The Assembly Education Committee, and more than a dozen other Legislative Committees, convened at the Statehouse to hear and move bills on Thursday, May 19th. Following are measures affecting New Jersey school districts that moved in Trenton this week.
Assembly Education Committee Meeting:
Eliminating edTPA to Help Increase Teacher Pipeline
S-896/A-677 would prohibit the State Board of Education from requiring the completion of a commissioner of education approved performance-based assessment (i.e., edTPA) as a requirement for teacher certification. It would remove this requirement for both the obtaining of a certificate of eligibility with advanced standing or a certificate of eligibility. Teaching candidates would have to complete a performance-based assessment approved by an educator preparation program. The Committee voted favorably to advance this bill, and it has been second referenced to the Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee. The Senate version of this bill has already been unanimously passed by the full Senate in March of this year. NJPSA testified in support of this measure.
Homeschoolers Participation in Extracurricular Activities
A-1041 would require school districts to allow home-schooled students to participate in any school-sponsored extracurricular activity including, but not limited to, clubs, musical ensembles, Statewide interscholastic sports programs, and theatrical productions in the student’s district of residence in accordance with the same criteria established for students enrolled in the district. Under the bill, a home-schooled student who wishes to participate in an extracurricular activity in his resident district must provide proof that he resides in the district; meet the eligibility and try out criteria for participation in the activity; and comply with all policies, rules, and regulations of the governing organization of the extracurricular activity. The Assembly Education Committee favorably released this bill by a vote of (6-1). NJPSA testified in opposition to this bill, and requested that this decision be left to local boards of education and principals.
Teacher Student Loan Redemption Program
A-1840 would establish the Grow Your Own Teacher Loan Redemption Program in the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA). The purpose of the program is to encourage students who graduated high school from a school district with a shortage of teachers to return to teach in that school district. Under the bill, HESAA will offer loan redemption up to $10,000 of principal and interest of eligible student loan expenses for each full year of employment by the program participant. The total loan redemption amount for a program participant, for five years of employment, is not to exceed $50,000. To be eligible to participate in the program, an applicant is required to: be a resident of the State and maintain domicile in the State during participation in the program; have previously graduated high school in a school district designated by the Department of Education as having a shortage of teachers during the year in which the applicant submits a program application to HESAA; have successfully completed an undergraduate or graduate program of study within a five-year period prior to applying for the program; be hired as a certified teacher by the school district with a shortage of teachers from which the applicant graduated high school; and have an outstanding balance on a State or federal student loan and not be in default on any loan. The committee favorably released this bill by a unanimous vote of (7-0). NJPSA testified in support of this measure.
Multimedia Advertising Campaign to Recruit New Teachers
A-3586 directs the NJDOE in consultation with the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, to establish a multimedia advertising campaign to attract candidates to the teaching profession. The campaign will use a combination of digital outlets, television, radio, print, and other media to promote the teaching profession as an engaging, dynamic, and rewarding career opportunity. The department would also be required to create targeted advertising to increase the recruitment of teachers from underrepresented racial groups and into high-demand fields. The bill is funded using ARP funds. A-3586 was released favorably by the Committee by a vote of (6-1). NJPSA testified in support of this measure.
Scholarship Program for NJ Educators
A-3681 creates a scholarship program to provide incentives for high-achieving students to pursue careers in education. Scholarships will be awarded by the department to 50 students enrolled in approved programs of study at an institution of higher education within the State. Each student will receive a tuition waiver for each semester of study and an annual stipend of $5,000 for four years of study or until the student receives a bachelor’s degree and completes an educator preparation program. Within the first five full years after graduation, the student is required to seek and accept full time employment as a teaching staff member with a public school district in the State for no less than three full school years, during which time they will receive mentoring to aid the student in furthering a career in education. The committee favorably released this bill by a unanimous vote of (7-0). NJPSA testified in support of this measure.
Transparency in Health and Sex Education Curriculum Act
A-3968 (Carter, Linda S.) would establish several requirements related to the adoption of curricula implementing the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education. The bill would require:
- boards of education and boards of trustees of charter schools and renaissance school projects to offer an annual opportunity for parents and guardians to provide comments on any curriculum necessary to implement the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education proposed for the succeeding school year. A board may satisfy this requirement with either a public meeting of the board or of the appropriate committee of the board.
- boards of education would be required to post, prior to the start of the new school year, in a prominent location on the board’s official website, information regarding:
- the board-approved curriculum for any instruction necessary to implement the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education;
- how a parent or guardian may provide public comment on any curriculum developed to implement the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education; and
- the statutory right of the parent or guardian to decline their child’s participation in any portion of the health, family life education, or sex education curriculum and the procedure for exercising that right.
