Jennie Lamon, NJPSA Assistant Director of Government Relations
June has arrived and the school year is nearing an end. Meanwhile in Trenton, legislative activity, including budget negotiations, are ramping up. Historically, June is one of the busiest times in the NJ Legislature. The Senate Education Committee met on Thursday, June 2nd. Bills directing the DOE to develop a separate content area of Information Literacy in the NJSLS, establishing a new Department of Early Childhood, and helping to address staffing shortages in schools were among those considered by the Committee. NJPSA was present and testified on a number of measures.
NJPSA was also successful in securing important amendments to S-133, a bill that had previously been reported out of the Senate Education Committee in March. As originally drafted, the bill would have required boards of education to adopt policies for school bus drivers to administer epinephrine. NJPSA was able to work with the sponsor to amend the bill to permit, rather than require, a board of education to allow a school bus driver who volunteers to serve as a delegate, and has been properly trained, to administer epinephrine. The Senate issued a floor statement to S-133 upon passage of these important amendments on the Senate floor.
Senate Education Committee
Establishes “New Jersey Out-of-School Time Advisory Commission”
S-381 establishes a New Jersey Out-of-School Time Advisory Commission. Under the bill, the commission will consist of 20 members including a representative from the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association. The duties of the commission will be to assess the state of out-of-school time programs in New Jersey by reviewing the policies of all State agencies that fund before-school, after-school, or summer programs, as well as review existing research and best practices; adopt appropriate Statewide standards for out-of-school time program design, implementation, and assessment; examine the existing amount of funding available for out-of-school time programs and the source of the funding; and examine the development and operation of out-of-school time programs in urban, suburban, and rural school districts, and make recommendations to increase the accountability and quality of the before-school, after-school, and summer programs. The bill was unanimously approved by the committee (5-0-0). NJPSA supported this legislation.
Requires School Districts to Include Environmental Sustainability Plan in Long-Range Facilities Plan
S-434 would require school districts to include an environmental sustainability plan in their long-range facilities plan that is submitted to the Commissioner of Education every five years. The plan currently includes projected enrollment, building capacities, health and safety conditions, and any anticipated facilities projects in the district. Under the bill, the long-range facilities plan would be expanded to also include the environmental impact of district facilities and operations and goals for improving sustainability. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 3-1. NJPSA was neutral on this legislation.
Establishes Separate Content Area of Information Literacy in NJSLS
S-588 directs the DOE to develop New Jersey Student Learning Standards in a separate content area of Information Literacy. The content area of Information Literacy will shall include instruction on 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 source, the difference between facts, points of view, and opinions, the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and the ethical production of information. The bill also calls for 3 hearings to be held prior to adoption of the new standard in the northern, central and southern parts of the state. The Committee unanimously voted in support of this measure (5-0-0). NJPSA supported this bill, after successfully working with other education stakeholders to obtain important amendments that create a standard rather than requiring instruction about Information Literacy in the curriculum.
Establishes Program to Reimburse School Districts for Providing Menstrual Products
S-1221 requires that school districts ensure that students have direct access to menstrual products in every school with grades 6 through 12, or a combination of, in at least 50 percent of female school bathrooms, free of charge. This bill was added to the agenda just before the committee meeting as a clarification of an earlier version of the bill that would have required direct access to free feminine hygiene products in all school bathrooms. The committee voted in support of this measure (5-0-0).
Registration of International Student Exchange Visitor Placement Organizations
S-1975 requires that international student exchange visitor placement organizations register with the Commissioner of Education. Under the bill, to be eligible for registration, an international student exchange visitor placement organization must be in compliance with United States Department of State regulations on exchange visitor programs, or be certified by the Council of Standards for International Educational Travel and be listed on the council’s Advisory List of International Educational Travel and Exchange Programs; and present to the commissioner current credentials from the United States Department of State or the Council of Standards for International Educational Travel that attest to such compliance. The Commissioner of Education would annually create a list of all registered international student exchange visitor placement organizations and distribute the list to all school districts. The committee voted to release the bill by a unanimous vote of (5-0-0). NJPSA was neutral on this legislation.
