Jennie Lamon, NJPSA Assistant Director of Government Relations
The Senate Education Committee met for the first time in the new 2024/2025 Legislature, and welcomed two new members to its ranks. Former Assemblywoman, now Senator Angela McKnight has joined the Senate Education Committee, as well as the new Senator from the 12th Legislative District (upon Senator Sam Thompson’s retirement), Senator Owen Henry. Senator Vin Gopal retains his position as Committee Chair, and Senator Shirley Turner remains Vice-Chair. Senator Kristin Corrado returns to the Committee for the new session.nn The Committee immediately got to work and advanced several bills on Thursday.
S-2082 establishes a 12-member task force that would be charged with examining the educator evaluation process, gathering data, evaluating the data, and making recommendations concerning the annual evaluation process for teachers, principals, assistant principals, and vice principals established pursuant to the “Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act.” The task force would study and evaluate the educator evaluation system established pursuant to the TEACHNJ Act, which was implemented in New Jersey public schools in 2012. The task force would take a fresh look at those systems, and consider the law in the current context of the State’s schools, identify areas for improvement, and make any recommendations on possible updates to the existing law. Significantly, the bill would provide that, in the 2024-2025 school year, most teachers would not collect new student growth objective (SGOs) data, and schools would instead use, for the purposes of educator evaluations, existing student growth objective data from the most recent year in which the educator completed student growth objectives. While the processes established under the TEACHNJ Act have been invaluable for supporting the teaching profession, the teacher evaluation process, and specifically the creation and use of SGOs, is incredibly time-intensive. This bill would force a new look at standards in use under the decade-old law, in order to ensure that the State’s teacher evaluation system most effectively utilizes school staff resources while maximizing the law’s benefits for teaching staff. The committee adopted a Senate Committee Substitute that incorporates amendments proposed by NJPSA and subsequently, favorably released the bill by a vote of 5-0.
S-2008 establishes a program that would provide for the redemption of a portion of a participant’s eligible student loan expenses for each year employed full-time in the school district from which the participant graduated, so long as the district has a shortage of teachers, as determined by the Department of Education. The goal of the program is to encourage students who have graduated from a school district with a shortage of teachers to return to that district to teach and hopefully be part of a continuing effort to address New Jersey’s teacher shortage. The redemption program would also be available to people who have lived within the district for at least 5 years, even if they didn’t graduate from the district.
The state’s Grow Your Own Teacher program would resemble other programs across the country, including a Newark partnership involving Montclair State University. The bill was released favorably by the Committee with a vote of 5-0, and has been second referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
The Senate Education Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senator Angela V. McKnight that would establish new State requirements on how to determine whether a student has a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) under the federal “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” (IDEA). The bill, S-1812, prohibits the use of a severe discrepancy between a student’s intellectual ability and achievement in determining whether a student has a specific learning disability, and requires the state to permit the use of other alternative research-based procedures.
Under the IDEA, there are three potential methods for school districts in identifying whether a student has a Specific Learning Disability: (1) Must not require the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement; (2) Must permit the use of a process based on the student’s response to scientific, research-based intervention; and (3) May permit the use of other alternative research-based procedures.
Current State Board of Education regulations only permit school districts to use the first two methodologies: (1) A severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability; and (2) use of a response to scientifically-based interventions and methodology. New regulations would provide that school districts use either a process based on a student’s response to scientific, research-based intervention or other alternative research-based methods.
The Committee adopted amendments proposed and supported by NJPSA, and then advanced in a 5-0 vote. The bill has been second-referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
Under the bill S-787, a choice district located in a city of the second class, which district has been directed by the New Jersey Supreme Court to engage in efforts to desegregate the student population, is responsible for providing transportation, including the organization of bus routes and bidding for transportation services, or aid-in-lieu-of transportation, to certain elementary and secondary school pupils to attend the choice district. Under the bill, the sending district is to receive State aid for transportation for those students transported to the choice district. The sending district is then to pay directly to the choice district the State aid for transportation, or aid-in-lieu-of amount, received by the sending district pursuant to the bill.
The bill also provides supplemental State aid for transportation for a choice district responsible for transporting students from a sending district pursuant to the provisions of the bill when the total costs of providing transportation from the sending districts to the choice district exceeds the amount of State aid for transportation the sending district receives pursuant to the bill. To be eligible to receive the supplemental State aid for transportation, the choice district is required to demonstrate to the commissioner that the bus routes utilize cost efficient methods. The choice district is to annually report to the Department of Education at the end of each school year the cost of providing transportation to students from a sending district that exceed the amount of funds the choice district receives from the sending district pursuant to the bill. The department is required to reimburse the choice district for the additional costs reported.
The Committee approved the bill by a vote of 4-0-1. The bill has been second referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
S-1410 would change how special education aid to school districts is calculated. Under the provisions of the “School Funding Reform Act of 2008,” P.L.2007, c.260 (C.18A:7F-43 et al.), the State provides special education aid to school districts using the census-based method. Under this method, districts receive funding for special education based on the assumption that a fixed percent of the total student population requires special education services, rather than using the actual number of special education students to determine the amount of State aid that school districts will receive. This bill would eliminate the use of the census-based methodology, and calculate State aid for special education based on the actual number of special education students included in the district’s resident enrollment. The Committee advanced the bill by a vote of 5-0. The bill has been second referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
State Board of Education Update
Also on Thursday, Governor Murphy renominated three candidates for the State Board of Education. The three names submitted by the Governor are: Claudine Keenan, of Galloway, to succeed Andrew Mulvihill, Serena Rice, of Skillman, to succeed Jack Fornaro, and James Williams, of Camden, to succeed Elaine Bobrove. The nominations have now been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where they await a hearing,
If you have questions about these, or any other bills that are pending, please reach out to your NJPSA Government Relations team at email@example.com. Thank you for your advocacy, and for all that you do. Wishing you a relaxing and enjoyable weekend.