State House Wrap Up – Week of June 26th – June 30th, 2023

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Jennie Lamon, NJPSA Assistant Director of Government Relations 


Marking the end of Fiscal Year 2023, the Legislature was in session this week to consider hundreds of measures, including the Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Act, which was passed by both Houses and sent to the Governor on Friday, June 30th.  Later that evening, Governor Phil Murphy signed the $54.3 Billion Budget into law, narrowly avoiding the constitutionally- imposed deadline by just a couple of hours. In addition to the Budget bill, the governor signed into law a number of education–related measures, and has several more on his desk, awaiting action. Your NJPSA Government Relations team has all of the latest updates about the whirlwind week under the golden dome, the details of the new budget, and an update on which NJPSA-tracked bills have had recent action, or have become new law. 


FY2024 Appropriations Act


The big news of the week was, of course, A-5669/S-2024 (now P.L. 2023, c. 74), the State Appropriations Act. The budget that Governor Murphy signed into law includes nearly all of the education programs the governor initially presented in his March budget address and funds a record $11 billion in direct K-12 aid for public schools. The budget that was signed  is $1.2 billion more than what Governor Murphy initially proposed to the Legislature. The budget “score sheet”, which can be seen here, details the changes made by the Legislature from the Governor’s initial proposal, and the “language changes” document (viewed here) provides a comprehensive summary of language provision changes compared to the governor’s proposed fiscal year 2024 budget.  


Following are the major investments this budget makes to New Jersey’s schools and students:

  • Full scheduled phase-in to full state aid school funding per S-2 (year six of seven)
  • Stabilization Aid: $20 million to be used to ease the transition to SFRA funding amounts
  • Preschool Expansion: $40 million to support new districts adopting high-quality preschool programs and to address workforce preparation and training and other ancillary needs related to preschool expansion
  • Teacher Recruitment and Retention: $20 million in new programs
  • $5 million to waive teacher certification fees for one year
  • $10 million for stipends for student teachers, an issue NJPSA promoted,
    • $3,000 for a student in an education preparation program that agrees to a full year of service as a student teacher
    • $2 million for Culture and Climate Innovation Grants.
  • Competitive grant to “develop innovations to provide mental health supports for staff and students, support  practices that improve morale through regular appreciation days, staff surveys, innovation hours, improvement of safety and climate of buildings for all in the education community, invest in facilities improvements to improve general working conditions”
  • $1 million for “Public Media Campaign” to help create a state-wide public awareness campaign regarding positive messaging surrounding the teaching profession as a life-long career
  • $1 million for paraprofessional training
  • $800,000 for a teacher apprenticeship program
  • $500,000 to expand the Teacher Leader Network
  • High Poverty School District Minority Teacher Recruitment Program ($750,000),
  • Men of Color Hope Achievers Program (“K-12 Education Workforce Diversity Programs” line item) ($550,000)
  • Heldrich Center for Workforce Development –Teacher Workforce Reporting ($350,000). (Implementing L.2021, c.394 workforce data collection requirements),
  • Over $30 million in funds for Tutoring and Literacy Professional Development,
  • $27 million in federal funds for the NJDOE’s High Impact Tutoring program,
  • $2 million RAPID program,
  • $3 million in federal funds for RAPID-Plus,
  • $420 million for Extraordinary Special Education Aid,
  • $5 million for Climate Change Education Grants to Schools,
  • $2 million for K-12 Computer Science Education Initiative,
  • $1 million for the expansion of AP and IB courses,
  • $500,000 for Innovation Dual Enrollment Pilot competitive grant program,
  • Maintains funding for current School Based Youth Services Program (SBYSP,)
  • $43 million to launch New Jersey Statewide Student Support Services (NJ4S),
  • $3 million for a community schools pilot program,
  • $2.5 million to continue Clayton Model Pilot Program,
  • Maintains funding for School-Based Mental Health Training Grant Program ($500,000),
  • $500,000 to continue the Restorative Justice in Education Program,
  • $75 million for capital maintenance and emergent needs in traditional districts (SDA and RODs), and
  • $20 million for capital maintenance and emergent needs in charter schools.


