Statehouse Update: Week of November 15th, 2021 – Your Weekly Update of What is Happening Under the Golden Dome
-Jennie Lamon, Assistant Director of Government Relations
With the NJ Legislature’s Lame Duck session firmly underway, the Senate and the Assembly met this week, both in-person and remotely. Several education measures were considered including school discipline data reporting, lead reporting systems for schools, legislation that would implement an electric school bus pilot program, as well as a bill that would provide loans for the purchase of electric buses. The following is a summary of education related bills that advanced.
Reporting Discipline Data (A-1184/A-1414 and S-1020)
The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted favorably to release A-1184/A-1414/S-1020, a bill that would require the School Report Card to include a demographic breakdown of students who receive disciplinary actions and requires the commissioner of education to establish a statewide database concerning various disciplinary actions. This consolidated Assembly Substitute (AS) would require that there be a demographic breakdown by race, gender, disability and grade level of the students who receive discipline, as well as the types of discipline imposed. The bill now heads to the full Assembly for consideration.
Loans for the Purchase of Electric School Buses (S-228)
The Assembly Appropriations Committee also voted favorably to release S-228, a bill that would require the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to administer a loan program for school districts and school bus contractors to acquire electric powered school buses. The NJEDA would provide loans for the cost differential of purchasing an electric-powered school bus instead of a diesel or gasoline-powered school bus. The NJEDA is given broad discretion as to the terms and conditions of the loans. This bill previously passed the Senate in March 2020 by a 38-1 vote.
Online Lead Reporting Systems for Schools (A-1977)
The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee advanced A-1977 this week. This bill would require the NJ Department of Education and the NJ Department of Children and Families to establish an online reporting system for schools and child care centers to report lead testing results. Within 90 days after establishing the online database, they must submit or resubmit lead testing results for public access. Currently, school districts are required to perform lead tests every three years from regulations established by Governor Murphy. This measure would expand the reports to not only include school districts, but to also include lead reporting from individual schools and child care centers. A statement from the sponsors explained that there are severe consequences from lead exposure in children such as damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech issues. They contend that having an easily searchable public database of testing will provide parents with transparency and will allow families to take the necessary precautions to keep their children protected from lead in drinking water. The measure now heads to the General Assembly for further consideration.
Electric School Bus Pilot Program (S-4077)
The Senate Environment and Energy Committee approved S-4077, legislation that would require the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to develop and implement a three-year electric school bus pilot program. Under the bill, the EDA, in consultation with various government agencies, would select at least six school districts or bus contractors each year to participate in the program. At least one school district or school bus contractor would be located in a low-income, urban, or environmental justice community. Funding of $15 million would be available to the EDA each year for three years to provide grants to the participating school districts to go towards the purchase or lease of electric school buses, the acquisition and installation of charging infrastructure, and training for bus maintenance personnel, bus drivers, and inspectors. The bill was released from the committee by a vote of 5-0.
Enrolling Students of Military Families (S-3783)
The Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee favorably released S-3783, a bill that would permit dependents of a military member to enroll in a school district in advance of a military member’s relocation to the district. The bill would permit dependents to enroll in the district even if their parent or parents have not yet relocated. This bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
The Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee also favorably released S-3785, a bill that would establish the “Purple Star Schools Program” in the New Jersey Department of Education to recognize public and nonpublic schools that emphasize the importance of assisting children of military families. Under the bill, the commissioner of education will annually recognize as Purple Star Schools those schools that provide for, or have made significant progress to respond to, the educational and social-emotional challenges military-connected students encounter during the transition to a new school when the student’s parent or guardian is an active-duty member of the United States Armed Forces and is relocated due to the member’s continued military service. This bill establishes a working group to develop criteria to be used in the designation of public and nonpublic schools as Purple Star Schools. This bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
Remote Voting for Active-Duty Military BOE Members (S-3758)
Finally, the Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee released S-3758. This bill provides that a board of education may, by resolution, allow a school board member who is serving on active duty to participate remotely in meetings of the board of education. Furthermore, a school board member who is serving on active duty who participates remotely is required to be included in the quorum of that school board meeting. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
“Lame Duck” (the end of the two year legislative session) is a very busy time of year. A lot of legislation can move at a rapid pace. Your NJPSA Government Relations team will keep you updated every step of the way. If you have any questions or would like to discuss a bill further, please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.