Monday, January 10, 2022 was the final voting session of the 2020-2021 Legislative Session. The 219th Legislative Session ended at 11:59 AM on Tuesday, January 11th. At 12 Noon that same day, the new 2022-2023 Legislature was sworn in, and the new 220th Legislative Session began. Later that day, the Governor gave his State of the State address, virtually. The Governor will be sworn into his second, four-year term, on Tuesday, January 18th at the Trenton War Memorial.
As Lame Duck wrapped up, there was a lot of legislative activity. Your NJPSA GR team was advocating on your behalf in Trenton! Read our report about what happened under the golden dome this week.
Governor Murphy Signed Bills Into Law
On Monday, January 10, Governor Murphy signed the following education-related bills into law:
Cyber-Bullying – Now Law
S-1790 / ACS for A-1662 (Pennacchio, Diegnan / Quijano, Jimenez, Danielsen) – Revises provisions required in school district’s anti-bullying policy; provides for civil liability of parent of minor adjudicated delinquent for cyberharassment or harassment; and increases certain fines against parents. NJPSA was able to negotiate important amendments to this bill as it was originally drafted.
This bill , formerly referred to as Mallory’s law, also makes changes to the bullying investigation process. See related article in Today’s Government Relations Blast.
School Report Card – Now Law
S-2811 / A-4838 (Singleton, Ruiz / Reynolds-Jackson, Verrelli, Vainieri Huttle) – Requires school report card to include information concerning number of mental health professionals and school safety specialists employed by each school district. This act takes effect immediately and shall first apply to the school report card issued for the first full school year following the date of enactment. NJPSA was able to negotiate important amendments to this bill as it was originally drafted.
Bills on the Governor’s Desk
The following bills have been passed by both Houses, and are currently on the Governor’s desk. The Governor has seven days after the end of the session to sign into law any of the measures that were sent to him during the final ten days of the session. This means that Governor Murphy has until Tuesday, January 18th to sign any bills that were sent to him this week. Any bills that the Governor does not sign are vetoed automatically (commonly known as a “pocket veto”). NJPSA will continue to monitor these pieces of legislation all the way through to the end, so please stay tuned! Following are the bills that NJPSA is tracking that are currently on the Governor’s desk.
Commission on Asian American Heritage in DOE
A-3369/S-3764 (Johnson / Stanley / Karabinchak/Gopal/Weinberg) – This bill establishes the Commission on Asian Heritage within the Department of Education. Notwithstanding its allocation, the commission is independent of any supervision or control by the department. The purpose of the commission is to survey, design, encourage, and promote the implementation of Asian cultural and educational programs in this State. This bill would take effect immediately. NJPSA supported this Legislation.
Creates Office of School Bus Safety in NJDOE
A-5814/S-3851 (Swain / Tully / Benson / Lagana / Diegnan) – This bill creates the Office of School Bus Safety in the Department of Education. Under the bill, the office will coordinate with the Motor Vehicle Commission and the Department of Law and Public Safety on the sharing of information regarding matters related to school bus safety. The Motor Vehicle Commission and the Department of Law and Public Safety will, pursuant to a valid Memorandum of Understanding and to the extent permitted by law, share information with the office to assist in effectuating the provisions of the bill. The DOE will be required to submit an initial report to the Governor and Legislature and thereafter the office will issue an annual report to the Commissioner of Education. This bill makes an appropriation of $200,000 from the General Fund to the DOE to effectuate the purposes of the bill. NJPSA supported this Legislation.
Awards School Security Project Grants for Certain School Districts
A-6258/S-4309 (Sarlo) – This bill appropriates a total of $5,150,531 from the “Securing Our Children’s Future Fund” to the Department of Education (DOE) to provide grants for school security projects in New Jersey school districts. Under the “Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act,” P.L.2018, c.119, a total of $500 million in general obligation bonds was authorized to be allocated as grants for the costs of career and technical education expansion grants, school security projects, and school district water infrastructure improvement grants. These bond funds were approved by New Jersey voters on November 6, 2018. Of the total $500 million amount, $75 million was dedicated for grants to school districts to support the costs of complying with P.L.2019, c.33, commonly referred to as “Alyssa’s Law,” and for select other infrastructure improvements prescribed in current State law after certification of compliance with Alyssa’s Law. Under Alyssa’s Law, each public elementary and secondary school building is required to be equipped with at least one panic alarm or approved alternative emergency mechanism for use in a school security emergency. The law provides that a portion of the proceeds of the bonds authorized to be issued to fund school security under the “Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act” will fund the full cost of the panic alarms or the alternative emergency mechanisms. NJPSA supported the original bonding legislation.
