This week was another busy, and interesting, week in Trenton. The Assembly Education Committee heard from invited guests on the issue of interrupted learning. The Joint Committee on the Public Schools hosted a hearing on the Department of Children and Families’ proposal to dismantle the School Based Youth Services Program and replace it with the “School-Linked Statewide Network”. The full Senate and several Assembly committees convened to consider and approve bills that would impact K-12 education. Governor Murphy took action on legislation. NJPSA submitted written comments to the NJ Department of Children and Families on their proposal to establish the NJ Statewide Student Support Service Network (nj4s) in place of the existing School Based Youth Services Program (SBYSP). NJPSA urged DCF to preserve the SCYSP, while increasing investments in programs and services that will enhance and further support student mental health. Finally, NJPSA submitted written comments and made recommendations to the State Board of Education on their proposed changes to Chapter 9, 9A, 9B and 9C State Board of Examiners and Certification, Professional Development, Professional Standards, and Educator Prep Programs. Your NJPSA Government Relations staff was there for all of it! On deck coming up next week, the Assembly has a voting session and the Senate Education committee will meet. Read all about what is moving and shaking under the Golden Dome here.
Assembly Education Committee – Monday, October 17, 2022
The Assembly Education Committee hosted a hearing on the issue of interrupted learning as a result of COVID-19. About a dozen education experts were invited by the Committee to provide testimony on what Chairwoman Pamala Lampitt called “ a boots on the ground” perspective about learning loss, learning acceleration, and what schools need from the state to address the pandemic’s harm to students. NJPSA member and Hamilton Township School District Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Anthony Scotto provided compelling testimony about what schools are doing including small group, one-on-one, virtual, and in-person learning acceleration before, during, and after the school day. Dr .Scotto also compared test results to “blood work”, which tells a doctor if a patient is heading in the right direction to fight disease or needs to adjust medication – an analogy that the committee members appreciated!
The committee also had one bill on the agenda. A-4496 was discussed, but not voted on. This bill, sponsored by the Speaker of the General Assembly, would make various revisions to school facility project processes and to the operations of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority. NJPSA is monitoring this legislation. The NJPSA Legislative Committee has begun a review of the bill and have expressed concerns including the requirement hat all school facilities projects in SDA districts would be subject to prior authorization by the Legislature. Specifically, the SDA would be prohibited from expending any monies or undertaking any activities, except for site identification and investigation, related to the construction of the project until the Legislature has authorized the project. Additionally, the SDA district will not apply to the NJDOE for project approval until the Legislature has authorized the project. Another concern raised was the requirement that SDA update its Statewide Strategic Plan to include a description of each project, the total estimated costs of each project and the number of full-time equivalent staff needed to support each project. In addition, the bill requires this plan to prioritize: (1) new construction projects; (2) projects located on land owned by the SDA district or other public entities; and (3) projects needed to replace school buildings that have been in use for 50 or more years.
Joint Committee on the Public Schools – Wednesday, October 19, 2022
In response to pushback from the education community about the NJ Department and Children Families recently released proposal to replace a popular school-based youth services program with one that operates using regional hubs, the Joint Committee on the Public Schools convened on Wednesday to hear testimony from invited guests. NJ DCF Commissioner Christine Beyer testified first, stating that the new network will be wider-reaching, offer more standardized care to more students and concentrate resources in the highest-need districts. But some local superintendents and school employees who have run school-based mental health programs in their buildings for years say they weren’t consulted when the NJ4S system was being drawn up and the loss of funding for their current programs will devastate thousands of students. Superintendents, a former commissioner, advocates, SBYS program administrators, a parent and student all testified. Additionally, there were at least eleven legislators on the virtual meeting and every one spoke in opposition to the plan if it meant defunding the current program. Assemblywoman Mila Jasey has introduced A-4808, a bill that would require the DCF to administer school-based youth services program as currently established.
