Statehouse Update – Week of March 13, 2023
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee was set to hold their first Public Hearing on the FY 2024 State Budget at Ramapo College on Tuesday, March 14th, however, the hearing was postponed due to inclement weather. The hearing has been rescheduled for Tuesday, March 21st. The Assembly Education Committee met on Thursday, March 16th in the State House, Trenton, NJ. The Committee began on a somber note, as Chairwoman Lampitt took a moment to mourn the recent passing of two Statehouse giants: former veteran Senator Ron Rice, who represented Newark for decades and was the longest-serving African-American in the Legislature, and longtime governmental affairs stalwart Joe Simonetta, who spent more than 31 years as a partner at Public Strategies Impact. Both men were fixtures in the statehouse for decades, and both were revered and respected by colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their integrity and fair and honest work ethic. Hearts are heavy in Trenton right now as two familiar faces will be missed. Governor Murphy has ordered that flags be at half staff. NJPSA sends our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Mr. Simonetta and Senator Rice. Please read on for the bills that were considered by the Committee this week.
A bill that would eliminate the high school graduation proficiency test, which is required under current law to be taken in the 11th grade.
4639_I1.PDF (Caputo/Jasey/McKnight) – This bill eliminates the high school graduation proficiency test, which is required under current law to be taken in the 11th grade. The bill prohibits the State Board of Education from including in the standards for graduation from high school a requirement that students achieve satisfactory performance on the Statewide graduation proficiency test.
The bill also amends current law to remove various references to the graduation proficiency test, including: the requirement that a Statewide proficiency test be included in the State or district standards for graduation from high school; the requirement that an out-of-school youth or adult age 18 or older pass the graduation proficiency test before being granted a State endorsed diploma; the requirement that school district report cards include information regarding the results of the graduation proficiency test; and the requirement that renaissance school projects be evaluated based on students’ performance on the graduation proficiency test. The bill clarifies that a student participating in the State Seal of Biliteracy program would not be required to take a State graduation proficiency test as a condition of graduation from high school.
Finally, the bill repeals the section of law that requires the State to administer a graduation proficiency test to all 11th grade students and certain 12th grade students, and repeals the section of law that requires the Commissioner of Education to consult with educators, parents, students, business and community representatives, and members of minority groups while developing the graduation proficiency test. The bill also repeals sections of law requiring the commissioner and the Joint Committee on the Public Schools to review and report on performance on the graduation proficiency test. It is the belief of the sponsor that graduation exit testing does not accurately represent student learning or career and college readiness. The bill was unanimously passed by the Committee members. NJPSA supports this bill.
A bill that would require school districts or nonpublic schools to plan for the unique needs of students with disabilities during fire drills, school security drills and actual emergency situations.
1174_I1.PDF (Jasey/Benson) Under current State regulations, each school district is required to develop and implement a school safety and security plan. Current State law and regulation does not explicitly require school districts or nonpublic schools to discuss, document, and plan for the unique needs of students with disabilities during fire or school security drills and actual emergency situations. This bill provides that all students will fully participate in each fire or school security drill conducted by a school district or nonpublic school. It requires that current staff training for school security include information on the unique needs of students with disabilities. The current drill guide and training materials that school districts and nonpublic schools use as guidance in their staff training would incorporate information on the needs of students with disabilities and include standard protocols and procedures for accommodating those students during drills and emergency situations. The bill was unanimously passed by the Committee. NJPSA Supports this bill.
A bill that would establish a commission to study the effects on adolescents of social media usage
A-1992/S-715 (Conaway/Murphy/Codey/Durr) – This bill would establish a Commission to study the extent of social media usage in public schools, and to determine the effects that use has on the physical and emotional health and academic performance of students, in and out of school. The Commission would consist of 19 members. The bill directs the commission to study the extent of social media usage among adolescents, including the average amount of time students in various age groups spend each day in school on electronic devices; the effects that use has on the emotional health of students, including incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying, or other disruptive or violent behaviors; the effects that use has on the academic performance of students; and the effects that use has on the physical health of students, including incidents of depression, sleep deprivation, weight loss or gain, or high blood pressure.
The Commission would be required to issue a final report of its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature no later than one year after its organizational meeting. NJPSA sought and obtained amendments to this bill. NJPSA supports this bill.