Requires Student Representative Be Appointed to Each Board of Education that Includes Grades 9-12
A-3392 /S-1219 (Reynolds-Jackson / Timberlake / Jasey / Turner / Beach) – This bill requires the board of education of each school district that includes grades nine through 12 and the board of trustees of each charter school that includes the grades nine through 12 to include a minimum of one student selected by the student body to serve as a nonvoting student representative on the board. The superintendent of a school district or the chief school administrator of a charter school will determine the process used to elect or appoint a student representative to the board, with input on the process from the student body.
Under the bill, the student representative will serve for a one school year term.In the case of a school district that includes more than one high school, the student representative of the board will rotate each school year among the public high schools in the school district. NJPSA was able to negotiate important amendments to improve this bill.
S-4074 (Ruiz/Beach/Verrelli/Lampitt/Carter) – This bill eliminates the requirement to pass a basic skills test as a condition of eligibility for a standard instructional certificate in a career and technical education (CTE) endorsement. Under this bill, provisional CTE teacher candidates will be permitted to demonstrate basic skills proficiency through an alternate measure approved by the Department of Education, instead of taking the basic skills test. Under current State Board of Education regulations, a provisional CTE teacher candidate seeking a standard instructional certificate in a career and technical education endorsement is required to demonstrate basic skills proficiency; the Department of Education currently uses the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators test as the sole measure of basic skills proficiency. Candidates for a certificate of eligibility with advanced standing (CEAS), prior to their admission into a CEAS educator preparation program, are generally required to demonstrate basic skills proficiency through the achievement of a minimum score on a Commissioner-approved test of basic reading, writing, and mathematics. Alternatively, candidates for a CEAS may meet the basic skills testing requirement by demonstrating a score on the SAT, ACT, or GRE at or above the cut score for the year in which the exam was taken. This bill was initially Conditionally Vetoed by Governor Murphy with the recommendation of making the bill effective “in the first full school year following enactment” instead of “immediately”. Both Houses Concurred with the Governor’s Recommendation and sent the bill back to his desk for signature. NJPSA Supported this Legislation.
Requires Internet websites/web services of school districts to be accessible to persons with disabilities
A-4856 /S-3094 (Lampitt / Benson / Caputo / Ruiz / Beach) – This bill establishes accessibility standards for the Internet websites and web services of school districts, charter schools, renaissance schools, and the Marie H. Katzenbach School for the Deaf. Specifically, the bill requires that no public school will make available to the enrolled students of the district or school or to the public an Internet website or web service unless the website or web service complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA or the most up-to-date version of the guidelines if approved by the Commissioner of Education, or any other applicable guidelines or requirements as may be designated or approved by the commissioner. The WCAG guidelines provide standards through which digital content may be accessible for persons with disabilities. In June 2018, the WCAG 2.1 guidelines were issued to improve accessibility guidance for three major groups: users with cognitive or learning disabilities, users with low vision, and users with disabilities on mobile devices. Under the bill, the Commissioner of Education would be required to obtain a statement of assurance from the school district, charter school, renaissance school, or the Marie H. Katzenbach School for the Deaf concerning the accessibility compliance status of the Internet website or web service. NJPSA was Neutral on this Legislation.
Permits Military Dependents to Enroll in School District Ahead of Relocation
A-5694/S-3783 (Houghtaling / Downey / Dancer / Gopal / Madden) – This bill provides that a member of the armed forces of the United States, the National Guard, or any other reserve component of the armed forces who has received relocation orders and whose anticipated residence is to be within the State will be permitted to enroll a dependent child in a school district and register for courses in advance of the member’s relocation. The school district must waive any proof of residency requirements until such time that the member’s family has been relocated within the school district. NJPSA Supported this Legislation.
Removes Requirement for DOE/Others to Purchase “Manual of the Legislature of NJ”
A-5997/S-4084 (Coughlin / Lopez / Sweeney / O’Scanlon) – This bill removes the requirement for the Legislature, DOE, free public libraries, and historical societies to purchase the official “Manual of the Legislature of New Jersey.” A law enacted in 1884 requires the Legislature to purchase 2,000 copies of the manual and the Department of Education to purchase 1,000 copies of the manual for distribution to the public schools. A law enacted in 1907 also requires the manual to be distributed at the expense of the State to public libraries and the historical societies in the State. The law (N.J.S.A.52:12-1) requires the manual to be “printed on good paper and bound in a substantial manner in cloth”. NJPSA was Neutral on this Legislation.