Assembly Labor Committee – Monday, October 17, 2022
The Assembly Labor Committee cleared A-2494 on Monday, a bill to boost workforce development and make apprenticeship programs more accessible for students earning less than the state’s median income. Under the bill, colleges and schools offering the classroom component of a registered apprenticeship would waive the tuition for students who earn less than the median state income (currently $89,296) and who don’t have those costs covered by an employer or financial aid. Students would also have to maintain satisfactory academic progress. The United States Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship reported 8,583 active apprentices enrolled across 936 different apprenticeship programs in New Jersey in 2020. The bill was passed (9-0), and has now been referred to the Assembly Higher Education Committee. The Senate Labor Committee passed the bill (S-532) in March.
The Assembly Labor Committee also advanced A-3586, a bill that would require the NJDOE, in consultation with the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, to establish a multimedia advertising campaign to attract candidates to the teacher and education support professions. The campaign would emphasize recruitment from underrepresented racial groups and into high-demand fields. The bill now awaits further action in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. NJPSA supports the bill.
Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee – Monday, October 17, 2022
The Military and Veterans Affairs committee on Monday favorably released A-292, a bill that would require the NJ Department of Education to indicate public school students in military families in its student database. Teachers must also be notified if military-connected students are in their classes. The state Department of Education already maintains a student-level database. This bill would require the department to indicate in that database which students belong to families with at least one parent or guardian in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard or Reserves. The Department would report annually on those students’ academic engagement, attendance rates, performance on the State assessments, high school graduation rates, and post-secondary plans. Those records must remain confidential consistent with federal regulations. There are nearly 20,000 children in New Jersey whose parents or guardians are active military, National Guardsmen or Reservists. The bill was passed by a vote of (5-0), and has not been referred to the Assembly Education Committee. The Senate Education Committee unanimously cleared its bill (S-87), back in June. NJPSA Supports this bill.
Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee – Monday, October 17, 2022
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. In a previous session, this bill was amended with NJPSA initiated language 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 Senate companion has already been favorably passed by the full Senate. NJPSA Supports this bill As Amended.
Assembly Appropriations Committee – Thursday, October 20, 2022
A-2131/S-2912 provides that one or more police officers may be present at a senior residential center being used as a polling place or school if there is a request by the center or school. The bill specifies that the officers must be in plain clothes. Under current law, police officers are permitted to be present at a senior residential center being used as a polling place. The provision of current law that prohibits any such officer from interfering with any person present at the location for the purpose of voting will remain in place. The bill also requires the center notify the district board if the center requests a police officer, the district board then will notify the county board of elections or superintendent of elections who will notify the Secretary of State. The bill requires the Secretary of the Department of Education and the Secretary of State to notify schools of the new mandate as soon as the bill becomes law. This bill was favorably released from committee and is now on Second Reading. NJPSA is monitoring this bill.
Senate Voting Session- Monday, October 17, 2022
The full Senate voted to accept the Governor’s recommendations on S-896, a bill commonly referred to as the “edTPA bill”, Governor Murphy issued his conditional veto on this bill in September. The Senate needs to vote once more on the bill, then forward it to the Assembly for approval before it can go back to the governor’s desk, and become law. NJPSA supports this bill.
The Senate unanimously passed S-528, a bill requiring a school employee or an employee of a contracted service provider who has regular and direct contact with students, as determined by the board of education, to complete a one-time training program in suicide prevention, awareness, and response developed or identified by the Department of Education. Teaching staff members already subject to the requirements of this section and not including licensed mental health care professionals are not included in this bill’s requirements., A person subject to the requirements of this subsection shall complete the required training program not less than 12 months from the date of the identification by the department of training programs or 12 months from the person’s date of hire, whichever occurs later. NJPSA and other education stakeholder groups were able to secure important amendments to this bill back in the Spring including:
- exclude licensed mental health care professionals from the list of school employees and contracted service providers required to receive training on suicide prevention;
- specify that the Department of Education, in consultation with various other agencies, is only responsible for identifying suicide prevention training programs. In its original form, the department was also required to develop such programs;
- eliminate the provisions of the bill requiring the department to develop an educational fact sheet on suicide prevention;
- require that the suicide prevention training be completed not less than 12 months following the date of the identification by the department of the training programs or not less than 12 months from the date that an employee is hired;
- specify that all personnel required to complete the suicide prevention training have a duty to warn and protect when: a student has communicated to that person a clearly identifiable threat of imminent, serious physical violence against oneself and the circumstances are such that a reasonable person would believe the student intended to carry out the threat; or the circumstances are such that a reasonable person would believe the student intended to carry out an act of imminent, serious physical violence against oneself; and
- specify that a person acting in good faith and who takes reasonable steps to discharge a duty to warn and protect is immune from civil and criminal liability.
