State House Wrap Up  – Week of September 26th, 2022

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Thursday was a full day in Trenton this week.  The Senate Education Committee met to consider pending legislation impacting students and schools in New Jersey.  Bills that would require parental notification when seclusion technique is utilized on a student with disabilities,  expanding school performance reports to include information about “placement” of graduates, mandating instruction on menstrual toxic shock syndrome, and requiring school districts to provide a majority of preschool pupil placements at licensed child care provider programs were among those considered by the committee.  The full Senate also convened for a voting session.  They were set to take up Governor Murphy’s Conditional Veto of S-896, the bill that would prohibit the State Board of Education from requiring completion of performance-based assessment as a condition of eligibility for certificate of eligibility with advanced standing or certificate of eligibility. However, surprising the education community, the bill was removed from the Board List before the session began.  Also on Thursday, Governor Murphy announced his nominations of Mary Bennett, Dr. Kwanghee Jung, and Dr. Claudine Keenan to the New Jersey State Board of Education to replace board members Mary Elizabeth Gazi and Mary Beth Berry, as well as board Vice President Andrew Mulvihill.

Mary Bennett has served as an Educational Consultant for the Seton Hall University Academy for Urban Transformation since 2007. In her capacity as an Educational Consultant, Bennett works to further the mission of the Academy by sharing expertise and experience to serve the urban school community. Bennett also serves as a University Instructor and Education Mentor at Montclair State University since 2005, where she designs curricula for pre-service teachers progressing from learning theory to fieldwork observation through the completion of student teaching. As an Education Mentor, she provides guidance on classroom pedagogy, classroom management, school community engagement, and professional education conduct. Bennett also led Project GRAD as Executive Director from 2001-2013. Bennett has experience as a High School Principal, Program Director for the Newark Board of Education, High School Vice Principal, and English Language Arts Teacher. Bennett earned her B.A. from Douglass College and M.A. in Curriculum Development from Rutgers University. Bennett also attended Seton Hall University for Administrative Credentialing. Bennett resides in Irvington, New Jersey.

Dr. Kwanghee Jung is the Associate Director for Data Management and Statistics at the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University, a role she has held since 2011. She has been an Assistant Research Professor at NIEER since 2004. Dr. Jung leads the Data Management and Statistics team at NIEER and has designed and conducted large-scale, quasi-experimental designs focusing on early education and childcare policy issues. Her research and expertise have been instrumental in securing many federal, state, and foundation grants. Dr. Jung earned her B.S. from Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Child and Family Studies from Syracuse University. Dr. Jung resides in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Dr. Claudine Keenan has served as the Dean of Education for Stockton University for over 10 years where she oversees bachelors, masters, and doctoral programs for more than 1000 students. Prior to her role as Dean of Education, Dr. Keenan worked as the Chief Planning and Budget Officer for Stockton University where she was responsible for the supervision of institutional research and institutional assessment and accreditation. Previously, she was the Director of Academic Programs for Marlboro College Graduate School in Brattleboro, Vermont where she designed and directed programs in leading and teaching with internet technologies. Dr. Keenan received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from Adelphi University, her M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition from California State University, and her Ed.D in Educational Leadership from the University of Massachusetts. She resides in Galloway, New Jersey.

All three nominations will now be sent to the State Senate for confirmation. If they are confirmed for six-year terms by the Senate, they would become Murphy’s first picks to the 13-member board.

Senate Education Committee

Requires Instruction on Menstrual Toxic Shock Syndrome (mTSS) 

S-636 (O’Scanlon / Corrado) was approved by the Senate Education Committee on Thursday.  The legislation requires school districts to incorporate age-appropriate instruction in grades four through twelve on menstrual toxic shock syndrome and requires installation of signage in certain women’s rooms to enhance public awareness. The signage in restrooms would alert women to the warning signs, causes, and dangers of mTSS. NJPSA sought an Amendment that would require an educational fact sheet to be disseminated to female students at an appropriate time, rather than requiring a new curriculum mandate. The sponsor did not agree to the amendment at this time, but has vowed to continue to work with NJPSA and similarly aligned education stakeholders. The bill was unanimously approved by the Committee. 

