The Senate Education Committee met this week to advance various measures impacting public education and the General Assembly held a voting session. We’ve got the latest updates of what happened under the Golden Dome this week.
Senate Education Committee
The Senate Education Committee met on Thursday, October 27th and unanimously advanced the following six bills.
S-2659 would set up a Train the Trainer Program for student well-being within the Department of Education and appropriate $1 million from the general fund to carry out the bill’s stated purposes passed out of the Senate Education Committee. As defined by the bill, the new program’s purpose would be to educate participants on how to effectively lead a course for public school teachers and staff on the topic of student behavioral and mental health. Participants would be provided with the knowledge and resources needed to lead a training course on methods that promote student behavioral and mental health in the school and classroom environments. The program would be designed to provide evidence-based instruction on, and prepare a participant to lead, a student behavioral and mental health training course in a public school that covers, among other areas: trauma-informed approaches to improve overall school climate and culture; the signs of behavioral and mental health challenges and substance use disorders that may be experienced by students; restorative practices for addressing youth behavioral and mental health challenges. The bill appropriates from the General Fund to the Department of Education the sum of $1,000,000 for the purpose of effectuating the bill’s provisions. The bill was released from the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 5-0, and has now been referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. NJPSA Supports this bill.
S-2764 establishes the “VETeach Pilot Program” in the Department of Education. The purpose of the pilot program is to address the shortage of certified public school teachers by taking advantage of the qualified workforce represented by the State’s veterans. Under the pilot program, Rowan University will enroll, in a 36-month teacher preparation program, veterans who served in the armed forces on or after September 11, 2001. The program will lead to a baccalaureate degree and completion of the requirements necessary to apply to the State Board of Examiners for a certificate of eligibility with advanced standing, which will authorize the veteran to seek employment as a teacher in grades kindergarten through eight, and in certain secondary education fields. The “VETeach Pilot Program” will provide veterans with a path to education and employment. Veterans will be able to obtain higher education and employment opportunities, while filling a critical shortage in the teaching profession. The program may also serve to attract a greater number of men and minorities, groups which are currently underrepresented in the teaching profession. The bill was released from the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 5-0, and has now been referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. NJPSA Supports this bill.
S-3079 establishes the School Safety and Security Task Force. The purpose of the task force is to study and develop recommendations to improve school safety and security, and to ensure a safe learning environment for students and employees. The committee amended the bill to expand the task force membership from 11 members to 15 members. The committee also amended the bill to direct the task force to consider strategies for ensuring that the needs of students with disabilities are reflected in all areas of emergency planning and response measures. NJPSA will be one of the representatives on the Task Force. The issues studied by the task force include: (1) placing screening systems at school entrances; (2) stationing school resource officers in each school building; (3) improving response times to emergency situations, including lockdowns, active shooter, and bomb threats; (4) requiring advanced student and visitor identification cards; (5) using biometric, retina, or other advanced recognition systems for authorized entrance into school buildings; (6) the effectiveness of installing panic alarms in school buildings to alert local law enforcement authorities to emergency situations, required under “Alyssa’s Law”; (7) scheduling periodic patrols of school buildings and grounds by local law enforcement officers; (8) hardening the school perimeter and building entryways; and (9) considering strategies to ensure the needs of students with disabilities are reflected in all areas of emergency planning and response measures. The bill was released from the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 5-0, and is now on Second Reading. NJPSA Supported this bill.
As amended, S-3089 would permit a board of education or board of school estimate, as appropriate, of a school district that received unanticipated State military impact aid revenue in the 2021-2022 school year to establish a State military impact aid reserve account. A board may appropriate the unanticipated State military impact aid revenue to establish the reserve account in the district’s annual budget, or through transfer by a two-thirds affirmative vote of the authorized membership of the board, for withdrawal in any subsequent school year. Any transfer to the reserve account would not exceed the total amount of unanticipated State military impact aid revenue. The board, at its discretion, may use the funds in the reserve account for general fund expenses. The bill requires the reserve account to be established and held in accordance with GAAP and provides that the account would be subject to annual audit. This bill would apply to school districts that received State aid pursuant to P.L.2022, c.19, which provided a fiscal year 2022 supplemental appropriation of over $1.1 million for State military impact aid. The bill was released from the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 5-0, and is now on Second Reading. NJPSA Supported this bill.