Other items of interest include:

  • Doubling of the Child Tax Credit,
  • $20.6 million for the Working Class Families Anti-Hunger Act,
  • Local Efficiency Achievement Program: $7.5 million,
  • School Regionalization Efficiency Program: $5 million,
  • A third consecutive full pension payment of over $7 billion, and
  • A surplus of $8.3 Billion. 


Just as the Legislature did not adopt the budget that was initially proposed to them by the Governor, the Governor did not sign the budget bill exactly as it was sent to him by the Legislature, exercising his executive authority of Line Item Veto (LIV).  Line item veto authority is the power of the NJ governor to veto individual components (or lines) of the budget bill passed by the state legislature. The Department of Education, however, fared well against the LIV. The appropriation of $28,000,000 for Union County Vocational Technical – Capital Improvements, Development, and Related Expenditures (PTRF) was the only reduction within the Department of Education, See the Governor’s entire LIV of the FY24 budget here and read his Veto message here


In addition to the state budget, the following education-related bills were newly signed into law by the governor.


A Bill that Expands the Scope of Permissible Uses of Sick Leave for School District Employees


 A-5060/S-3440 Expands the scope of school district employee sick leave


Governor Murphy hastily signed A-5060 into law on July 3, 2023. This new law expands the scope of allowable uses of sick leave for school district employees. NJPSA members weighed in heavily on this piece of legislation, and saw both positive and negative provisions in the proposal.   As a result, NJPSA asked the sponsors of the bill to slow the bill’s momentum, to provide necessary time to work on compromise language. Several partner education organizations (including the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, the New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials and the Garden State Coalition of Schools)  joined NJPSA in expressing concerns about the hasty consideration of the bill and particular language provisions of the bill. This legislation moved forward without even having had public testimony in the Senate!  The joint letter issued by the stakeholder groups can be found here.


Previously, school employees could only use their sick leave in connection with a personal disability due to an illness or injury, or if they or someone in their immediate household needed to quarantine due to a contagious illness. The new law expands the list of permissible uses for these employees.


Under the new law, school district employees may use sick leave for the following reasons:

  • To recover from a physical or mental illness, injury, or other health condition and/or take the time to have it diagnosed, treated, or cared for;
  • For preventative medical care;
  • To assist a member of their immediate family – including parents, spouses, siblings, and children – with the diagnosis, treatment, and/or care of a physical or mental illness, injury, or other health condition;
  • For circumstances related to domestic or sexual violence;
  • For the death of an immediate family member, for up to seven days;
  • To attend school-related conferences, meetings, functions, or other events for their child; and
  • In connection with a closure of the school or facility caring for their child.

NJPSA was not necessarily opposed to this bill, and in fact was generally supportive of the concept.  Allowing school district employees the time to care for their children and loved ones is the right thing to do. However, in this current climate of a staffing shortage in schools that is on the precipice of becoming an epidemic, we certainly hoped we could have some more time to work on a viable solution that would best work for educators and administrators alike.  


A Bill that Waives Teacher Certification Fees for One Year

A-5590/S-3941 (P.L.2023, c.70): Waives certain certification and credentialing fees for teachers for one year.  This new law requires the State Board of Examiners to temporarily waive various teacher certification fees from July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024. The fiscal year 2024 budget signed into law dedicates $5 million to implement the fee holiday. During this time, aspiring educators will be exempt from paying the typical fees associated with educator certification services, including application fees, renewal fees and related costs. 


On the Governor’s Desk


The following bills received final approval by the Legislature and were sent to the governor’s desk, where they await his action. 