Eliminates Requirement for DOE to Set Certain Tuition Rates for APSSDs
A-6207/S-4222 (Greenwald / Lampitt / Benson / Sweeney) – This bill deletes a provision of current law under P.L.2021, c.109 which requires the Department of Education (DOE) to, for the 2021-2022 school year through the 2025-2026 school year, set the maximum tentative tuition rate of each approved private school for students with disabilities (APSSDs) at the maximum tentative tuition rate set for the 2020-2021 school year if, during the 2021-2022 school year through the 2023-2024 school year, the school exceeds the total number of students at the approved facility in the 2020-2021 school year. P.L.2021, c.109 requires a board of education to temporarily provide special education and related services, including transition services, to certain students who attain the age of 21 during the 2020-2021 school year, the 2021-2022 school year, and the 2022-2023 school year. The law extends for one year the age of eligibility for special education and related services for these students, provided that the parent of the student and the individualized education program (IEP) team determine that the student requires additional or compensatory special education and related services, including transition services. NJPSA was Neutral on this Legislation.
Loan Redemption for Teachers in Low Performing Schools
S-969 (Ruiz / Turner / Mazzeo) – This bill was initially Conditionally Vetoed by Governor Murphy in November. Both Houses Concurred with the Governor’s Recommendations, and have once again sent the bill to his desk. The measure would establish a loan redemption program for teachers in certain fields to redeem loan amounts received under New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students Loan Program through employment in certain low performing schools. There would be a sum of $1,000,000 annually appropriated from the General Fund to the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority for costs associated with loan redemption pursuant to this act. NJPSA Supported this Legislation.
Requires School Districts to Report Discipline Data on Website
S-1020 (Ruiz / Gopal / Zwicker) – This bill requires School Report Cards Program to include information on the number, percentage, and demographics, including race, gender, disability, grade level, and eligibility for free or reduced price lunch under the National School Lunch Program, of students who received one or more suspensions or expulsions or who were reported to or arrested by law enforcement, by category of offense pursuant to the provisions of the Uniform State Memorandum of Agreement Between Education and Law Enforcement Officials. The bill also requires the Commissioner of Education to compile data received from each school district into a Statewide database to be posted on the department’s Internet website. The database is required to, at a minimum, include school level totals for each category of student disciplinary actions, including in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, use of physical restraint or seclusion techniques, referrals to law enforcement, and arrests, as well as demographic information of the students who received the disciplinary action. NJPSA was able to negotiate important amendments to improve this bill from how it was originally drafted.
Creates Special Education Unit in OAL
S-2160 (Sweeney / Oroho / Singer) – This bill was initially Conditionally Vetoed by Governor Murphy. Both Houses Concurred with the Governor’s Recommendations, and have once again sent the bill to his desk. This bill would establish a unit within the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) dedicated to special education cases. The special education unit would consist of administrative law judges having expertise in special education law. The number of administrative law judges in the unit would be proportional to the number and complexity of special education cases referred to the OAL. Under the bill, all contested cases concerning special education law referred to the OAL would be assigned to and adjudicated by the administrative law judges in the special education unit. NJPSA initiated and supported this legislation.
S-2830 (Ruiz / Singleton / Quijano) – This bill requires each educator preparation program to annually report to the Department of Education on the first-time and overall test pass rates of candidates for an instructional certificate, for each test required for instructional certification. Under the bill, each educator preparation program must:
- annually publish the first-time and overall test pass rates of its students on its website;
- annually disseminate information to its students on the availability of fee waivers for tests required for instructional certification; and
- include in its tuition and fees bill, an optional lab fee that a student may opt to pay and which will be applied towards the cost of the student completing the tests required for instructional certification.
The bill also requires the department to annually compile the test pass rates of candidates for an instructional certificate submitted pursuant to the bill’s provisions into a comparative profile of all educator preparation programs. The profile must be made available for public inspection on the department’s website. NJPSA Supported this Legislation as part of a Bill Package to Increase Teacher Diversity.
Annual Reporting on NJ Teacher Workforce
S-2835 /A-5292 (Ruiz / Cunningham / Quijano / Lampitt / Jasey) – This bill would establish certain reporting requirements in regard to the current and projected teacher workforce in the State. The bill requires school districts to annually submit to the Commissioner of Education, no later than October 15, information for the current school year on teaching positions, including the number of vacant teaching positions, the number of new teaching positions, the number of teaching positions that were eliminated, and the anticipated teacher retirements.