- Finally, the bill charges the NJDOE with providing boards of education with learning standards support materials that suggest a variety of activities and strategies that may assist in the development of local curricula aligned with the New Jersey Student Learning Standards pursuant to the bill. Nothing in the bill would be construed to require a board of education or board of trustees of a charter school or renaissance school project to use learning standards support materials provided by the Department of Education.
This bill tracks the long-standing practice in our schools of making our health and physical education curriculum, including the area of sex education, available to parents for their review and consideration. NJPSA understands that most districts already post this curriculum on their websites. Teachers, supervisors and school principals are available to discuss, take questions/comments from parents, and work with them to alleviate any issues with this curriculum. If the parent wishes to opt their child out of the sex ed portion of the course, districts follow the law in place (N.J.S.A. 18A:35-4.7) since 1979 and allow them to do so. This has been the practice in our schools for a long time. We hope that this bill will help to promote a calm and meaningful discussion of any curriculum issues at the local level where instruction comes to life for students and their families. The bill was reported out of the Assembly Education Committee by a vote of 4-3. The bill is now on Second Reading in the General Assembly. The bill has previously been reported from the Senate Education Committee, and is also on Second Reading in the Senate. NJPSA testified in support of this legislation.
Assembly Higher Education Committee
Teacher Recruitment Grant Program
A-1287 establishes a competitive grant program in the Department of Education to provide funding to an organization that recruits, trains, and places new teachers in high poverty school districts. The selected organization would receive a grant equal to the amount of private contributions that the organization receives, not to exceed $2 million each year, for three years. For the purposes of the grant program, a high poverty school district is one in which at least 40 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. This bill was favorably released by the Committee (7-0). NJPSA is neutral on this legislation.
Assembly Appropriations Committee Meeting:
Public Awareness Campaign for School Meals
A-2365, requires the Department of Agriculture to start a public education campaign to educate parents and guardians of students about existing and expanding school meals program options in New Jersey. The Committee voted favorably to release this bill (9-1) with one member abstaining. This bill had a previous hearing in the Assembly Agriculture and Food Security Committee, and is now awaiting consideration by the full General Assembly. NJPSA supports this initiative.
“Working Class Families’ Anti-Hunger Act”
A-2368, would enable more working-class students to be eligible for the free breakfast and lunch option and create a pathway to a universal school meals program. Schools would be required to provide free school breakfasts and lunches free of charge to students from working class, middle-income families. The “Working Class Families’ Anti-Hunger Act” would help reach 26,463 families under the free lunch and breakfast program at a cost of approximately $19.2 million every year. The legislation would require the state to provide funding to each school district, as may be necessary to reimburse the costs associated with the district’s provision of free meals to middle-income students who are federally ineligible for such meals under the National School Lunch Program or federal School Breakfast Program. These reimbursement provisions are similar to current law, which provides that a student who is federally eligible for reduced price meals be not required to pay any cost for those meals, and that the State will reimburse schools for the difference between the federal allocation for reduced price meals and the total cost of the meals served to such students. The Committee voted to release this bill favorably by a vote of (10-0) with one abstention. This bill had a previous hearing in the Assembly Agriculture and Food Security Committee, and is now awaiting consideration by the full General Assembly. NJPSA supports this initiative.
Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee Meeting:
Purple Star Schools
A-3694 creates a Purple Star Schools Program in the Department of Education. Under the program, the Commissioner of Education will annually recognize as Purple Star Schools those public and nonpublic schools that provide for, or have made significant progress to respond to the educational and social-emotional challenges military-connected students encounter during the transition to a new school when the student’s parent or guardian is an active duty member of the United States Armed Forces and is relocated due to the active duty member’s continued military service. The bill was released favorably by the Committee by a vote of (5-0). NJPSA supports this initiative.
Assembly Women and Children Committee Meeting:
Student Mental Health Assistance Pilot Program
A-660 establishes a four-year pilot program in which the participating school districts will establish a mental health assistance program for students in grades kindergarten through 12. The purposes of the pilot program are to identify issues affecting student mental health and the possible impact of those issues on academic performance, and to provide intervention, support, and referral services in a confidential setting to help students who may be experiencing mental health difficulties. A school district that wants to participate in the pilot program will submit an application and proposal to the Commissioner of Education, and the commissioner will select up to 15 school districts for participation. The bill was released favorably by the Committee by a vote of (5-0). NJPSA supports this initiative.
Additional information about all legislation currently pending in Trenton may be found on the NJ Legislature’s website: https://www.njleg.state.nj.us. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss any of the bills that moved this week, please reach out to your NJPSA Government Relations team: Director Debbie Bradley firstname.lastname@example.org or Assistant Director Jennie Lamon email@example.com. As always, thank you for your advocacy and for all that you do.