A Bill Expanding Medicaid-Funded Health Services

A-3334/S-2416– This bill requires Medicaid reimbursement for covered behavioral health services provided by a local education agency to students who are an eligible Medicaid beneficiary.  The Office of Legislative Services estimates that this federal revenue maximization initiative will increase annual State revenue by $16.9 million to $23.6 million and annual school district revenue by $9.1 million to $12.7 million. The revenue growth represents additional federal Medicaid reimbursements under the Special Education Medicaid Initiative, New Jersey’s school-based Medicaid program. The revenues will be generated from the State’s newly authorized ability to claim as Medicaid expenses certain behavioral health services that school districts are already providing to Medicaid-eligible students without currently receiving a Medicaid reimbursement. The bill does not require school districts to provide any new services. As the universe of claimable Medicaid expenses expands, the State and school districts may incur additional annual expenditures to file and administer the additional claims. This bill has passed both Houses of the Legislature and is on the Governor’s desk, awaiting his action.  NJPSA Supports this bill. 


A Bill Establishing a Program in the NJDOE to Provide Access to Menstrual Products in School Bathrooms

A-1349/S-1221– This legislation established a program within the NJDOE to reimburse school districts for providing menstrual products in public schools educating students in grades six through twelve. Under the bill, school districts would be required to ensure that students in each school serving any of the grades 6-12 have direct access to menstrual products in at least half of female and gender-neutral school bathrooms (if applicable) free of charge. The bill mandates that the State of New Jersey will pay these costs. This bill has passed both Houses of the Legislature and is on the Governor’s desk, awaiting his action.  NJPSA Supports this funded legislation. 


A Bill Exempting Certain School Districts from State Aid Cuts 

A-5575/S-3950 would exempt from state aid reductions under the School Funding Reform Act, as amended by S-2, districts that meet the following conditions:


  • Regional school district consisting of at least five constituent school districts;
  • the district has mitigated the cost of regionalization, as determined by the New Jersey Department of Education; 
  • the district’s per-pupil administrative costs are 15% less than the statewide average for regional school districts; and
  • the district’s general fund tax levy has been increased by the maximum amount permitted by law in each of the last five school years. 


The bill further provides that if a district is exempt from a state aid reduction per these criteria, the district must provide courtesy busing if the district was providing courtesy busing in the previous school year. According to a fiscal estimate produced by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, currently Freehold Regional School District is the only school district that would qualify for the exemption. This bill has passed both Houses of the Legislature and is on the Governor’s desk, awaiting his action. NJPSA was Neutral on this legislation.


A Bill Establishing the NJ Educator Scholarship Program

A-3681/S-2661 would establish the NJ Educator Scholarship program and appropriates $3 million dollars. The program would award 200 scholarships annually (50 for eligible recipients in each freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years of college) to college students who, within five years of graduating and completing an educator preparation program, accept full-time employment as a teacher in a New Jersey public school for at least three full school years. NJPSA Supports this legislation.


A Bill Extending the  Service Life of School Buses 

A-5329/S-3734 would extend the useful service life of certain school buses to 20 years and provide a temporary one-year extension of service life of Type S school buses. The bill would extend the service life of most school buses from 15 years to 20 years, while specifying that it does not “allow the use of any school bus for pupil transportation purposes if that school bus is determined to be unsafe or unfit for pupil transportation.” The bill also permits the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to extend the retirement date of a “Type S” school bus provided that passes an additional inspection that is consistent with the procedures of the enhanced safety inspection program.  NJPSA Supports this legislation.


Passed Senate Only:


The following bills have been fully passed by the Senate, however, they await action by the General Assembly before they can advance any further.


A Bill that Would Establish Emergency Teacher Certification 

S-3814/A-5520 This legislation establishes an emergency teacher certification in high need fields.  Under the bill a superintendent may apply to the executive county superintendent or Commissioner of Education for an emergency instructional certificate in high need fields including bilingual/bicultural education and special education if the superintendent can demonstrate the inability to locate a suitable certified candidate.  The teacher candidate must be enrolled in an educator preparation program, have a bachelor’s degree, and have passed the applicable subject matter test of content knowledge in the area the emergency instructional certificate is sought.  If an emergency certificate is granted, it can be renewed up to two times.  The candidate must stay within the district under this emergency certificate and can be employed on a full-time or part-time basis.   The bill caps the number of emergency certificates a district may seek to 20% of the district’s teaching population.  NJPSA supports this legislation. 


