The first State Board of Education meeting of 2024 was delayed by a week due to hazardous weather. When the Board convened on January 17th, it undertook an extensive agenda in front of an at-capacity audience.
Perhaps the most exciting news of the day, the State Board of Ed welcomed two new board members for the first time during the Murphy Administration. New Jersey Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy was on site to administer the oath of office to Mary Bennett, a former Newark educator, and Jeannette Peña, a former bilingual school psychologist. Once the two new board members were seated, the board went straight to work on a lengthy agenda.
In addition to passing a Resolution in Honor of New Jersey School Board Recognition Month, the State Board also recognized NJPSA’s two visionary principals of the year for 2023. NJPSA Executive Director Karen Bingert was in attendance at the meeting to introduce Carlos Gramata, Jr., Principal of Hillside Elementary School in Livingston, as the 2023 Visionary Principal of the Year at the Elementary Level and Dr. Mindy Milavsky, Principal of Lawrence Middle School, as the 2023 Visionary Principal of the Year for the Secondary Level.
As exciting as all of these accolades were, the State Board had another important recognition. At the end of their monthly meeting, the State Board passed a Resolution in Honor of Acting Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan, who will retire on Feb 1, 2024. This was the Acting Commissioner’s final State Board of Education meeting. After the Resolution was read and voted on, Allen-McMillan said she’s proud of the work the department and board has done during the pandemic, reflecting on her three years in that role.
The State Board received a presentation from the Department, at second discussion, on Chapter 22, Student Residency, Readoption with Amendments. Chapter 22 establishes procedures for districts to determine students’ eligibility to attend a particular school district free of charge based on the student’s residency. Chapter 22 establishes the process for charging tuition for students who are ineligible for free attendance, including exceptions for nonresident students to attend a school district free of charge under limited circumstances. Chapter 22 rules apply only to parent-paid tuition; they do not apply to tuition charges between school districts. The proposed amendments align the rules with P.L.2023, c.61, which eliminated a board of education’s discretion to enroll nonresident students for free and requires tuition rates to be uniformly applied. The Department has not received any comments from the public regarding the amendments proposed at First Discussion, therefore, no additional changes are being proposed at this time.
The Division of Finance and Business Services presented to the Board, at first discussion, Chapter 23A, Readoption with Amendments. Chapter 23A addresses fiscal accountability rules for school districts, charter schools, renaissance schools, and Approved Private Schools for Students with Disabilities (APSSDs) in order to ensure that public funds for education are spent responsibly. The chapter expires April 6, 2024. The goals of the proposed amendments are to: Update terminology, titles, and gendered language; replace or remove outdated references to statute and code; implement enacted legislation; and update policies for APSSDs to ensure public tuition dollars are being used effectively and efficiently in the provision of these essential services.
The State Board also received a presentation from the Division of Field Support and Services regarding the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program at N.J.A.C. 6A:12, proposed readoption with Amendments. The Interdistrict Public School Choice Program (choice) was created to increase educational opportunities for students and their families by providing students with public school options outside of their district of residence and giving parents the power to select a school district or program that best serves their child’s individual needs.
The choice program enables approved choice districts to enroll kindergarten through grade 12 students who do not reside within their districts without cost to their parents. The Department’s proposed amendments propose to streamline and consolidate language for clarity and alignment with the statute and for consistency with other chapters in the administrative code, and align the code with revisions to P.L. 2023, c. 61, which requires payment of tuition for nonresident students. The State Board will receive public testimony on the topic of Interdistrict Public School Choice on February 7th, 2024 at 2 PM at the Department of Education, 100 Riverview Plaza, Trenton, NJ. Members of the public wishing to provide testimony on this topic may do so through this link.
The State Board is scheduled to meet again on February 7th at 100 Riverview Plaza. Trenton. The State Board Office publishes an agenda in advance of each meeting to notify the public of the items that the State Board will be considering. The public is invited to participate by providing comments on proposed rules either at a public testimony session or by submitting written comments on proposed rules. Your NJPSA Government Relations team is available to assist with preparing comments or testimony on any of the items the State Board will be considering. Please feel free to reach out to your GR team for additional information or assistance.
Be sure to tune in next month to see if we have any other new board members, or a new acting commissioner of education!