The Senate approved S-715, legislation that would study the effects of smart phones on students. The bill would establish the Commission on the Effects of Smart Phone and Social Media Usage on Adolescents. The purpose of the commission would be to study the extent of smart phone and social media usage in public schools, and to determine the effects it has on students’ physical and emotional health and academic performance. The bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of (37-0) and has been referred to Assembly Women and Children Committee. NJPSA took No Position on this Bill.
S-2268, which would require the Department of Education to quantify the impact remote instruction has had on students around the state, was unanimously passed by the Senate on Monday. The bill would require the DOE to compile a learning loss report that identifies and quantifies the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student academic outcomes. The report would provide analysis broken down by various factors including, district size, grade and subject areas as well as students’ race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, ability or disability and English language proficiency. The bill would also require a complete report on schools’ operation from mid-March 2020 until the bill’s effective date outlining instruction formats, student and teacher access to technology, attendance rates and policies, and social-emotional supports provided, as well as other relevant data and information surrounding the student success. Under the bill, the academic report would be due May 2023 and the complete report would be due the following September. The bill has now been received in the Assembly,and referred to the Assembly Education Committee.
S-2426 would amend existing law that requires districts to share “blueprints and maps” with local law enforcement to instead require sharing of the following mapping data: aerial images of schools, floor plans, including room and suite numbers, building access points, locations of hazardous materials and utility shutoffs, and any other relevant location information. The bill specifies that these requirements would apply to traditional school districts as well as charter and renaissance schools. The bill would require that the above information shared by districts be compatible with all platforms and applications used by law enforcement, be verified for accuracy through an annual walkthrough of school buildings and school grounds and be provided in a printable format. Earlier in the legislative process, NJPSA testified along other education stakeholders in support of this bill, but seeking a funding mechanism to support districts’ implementation. The governor established such a funding mechanism Aug. 30, 2022, announcing the investment of $6.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds to enable the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and the New Jersey State Police to contract with an outside vendor to assist with mapping schools. With funding in place, NJPSA supports the bill. Its Assembly counterpart, A-3835, has cleared committee and now awaits a final vote on the Assembly floor.
S-2563 would modify the application process for the Teach STEM Classes in Nonpublic Schools program initially established by law in 2019. The program provides additional remuneration for public school teachers to teach STEM classes in nonpublic school settings during hours agreed upon by the teacher, their district and the nonpublic school. Under current law, a nonpublic school’s application to participate in the program must include acknowledgment from both the nonpublic school and the school district of the teacher’s schedule for providing STEM instruction at the nonpublic school. The bill would modify that process to allow a nonpublic school to apply to the program unilaterally. Following the nonpublic school’s notification to the school district that a teacher plans to participate in the program, the school district would have 10 business days to submit a “valid objection” to the commissioner of education. The bill also specifies how a participating teacher’s hourly wage would be determined. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.
S-1975 would require organizations that place international student exchange visitors in New Jersey public schools to register with the commissioner of education. The bill specifies criteria that such organizations must meet to be eligible for registration, such as compliance with U.S. Department of State regulations on exchange visitor programs or other bodies that oversee such programs. The bill would require the NJDOE to annually create and distribute to school districts a list of all registered organizations.
On Friday, October 21st, Governor Murphy signed A-3149, a bill that changes the entity responsible for management of NJ School of Conservation to nonprofit organization, and directs DOE to request funding for center annually, into law.
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.