A Bill Establishing a Community Schools Pilot Program

S-2771 would establish a five-year “Community Schools Pilot Program.”  A community school is defined as “a public school that participates in a community-based effort to coordinate and integrate educational, developmental, family, health and other comprehensive services through community-based organizations and public and private partnerships, providing access to these services to students, families, and the community year-round. The purpose of the pilot program would be to facilitate an establishment of a community that demonstrates a commitment to the four pillars of: integrated student supports; expanded learning time and opportunities; family and community engagement; and collaborative leadership and practice. 


The commissioner of education will identify an institution of higher education or a qualified nonprofit organization that has demonstrated a commitment to facilitating high-quality community schools in New Jersey to manage the pilot program. Under the program, any school district, renaissance school, or charter school would be able to receive training and ongoing support regarding the establishment and operation of a community school, and one public school in each county would be assigned a site coordinator to assist in the establishment and operations of a community school. The bill’s Assembly counterpart, A-1168, has received committee approval but still awaits a floor vote.  NJPSA Supports this legislation. 


A Bill Revising the NJCLASS Teacher Loan Redemption Program

S-3887, one of the Legislature’s initiatives aimed at addressing the teacher shortage, would expand the NJCLASS Teacher Loan Redemption Program to include teachers from all subject areas with any kind of student loan. The program would be broken up into a three-tier system, in which all recipients would receive loan forgiveness for up to four years of service. The highest tier would provide up to $5,000 a year for teachers working in a high-need field in a low performing school. Tier two would provide up to $3,750 a year for those working in a high-need field, but not a low performing school. Tier three would include any teacher with student loans and provide up to $2,500 a year in loan forgiveness. NJPSA supports this legislation. 


Passed General Assembly Only: 


The following bills have passed the full General Assembly and will now head to the Senate for further consideration:


A Bill that Would Require High School Students to Complete Financial Aid Applications


A-1181 requires the State Board of Education to require every local school board to adopt a policy that “requires that local graduation requirements include the requirement that a student and the student’s parent or guardian, if applicable, complete and submit a financial aid application in a form prescribed by the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESSA), as a prerequisite to the student receiving a high school diploma.”   This requirement would begin with the Class of 2024 and apply to the Class of 2025 and 2026, effectively creating a three- year pilot program. 


A student shall be exempt from the requirement if the student or his/her parents/guardians submit a waiver form signed by the parent or 18-year-old student.  Additionally, school counselors may authorize the waiver under the bill if a waiver from the parent or guardian “cannot be reasonably obtained.  NJPSA was able to obtain amendments that clarify the role of the school counselor and shield them and all school employees from liability in connection to this requirement.  Specifically, the bill states that nothing in this law shall be construed as requiring school counselors or any other school employee to assist students in completing the financial aid application.  The bill further states that no private cause of action shall exist against the school district or State.  


The bill contains conflicting language.  On the one hand, it clearly requires every high school senior to meet this filing requirement to receive a diploma (FAFSA or waiver).  On the other, the bill states that “No adverse action shall be taken by a board of education against any student who is exempted from the requirement to complete and submit a financial aid application” pursuant to this legislation.  NJPSA and other statewide education associations have pointed out this inconsistent language and seek clarity within the bill. 


HESSA and the NJDOE must provide resources for school districts, parents, and students that include instructions on how to complete the financial aid application, which must include webinars, presentations, guidance documents and a list of available State and federal resources.  The Executive Director of HESSA must make these resources directly available to school counselors and school employees who must share this information with students and parents.  Each school district must annually provide notice of this requirement to students and parents. 