A bill that would require additional school personnel to complete suicide prevention training
A-2815/S-528 (Murphy/Ruiz/Pou) – Under current law, public school teaching staff members receive instruction in suicide prevention as part of their professional development requirements. This bill provides that other school district employees and employees of a contracted service provider who have regular and direct contact with students, as determined by the board of education, will be required to complete a one-time training program in suicide prevention, awareness, and response developed or identified by the Department of Education. The Committee unanimously voted in support of this bill, as amended. NJPSA sought and obtained several important amendments to this bill when it was moving through the Senate. As amended, NJPSA supports this bill.
A bill that would require Medicaid reimbursement for behavioral health services provided by LEA
3334_I1.PDF (Greenwald/Jimenez/Atkins) – This bill requires the Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services in the Department of Human Services (DHS), or a managed care organization contracted with the division to provide benefits to Medicaid beneficiaries, to reimburse a local education agency for behavioral health services covered under Medicaid, delivered in-person or via telehealth, and provided to a student who is an eligible Medicaid beneficiary. Services provided under the bill are to be reimbursable by Medicaid regardless of whether the student participates in an Individualized Education program (IEP), 504 Accommodation Plan, Individualized Health Care Plan, or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP); or whether the covered services are provided at no charge to the student. The Committee amended the bill and voted unanimously to advance the amended version. NJPSA supports this bill as amended.
A bill that would permit unanticipated revenue and unexpended line-item appropriations to be transferred to school district reserve accounts
A-4722/S-3089 (McKeon/Gopal/Bucco) – This bill would permit boards of education to use unanticipated revenue and unexpended line-item appropriation amounts to supplement a school district’s debt service reserve account and its federal impact aid reserve account. Under current law, a board of education may establish a debt service reserve account in the debt service fund for proceeds from the sale of district property. The funds in the reserve are generally used to retire outstanding debt service obligations of the district. Current law also permits a board of education to establish a federal impact aid reserve account if it receives federal impact aid. Federal impact aid is awarded to school districts in which federal ownership of property reduces the ability to levy property taxes for educational purposes, or when certain federal activity increases a community’s population, resulting in an increase in the number of school-aged children. Currently, a board of education may appropriate federal impact aid funds to the federal impact aid reserve account to finance the school district’s general fund or to finance school facilities projects. This bill would expand the allowable moneys that can be transferred into these reserve accounts to include unanticipated revenue and unexpended line-item appropriation amounts. The Committee amended the bill and voted unanimously to advance the amended version. NJPSA is neutral on this bill.
A bill that would require school districts to provide instruction on prevention of Lyme Disease
A-4820/S-2463 (Egan/Smith/Zwicker) – As amended, this bill would require a board of education to incorporate curriculum guidelines concerning Lyme Disease and other tick-borne diseases in an appropriate place in the curriculum of students in grades kindergarten through 12 as part of the school district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education. The committee amended the bill to: include a findings and declarations section; require a board of education to consult multiple nationally-recognized organizations with expertise in Lyme Disease or other tick-borne disease to fulfill the requirements of the bill; remove the provisions of the bill that would require a board of education to develop a policy concerning the discovery and removal of ticks on students; and remove a provision in the bill that required the Department of Health to provide guidelines concerning the discovery and removal of ticks to each school district in the State and to publish a list on its Internet website of facilities in the State that perform tick testing. NJPSA and other education stakeholders were successful in negotiating a number of amendments to the bill. The Committee voted unanimously in favor of the amended version. NJPSA supports this bill as amended.
A bill that would establish the School Safety and Security Task Force
A-4977 (Lampitt/Benson) – This bill would establish the School Safety and Security Task Force. The purpose of the task force will be to study and develop recommendations to improve school safety and security, and to ensure a safe learning environment for students and employees. It will be the duty of the task force to identify potential breaches of security in the public schools, and make recommendations to improve school safety and security. The task force will issue a final report of its findings and recommendations, including any recommended legislation, to the Governor and the Legislature no later than six months after its organizational meeting. The Committee amended the bill and voted unanimously to advance the amended version. NJPSA supports this bill.
Check back in next week, as the Senate has a voting session scheduled, a number of Assembly committees are meeting and there is a public hearing on the budget. If you would like to discuss, or have questions about any of the legislative initiatives that moved this week, please contact your NJPSA Government Relations team. Department Director Debbie Bradley firstname.lastname@example.org or Assistant Director Jennie Lamon email@example.com.
If you are interested in legislation and education policy, please consider joining the NJPSA Legislative Committee. We meet approximately every other month to discuss and develop positions on pending legislation and regulations. We always have lively and often entertaining discussions! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to join our committee! Happy St. Patrick’s day! Please enjoy the weekend, and remember to unplug and take some time for self-care. We appreciate your advocacy – and all that you do.