This bill also requires school districts to annually submit to the commissioner, no later than September 1, information on public school teacher retention that includes: the number of teachers who left employment with the district during the prior school year; the reason why those teachers left employment with the district, including dismissal, non-renewal of a contract, a reduction in force, employment in another school district or a nonpublic school, employment in another field, relocation to another state, or retirement; the characteristics of the teachers who left the district, including age, sex, race, and tenure status; and such other information the commissioner deems appropriate. This act would take effect six months after the date of enactment. NJPSA supported this legislation as a first step in addressing the teacher shortage.
Creates NJ Legislative Youth Council
S-3164 /A-4987 (Gopal / Singleton / Houghtaling / Vainieri Huttle / Giblin) – This bill creates the New Jersey Legislative Youth Council. The council would provide a forum for the youth of this State to participate in the democratic process; to advise the Legislature and its committees, commissions, and task forces on the perspectives, opinions, needs, development, and welfare of the youth of the State; and on the most effective and efficient policies, programs, and services that the State could provide for the youth of this State. The council would also research, analyze, discuss, and make specific recommendations in the areas of civics education; drugs and substance abuse; emotional and physical health; employment and economic opportunities; environmental protection; gun violence and school safety; homelessness and poverty; mental health; safe environment for youth; sexual harassment and violence; youth services; and youth bias and hate crimes. In each two-year term of the New Jersey Legislature, the council would submit in writing a series of policy recommendations to the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the General Assembly, the Minority Leader of the Senate and the Majority Leader of the General Assembly. The council could express its position publicly on legislation pending before the New Jersey Legislature that is directly relevant to the needs, development, and welfare of the youth of this State. NJPSA supported this legislation.
School District Regionalization – Establishes Grant Program
S-3488 (Sweeney / Gopal / O’Scanlon) – Originally Conditionally Vetoed by Governor Murphy, both Houses of the Legislature concurred with the Governor’s recommendations and sent the bill back to his desk on January 10th. This bill would create a grant program within the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs, the purpose of which is to provide for the reimbursement of eligible costs associated with conducting feasibility studies that support the creation of meaningful and implementable plans to form or expand regional school districts. Under the bill, the division may retain one percent of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available for the program for the purpose of offsetting the administrative expenses of the program. The bill amends a section of P.L.2018, c.67, commonly referred to as “S-2,” to provide financial relief to districts provided approval or preliminary approval under the grant program which have a positive State aid differential and are currently subject to State aid reductions. Under the bill, a school district that is a regional school district created following the approval of a grant application will, from the first full school year following the creation of the regional school district through the 2028-2029 school year, receive State school aid in an amount that is the greater of: the amount of State school aid that the newly created regional school district would receive as a regional school district; or the sum of the amount of State school aid received by each school district constituting the newly created regional school district prior to the creation of the regional school district. NJPSA was able to negotiate important amendments to this bill as it was originally drafted.
Permits Retired Teacher to Return to Employment for Upto 2 Years Without Reenrollment in TPAF
S-3685 /A-5576 (Ruiz / Codey / Jasey / Lampitt) – This bill would permit a teacher or a professional staff member providing special services, including but not limited to a speech language specialist or a therapist, who retired from the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF) to return to work full time with a board of education in a position of critical need, as determined by the State Commissioner of Education, without being reenrolled in the TPAF if reemployment commences during the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year and the entirety of the 2022-2023 school year. If the retired teacher or the retired professional staff member returns to work with the former employer, it must occur more than 180 days after the retirement. This bill will permit the teacher or professional staff member to receive the TPAF retirement allowance as well as a salary. The bill permits the return to work under a contract for one year, which may be renewed only for one additional year. The total period of reemployment with any individual board of education must not exceed a two-year period, unless so approved by the Commissioner of Education as being in the best interests of the school district. Under the bill, the former member’s retirement must have been a bona fide retirement and any employment or reemployment under the bill must not be prearranged before retirement.This Act would take effect immediately. NJPSA Supported this Legislation as amended.
Requires School Districts to Provide Instruction on History and Contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as Part of Implementation of NJSLS in Social Studies
S-4021 (Gopal / Ruiz / Mukherji) – This bill requires a board of education to include instruction on the history and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in an appropriate place in the curriculum of students in grades kindergarten through 12 as part of the district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Social Studies. The bill would also require a board of education to have policies and procedures in place pertaining to the selection of instructional materials that comply with the provisions of this bill. In adopting materials for use in the school district, a board of education would be required to adopt inclusive instructional materials that portray the cultural and economic diversity of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The bill would further require a board of education to seek the assistance and advice of the Commission on Asian Heritage in fulfilling the requirements of the bill. NJPSA Supported this Legislation as amended.
Stay Tuned to see if all of these bills are signed into law by January 18th!