NJPSA raised significant concerns with this legislation and is still seeking to work with the bill sponsor to address them.  We understand that the legislation is well-intended with a goal of making more students aware of potential resources available to them as they consider their future plans following high school.  However, we have concerns with the bill’s impact on students. NJPSA objected to the creation of a nonacademic graduation requirement for students which is based upon the action or inaction of their parents and is outside student control. Many students may have alternate plans than attending college or post-secondary education following their graduation, such as students beginning employment or joining the military.  NJPSA expressed concerns about the message this requirement is sending those students.  Additionally, we raised concerns about the negative stressors this requirement may place on students, such as undocumented students, students whose parents refuse to file this paperwork, students whose parents have language barriers, and homeless students.  NJPSA continues to have significant concerns about this bill as it is currently drafted. 


A Bill that Would Establish Nonpublic School Transportation Consortiums

S-3850/A-5412 seeks to establish a nonpublic school transportation program to provide funding to consortiums of nonpublic schools that will assume responsibility for mandated nonpublic school busing.  NJPSA was neutral on this legislation. 


A Bill that Would Establish the “Male Teachers of Color Mentorship Pilot Program;” A-3945 would establish a three-year “Male Teachers of Color Mentorship Pilot Program” and appropriate $50,000. Under the program, the New Jersey commissioner of education would select 10 male students of color from state public higher education institutions to work with 10 male teachers of color from participating schools. In that way, each student would be paired with a current teacher who would serve as the student’s mentor through the candidate’s last year of his educator preparation program and the first two years of the student’s teaching career. The teacher will receive a stipend of $5,000, funded by the state, for each year of participation in the program.  NJPSA supports this legislation.


A Bill that Would Eliminate the High School Exit Exam

A-4639 would eliminate the high school graduation proficiency test, which is required under current law to be taken in the 11th grade. Specifically, the bill would prohibit the State Board of Education from requiring “as part of the standards from graduation from secondary school … that any secondary school pupil achieve a satisfactory performance on any Statewide proficiency test.” The bill would also allow adults and out-of-school youth that have not previously been granted a diploma, but met all other high school graduation requirements, to apply for a state-endorsed diploma. NJPSA supports this legislation.


A Bill that Would Expand Access to Free School Meals

A-5684 would require that certain nonpublic schools provide meals to all students under the “Working Class Families Anti-Hunger Act” and authorizes a limited expansion of income eligibility to qualify public and nonpublic school students for free lunch. This bill requires school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program to provide free lunch, during the 2024-2025 school year, to students who are federally eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch, as well as to students who are federally ineligible for free or reduced-price meals, but who have an annual household income less than 250% of the federal poverty level. Through the recent enactment of the “Working Class Families’ Anti-Hunger Act,” the state has provided for the expanded provision of free school lunches and breakfasts to students from certain middle-income families (families having an annual household income of up to 199% of the federal poverty level). That law goes into effect in the 2023-2024 school year. A-5684 would make those expansions in eligibility for free lunch – to 200% and then to 250% of the federal poverty level – temporary and require the state to form a “Working Group on School Food Security” to, among other charges, develop best practices to promote the expanded provision of free school meals. NJPSA supports this legislation


As they say in show business, that’s a wrap, folks.  With the exception of the handful of bills remaining on the Governor’s desk, it is unlikely that we will see much legislative action over the next two to three months.  If there is any breaking Trenton news, you can rest assured that your NJPSA Government Relations team will report it out to you! If you do have any questions, or would like additional information about the legislation mentioned today, or any other bill or regulatory matter, please do not hesitate to contact Debbie Bradley, NJPSA Director of Government Relations (, or Jennie Lamon, NJPSA Assistant Director of Government Relations ( at any time. We are always here to help you.  


In the meantime, we wish you a peaceful and relaxing summer break.  We hope that you are able to unplug, recharge, and focus on yourselves (for a change!) Thank you for your support and advocacy this year, and for ALL that you do as a school leader.