bill.
S-531 (Ruiz/Vitale) – Requires public schools to comply with more stringent school lunch and breakfast nutrition standards adopted by USDA in 2012. NJPSA was able to secure an important amendment to this bill delaying the implementation of this bill from “immediately” to “beginning with school year 2024-2025” in order to coincide with the 2022 USDA transitional standards and to enable school districts time to transition from current pandemic operations and supply chain issues back to the 2012 standards. NJPSA supports this bill as amended.
S-1222 (Ruiz/Gopal) – As amended, this bill would require the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the Department of Education, to develop and make available to each school district and nonpublic school participating in the National School Lunch Program or in a school breakfast program, an Internet-based online school meal application for eligible students to participate in these programs. Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program or in a school breakfast program would be encouraged to make the online school meal application available. A participating school district or nonpublic school that implements the online school meal application would also be required to continue to make available paper applications. NJPSA supports this bill.
Establishes a High Efficiency Accelerated Learning Grant Program in the NJDOE
S-3220 (Gopal) – Establishes High Efficiency Accelerated Learning Grant Program and Tutoring Advisory Commission. The purpose of the program is to provide high-impact tutoring opportunities to students throughout the State. The grant program supports high-impact tutoring programs implemented by local education providers, in partnership with a tutoring provider included on the department’s list. NJPSA is part of a coalition of education stakeholders that is continuing to work on revisions to this bill.
Requires Number of Students and Teachers in Special Education Services in Group Settings be Included in Student’s IEPs
S-3285 (Gopal) – This bill requires school districts to include in a student’s individualized education program (IEP) the number of students in the same group and the number of teachers present during the provision of special education services in a group setting. The bill requires school districts to revise a student’s IEP to include this information during the next scheduled review of the student’s IEP following the bill’s date of enactment. NJPSA is seeking amendments to this bill.
Establishes Award for CTE Scholars
S-3306/A-1791 (Turner/Greenstein/DeAngelo/Verrelli/McKnight) – Establishes “Career and Technical Education Scholar Awards” to annually recognize outstanding career and technical education students. The awards program is required to annually recognize outstanding career and technical education students who: demonstrate a high level of achievement in a career and technical education program as exemplified by course grades, industry-recognized technical assessments, and teacher recommendations; demonstrate a high level of achievement in at least three academic classes, as exemplified by course grades, end-of-course assessments, and teacher recommendations; successfully complete a college-level course or a work-based learning experience including, but not limited to, employment under a cooperative education agreement, an internship, or a work-based structured learning experience; and participate in a career and technical education student organization or a community service project that demonstrates the application of career and technical skills. NJPSA supports this bill.
Address Tuition Payments for Non-Resident Students
S-3349 (Sarlo) – Requires payment of actual cost per pupil for non-resident public school tuition. This bill was introduced in response to a news story about a district in Camden County, NJ that assembled a state championship basketball team made up of students from five different counties, but was not able to demonstrate that the non-resident students were paying the full cost of tuition. The bill was amended in committee. As amended, this bill permits the Board of Education to admit a nonresident student for participation in a school sport or other extracurricular activity. Under the amended bill, a board of education may not admit any student that does not reside in a school district for the purposes of participation in a school sport or other extracurricular activity unless the board of education consents to admitting the student and the required tuition is paid. The bill has been second referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. NJPSA is neutral on this bill at this time.
If you would like to discuss, or have questions about any of the legislative initiatives that moved this week, please contact your NJPSA Government Relations team. Department Director Debbie Bradley email@example.com or Assistant Director Jennie Lamon firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in legislation and education policy, please consider joining the NJPSA Legislative Committee. We meet approximately every other month to discuss and develop positions on pending legislation and regulations. We always have lively and often entertaining discussions! Email email@example.com for more information or to join our committee! Please enjoy the weekend, and remember to unplug and take some time for self-care. We appreciate your advocacy – and all that you do.