On Thursday, September 21st, the Assembly Education Committee met and advanced a number of measures affecting public education in our state. NJPSA, working together with legislators and other education stakeholders, successfully negotiated and secured several important amendments to bills that were on Thursday’s agenda.
Establishes Community School Pilot Program
A-1168 would establish a five-year Community Schools Pilot Program in the Department of Education. Under the bill, the Commissioner of Education would issue a request for proposals to identify a nonprofit organization located in the State to manage the pilot program. The selected organization would be responsible for providing technical assistance to any school district, renaissance school, or charter school that is participating in the pilot program, and would be responsible for making group training sessions and information about community schools available to any district, renaissance school, or charter school that is interested in establishing a community school. Additionally, the organization and the Department of Education would be responsible for selecting one school from each county in the State, including renaissance and charter schools, that would receive direct assistance from a site coordinator assigned to the school. The committee amended the bill to reduce the number of school districts, renaissance schools, or charter schools selected under the pilot program to 21 from 50 and require that the commissioner select one from each county in the State; and remove the provision that the department would select pilot program participants in three separate application periods. The bill was passed unanimously by the Assembly Education Committee and has been referred to the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee where it awaits a hearing. NJPSA Supports this bill.
Establishes School Counselor Liaison in NJDOE, Outlines Roles and Duties of School Counselor
A-1516 establishes certain requirements specific to school counselors and school counseling programs at institutions of higher education and establishes the position of State School Counselor Liaison in the Department of Education (NJDOE). The State School Counselor Liaison will collaborate with other State agencies and associated stakeholders and serve as a liaison and resource expert in school counseling and comprehensive school counseling services; foster and promote professional development for school counselors; monitor, interpret, synthesize, and disseminate relevant information associated with changes in school counseling practices, legislation, and legal issues that impact school counselors; and initiate, participate in, and utilize research studies related to school counseling practices, the mental health needs of children and youth, and related issues. During committee, the bill was amended the bill to remove the requirement that school counselors spend at least 80 percent of their staff time during normal school hours providing certain school counseling services; remove the requirements that school counselors complete 100 hours of professional development training every five years in areas related to the duties of a school counselor; instead, the amendments require that school counselors complete professional development training generally, as established by the State Board of Education; and provide that a school counseling program may incorporate a State-approved model instead of the American School Counselor Association’s national model for comprehensive school counseling programs. The bill was unanimously passed by the Assembly Education Committee and has now been referred to the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee where it awaits its next hearing. NJPSA Supports this bill As Amended.
Establishes Career and Technical Education Scholar Awards
A-1791 requires the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, to establish an awards program to be known as the “Career and Technical Education Scholar Awards.” The awards program will 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. The Assembly Education Committee voted unanimously to advance this bill and it is now on Second Reading in the General Assembly. NJPSA Supports this bill.
STEM Educator Grant Program
S-2563/A-3834 makes certain amendments to the STEM educator grant program. The program provides grants for teachers in public school districts to teach additional classes in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or computer science at nonpublic schools. This bill allows public school districts employing eligible teachers to object to participation in the program for certain allowable reasons. Currently, applications to participate in the program are submitted by nonpublic schools with acknowledgement of the arrangement from the public school district employing the teacher. Under this bill, a nonpublic school would notify a school district that a teacher employed by the school district plans to participate in the program, and the school district would have the opportunity to object prior to submission of the application if the school district can demonstrate that the arrangement would conflict with public school duties and no resolution could be found or that students would otherwise be adversely affected by the arrangement. The bill also broadens the times when a teacher may teach at the nonpublic school to any hours during which the teacher has no conflicting public school duties. The Assembly Education Committee voted unanimously to advance this piece of legislation and the bill is now on Second Reading in the Assembly. The Senate companion to this bill has already been unanimously approved by the full Senate. NJPSA Supports this bill.
Approved Private Schools for Students with Disabilities
A-4396 The bill provides a timeline within which the Commissioner of Education must issue any adverse finding, adjustment, or penalty regarding an audit submitted by an APSSD. For audits submitted for any school year ending after the effective date of the bill, the action of the commissioner must be within seven years of the date of the submission of that audit. For audits submitted for any school year ending prior to the effective date of the bill, the action of the commissioner must be within seven years of the date of the submission of that audit or two years following the effective date of the bill, whichever is the later date. The Assembly Education Committee voted in support of this bill unanimously and it has been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. NJPSA is neutral on this legislation.
Requires State Board to Evaluate Historical Events for Inclusion in the NJSLS
A-4646 requires the State Board of Education to review and update, during the next scheduled update to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards, the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Social Studies to ensure the incorporation of instruction on recent historical events in an appropriate place in the curriculum for students in grades kindergarten through 12. The board would be required to consider the addition of standards pertaining to the events surrounding September 11, 2001, and any other events of historical significance that the board deems appropriate. The board would be required to adhere to the review and readoption process for the New Jersey Student Learning Standards established pursuant to regulations of the State Board of Education. The board will provide members of the public with the opportunity to comment in person or to submit written comments regarding the update to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Social Studies required pursuant to the provisions of the bill. Under current State regulation, recommended changes to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards are presented by the Commissioner of Education to the State Board of Education at a public meeting of the board. Pursuant to the current State regulation, the board adopts the New Jersey Student Learning Standards after conducting public hearings on the commissioner’s recommendations. Finally, the bill requires the board to consider the addition of any further historical events to the Student Learning Standards in Social Studies concurrent with each scheduled update to the Student Learning Standards. The committee amended the bill to change the date by which the State Board of Education would be required to update the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Social Studies from July 15, 2023, to the next scheduled update of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. The Assembly Education Committee voted unanimously to advance this piece of legislation and the bill is now on Second Reading. NJPSA Supports this bill As Amended.
Create Separate Content Area of Information Literacy in NJSLS
S-588/A-4169 directs the State Board of Education to adopt New Jersey Student Learning Standards in the separate content area of Information Literacy. As defined in the bill, the term “information literacy” means a set of skills that enables an individual to recognize when information is needed and to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. Information literacy includes, but is not limited to, digital, visual, media, textual, and technological literacy. Under the bill, the content area of Information Literacy will include instruction on, at minimum: the research process and how information is created and produced;
critical thinking and using information resources; research methods, including the difference between primary and secondary sources; the difference between facts, points of view, and opinions; accessing peer-reviewed print and digital library resources; the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information; and the ethical production of information. The committee passed a NJPSA initiated amendment to replace a reference to “teachers’ ‘ with “teaching staff members” to include anyone with an instructional certificate including curriculum supervisors who are usually included in these discussions due to their expertise. The Assembly Education committee unanimously approved this measure as amended and it has now been referred to the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee. The Senate companion has already been favorably passed by the full Senate. NJPSA Supports this bill As Amended.
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. On deck – the Senate Education Committee is scheduled to meet next week. As always, we will keep you updated with all of the happenings under the Golden Dome.