S-3172 requires the State Board of Education to authorize a route to teacher certification for candidates who possess a Montessori teaching credential. To be eligible for this route to teacher certification, a candidate must, at minimum: (1) hold a Montessori teaching credential issued by the American Montessori Society, the Association Montessori Internationale, or an institution accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education; (2) hold a bachelor’s degree in any field from an accredited institution of higher education; and (3) meet the applicable test requirements for a certificate of eligibility. Candidates who meet the requirements for eligibility set forth in this bill will not be required to complete a State approved educator preparation program prior to certification. Also under the bill, upon completion of the certification requirements, a candidate will be issued a certificate of eligibility by the Board of Examiners. This bill defines “certificate of eligibility” as a certificate with lifetime validity issued by the State Board of Examiners to candidates who meet degree, academic, and applicable test requirements for teacher certification. The bill was released from the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 5-0, and has been placed on Second Reading. NJPSA Testified With Concerns on this bill. The Sponsor has pledged additional meetings with the education stakeholder groups before this bill has any further action.
S-2657 This bill permanently extends the deadline for the completion of a school district’s annual audit until the January 31 next following the end of the school fiscal year and its submission to the Commissioner of Education until the February 5 next following the end of the school fiscal year. Under current law, the board of education of every school district is required to have an annual audit of the school district’s accounts and financial transactions completed not later than five months after the end of the school year. A report of the annual audit is filed by the accountant with the board of education, and within five days thereafter, with the commissioner. This bill extends each of those deadlines. The bill was released from the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 5-0, and is now on Second Reading. NJPSA is Neutral on this bill.
The Senate Education Committee also discussed – but did not vote on – a bill that would establish a High Efficiency Accelerated Learning Grant Program and Tutoring Advisory Commission. This bill was considered “for Discussion only”. S-3220 would establish the High Efficiency Accelerated Learning Grant Program to provide high-impact tutoring opportunities to students in the State in order to mitigate the effect of learning loss or interrupted learning as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The bill would also establish the Tutoring Advisory Commission, which would oversee and evaluate the grant program. The High Efficiency Accelerated Learning Grant Program would support local education providers, defined as a public school district, charter school or renaissance school project, or a partnership between a public school district, charter school or renaissance school project and one or more public school districts, charter schools, renaissance school projects, or nonpublic schools, in creating and implementing high-impact tutoring programs. Each tutoring program would be required to meet certain minimum criteria, that NJPSA is concerned may be overly prescriptive. NJPSA has expressed concerns and offered recommendations on this bill.
Senate Transportation Committee
NJPSA also took a position on one bill that was heard by the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday, October 27th.
S-3203 permits the holder of a Type S school bus certificate to operate a Type S school bus to transport children to and from school without obtaining a commercial driver license, passenger endorsement, or school bus endorsement. A person is required to meet certain requirements described in the bill to be eligible for a Type S school bus certificate. Such drivers are subject to certain provisions of law applicable to school bus drivers as enumerated in the bill. A “Type S school bus” is defined in the bill to mean a motor vehicle that: (1) is operated by, or under contract with, a public school, nonpublic school, charter school, renaissance school, or approved private school for students with disabilities for the transportation of students to and from school for secular or religious education and for school-related activities; and (2) has a gross vehicle weight rating of 3,000 pounds or more, which vehicle was originally designed by the manufacturer with a maximum seating capacity of nine passengers or less, excluding the driver. The bill was released from the Senate Transportation Committee by a vote of 5-0, and is now on Second Reading. NJPSA Supports this bill.
Assembly Voting Session
The General Assembly met on Thursday October 27th and voted favorably on the following measures.
S-2912/A-2131 Provides police officers may be present at senior residential center or school being used as polling place under certain circumstances; requires school to establish election day security plan. Even though there was a lengthy flood debate on this bill, it ultimately was passed unanimously 73-0-0. NJPSA is Neutral on this bill.
S-2426/A-3835 Requires public schools and nonpublic schools to submit critical incident mapping data to local law enforcement. This bill has now been passed by both Houses and is headed to the Governor for his consideration. NJPSA Supports this bill after ensuring funding source.
S-588/A-4169 Directs DOE to develop New Jersey Student Learning Standards in information literacy. The Assembly passed this bill by a vote of (61-8-4). NJPSA Supports this bill after securing amendments earlier in the legislative process.
If you have questions about these, or any other legislative measures, please reach out to your NJPSA Government Relations team, Debbie Bradley, Director, firstname.lastname@example.org or Jennie Lamon, Assistant Director, email@example.com.