Establishes Requirements for Special Education Evaluation

S-2256 (Turner) would establish requirements concerning methods for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Under the bill, the State would be required to allow the use of a process based on the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention and the use of other alternative procedures when determining whether a child has a learning disability. The bill would also prohibit the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability. The committee advanced the bill by a vote of 5-0. NJPSA Sought Amendments on this bill. One of the amendments we were able to successfully negotiate would delay the implementation date to allow time for training. 

Requires Medicaid Reimbursement for Behavioral Health Services Provided by LEAs

S-2416 (Gopal) would require Medicaid reimbursement for covered behavioral health services provided by a local education agency to any student who is eligible as a Medicaid beneficiary. Under the bill, Medicaid-covered behavioral health services provided to a Medicaid beneficiary would be reimbursable regardless of whether the student participates in an Individualized Education Program (IEP), 504 Accommodation Plan, Individualized Health Care Plan (IFSP), or Individualized Family Service Plan; or whether the covered services are provided at no charge to the student. The bill would require such services to be provided by a licensed medical practitioner approved as a Medicaid provider or a local education agency approved as a Medicaid provider. The bill comes in response to the reversal of a federal Medicaid policy which prohibited Medicaid reimbursement for school health services if the same services were provided free of charge to the general student population unless the services were specifically included in a student’s IEP, IFSP, or other similar educational plan. Currently, Medicaid reimbursement is only available in New Jersey for those services provided to students who qualify under the rule exception through the Special Education Medicaid Initiative (SEMI) program. The bill was moved out of committee by a vote of 5-0. NJPSA Supports this Legislation. 

Requires Majority Preschool Pupil Placements at Licensed Child Care Providers

S-2477 (Ruiz / Cruz-Perez) would require a school district receiving preschool education aid through the “School Funding Reform Act of 2008” to provide no less than 50 percent of preschool pupil placements at licensed child care provider programs.  The remaining preschool pupil placements will be provided in district programs and Head Start programs. The bill permits, upon application, a school district to be granted a waiver by the Department of Education of the bill’s requirements if sufficient preschool pupil placements are not available at licensed child care provider programs within the school district.  A school district that requests a waiver is required to provide such information as the Department of Education specifies to justify the request. The committee advanced this legislation by a vote of 3-0, with 2 abstentions. NJPSA is Seeking Amendments to this Legislation

Establishes Community Schools Pilot Program

S-2771 (Ruiz / Turner) establishes a five-year Community Schools Pilot Program in the Department of Education. Under the bill, the Commissioner of Education would issue a request for proposals to identify a nonprofit organization located in the State to manage the pilot program. The selected organization would be responsible for providing technical assistance to any school district, renaissance school, or charter school that is participating in the pilot program, and would be responsible for making group training sessions and information about community schools available to any district, renaissance school, or charter school that is interested in establishing a community school. Additionally, the organization and the Department of Education would be responsible for selecting up to 50 schools, including renaissance and charter schools, that would receive direct assistance from a site coordinator assigned to the school. The committee advanced this bill by a vote of 4-1. NJPSA Supports this legislation. 

Expands School Performance Reports

S-2874 (Singleton) would require school performance reports to include information about the positive placement of graduates. The bill would expand report cards issued for each school district and for each school within the district to include the number of students achieving “placement” following graduation, including non-academic placements and apprenticeships. The bill passed committee by a vote of 5-0. NJPSA is working with the Sponsor on amendments to this bill. 

Requires Parental Notification on Seclusion Technique

S-3027 (Gopal) Under the bill, the educational entity would be required to provide immediate notification to the student’s parent or guardian, via telephone or electronic communication, as well as a full written report of the incident within 48 hours of occurrence. The bill would require the Department of Education to collect annual data on the number and times a physical restraint or a seclusion technique was utilized on a student with disabilities and the type and duration of the restraint or seclusion that was utilized. The published data would also be disaggregated by county and the race, gender and age of the student.   The bill was moved out of committee by a vote of 5-0. NJPSA is seeking amendments on this legislation.

If you have questions about these, or any other legislative measures, please reach out to your NJPSA Government Relations team, Debbie Bradley, Director, or Jennie Lamon, Assistant Director,  As always, we will continue to keep you updated with all of the happenings under the Golden Dome.