Establishes Grow Your Own Loan Redemption Program
S-2350 establishes 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, will not 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 voted to release the bill by a unanimous vote of (5-0-0). NJPSA supported this legislation.
Makes certain changes to STEM educator grant programs
S-2563 This bill 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, nonpublic schools would submit the application unilaterally, and school districts would have the opportunity to object to the application after submission 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. This bill also defines the manner in which a teacher’s instructional hourly wage must be determined. Under the bill, the instructional hourly wage of an eligible teacher would be equal to the teacher’s salary for the previous school year, adjusted for inflation, divided by the product of 36 and the average number of weekly hours taught by the teacher in the prior school year. The committee voted to release the bill by a unanimous vote of (5-0-0). NJPSA was neutral on this legislation.
Permits candidates to submit affidavit to hiring school district while awaiting certification from DOE
S-2594 requires the State Board of Education to authorize an alternative means for teaching candidates to secure employment as a teacher with a school district while awaiting the issuance of a certificate of eligibility or certificate of eligibility with advanced standing from the Department of Education. The board would be required to allow a candidate for a certificate to submit to a hiring district a signed affidavit affirming that applicable certification requirements have been met as part of the candidate’s application for employment with the hiring district. A candidate who submits an affidavit pursuant to this bill would be required to provide accompanying documentation demonstrating that the candidate has applied for a certificate with the department. Within 90 days from the date an affidavit has been submitted to a hiring district, a candidate would be required to provide confirmation to the hiring district that a certificate has been issued by the department. A hiring district would be required to terminate a candidate who does not provide confirmation to the district that a certificate has been issued or has been found to have misrepresented information provided on the affidavit. NJPSA supported this legislation.
Establishes NJ Educator Scholarship Program
S-2661 establishes the New Jersey Educator Scholarship Program in the Department of Education. The purpose of the scholarship program is 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, whichever occurs first. 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 and the student will serve in employment 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 bill was unanimously approved by the committee (5-0-0). NJPSA supported this legislation.
Establishes Department of Early Childhood
S-2475 This bill establishes a new principal department within the Executive Branch, the Department of Early Childhood. The bill transfers the functions of the current Division of Early Childhood Education in the Department of Education to the Department of Early Childhood. In addition, the bill transfers to the new department:
all responsibilities of the Department of Education relating to students in grades preschool through three including, but not limited to, those parts of the following programs relating to this age group: teacher licensing; IDEA part B; Title I services; regional achievement centers; migrant and homeless education services; bilingual education services; parent training and information centers; and the New Jersey Council for Young Children;
all responsibilities of the Department of Human Services relating to children from pregnancy to age eight, including but not limited to, those parts of the following programs relating to this age group: subsidized child care programs and services; child care development block grants; wraparound care; New Jersey First Steps Infant Toddler Initiative; child care resource and referral agencies; childcare workforce registry; New Jersey School-Age child care; and New Jersey Inclusive Child Care;
all responsibilities of the Department of Children and Families relating to children from pregnancy to age eight including, but not limited to, those parts of the following programs relating to this age group: New Jersey Home Visitation Program; Help Me Grow Initiative; Project LAUNCH; New Jersey Strengthening Families Initiative; Project TEACH (Teen Education and Child Health); Parent Linking Program; and Family Success Centers; and
all responsibilities of the Department of Health relating to children from pregnancy to age eight, including but not limited to, those parts of the following programs relating to this age group: Improving Pregnancy Outcomes Program; New Jersey WIC Breastfeeding Services; services for perinatal mood disorders; home visitation programs; early intervention system under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); and NJ Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative Project (NJ ECELC). The bill also transfers all the functions of the Department of Children and Families regarding the licensing of child care centers and the registration of family child care providers to the new Department of Early Childhood. The committee passed the bill by a vote of (3-2-0). NJPSA testified seeking amendments. Read NJPSA’s testimony here.
As always, if you have questions about these, or any other legislative matters, please contact Director of Government Relations Debbie Bradley firstname.lastname@example.org or Assistant Director of Government Relations Jennie Lamon at email@example.com at any time. Thank you for your continued support and advocacy, and for all that you do.