Update from the NJ Statehouse for the Week of January 17, 2022
-Jennie Lamon, NJPSA Government Relations – Assistant Director email@example.com
On Tuesday, January 18th, Governor Murphy Delivered his second Inaugural Address. In his address, the Governor spoke of not only slowing property tax growth, but getting New Jersey to where we can begin to see them go down by continuing to work toward fully funding our public schools. The Governor also promised to continue to grow pre-K with a goal of ensuring universal preschool for every young learner in every community. Read the Governor’s remarks as prepared for delivery here.
Prior to being sworn in to his second term, the Governor had to act on all of the bills that were sent to him in the final days of the legislative session (nearly 150 of them!) Following are 23 measures affecting public school districts and students that were signed into law at the end of the 2020-2021 Legislative session.
Loan Redemption for Teachers in Low Performing Schools – P.L.2021, c.384
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. This new law takes effect immediately. NJPSA Supported this Legislation.
Reporting Discipline Data on School District Website – P.L.2021, c.387
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.
Revises Processes Required in School District’s Anti-Bullying Policies – P.L.2021, c.338
S-1790 / ACS for A-1662 (Pennacchio, Diegnan / Quijano, Jimenez, Danielsen) – This bill (formerly known as “Mallory’s Law”) provides for civil liability of the parent of a minor adjudicated delinquent for cyber-harassment or harassment, increase the fines a court may order a parent or guardian of a minor who has been adjudicated delinquent of cyber-harassment, a state level School Climate State Coordinator to serve as a direct resource to parents, students and educators concerning harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) and revises processes required in school district’s anti-bullying policies. The bill requires reporting preliminary determinations made by a principal that the reported behavior does not amount to HIB to the Superintendent, and enables a Superintendent to order an investigation; requires that progressive consequences for subsequent bullying offenses be spelled out in district policy; seeks to clarify record keeping and reporting by principals; creates the mandatory use of a NJDOE created numbered reporting form; requires a parent reporting form that can be submitted anonymously; and requires that districts post the NJDOE document Guidance for Parents on the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (ABR) on their websites.
This bill has two effective dates. The increase in fines for parents of minors adjudicated for cyber-harassment go into effect immediately. The remaining provisions of the law, concerning school investigations of HIB, go into effect on July 9, 2022. NJPSA sought amendments to this bill.
Creates New Special Education Unit in OAL – P.L.2021, c.390
S-2160 (Sweeney / Oroho / Singer) – This bill creates a new special education unit within the Office of Administrative Law and requires an annual report. The special education unit would consist of administrative law judges having expertise in special education law. Under the bill, all contested cases concerning special education law that are referred to the OAL would be assigned to and adjudicated by the administrative law judges in the special education unit. This law will take effect nine months following the appointment and confirmation of 15 additional administrative law judges but no later than two years following enactment. The governor recommended this delay in implementation to ensure the proper and efficient operation of the new unit, which will require an increase in both judges and support personnel. NJPSA initiated and supported this legislation.
Inclusion of Mental Health Professionals on School Report Card – P.L.2021, c.339
S-2811 / A-4838 (Singleton, Ruiz / Reynolds-Jackson, Verrell, Vainieri Huttle) – This act requires school report cards to include information concerning the 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.
Teacher Prep Programs Reporting to NJDOE – P.L.2021, c.393
S-2830 (Ruiz / Singleton / Quijano) – This act requires each educator preparation program to annually report to the NJDOE on the first-time and overall test pass rates of candidates for an instructional certificate, for each test required for instructional certification. The bill also requires the department to annually compile the test pass rates of candidates for an instructional certificate into a comparative profile of all educator preparation programs. The pass rates will be included within the documentation required for the commissioner of education’s periodic review of educator preparation programs. The law takes effect with the first full academic year following the governor’s approval. NJPSA Supported this Legislation as part of a Bill Package to Increase Teacher Diversity.
Annual Reporting on NJ Teacher Workforce – P.L.2021, c.394
S-2835 /A-5292 (Ruiz / Cunningham / Quijano / Lampitt / Jasey) – This act establishes certain reporting requirements in regard to the current and projected teacher workforce in the State. The act requires school districts to annually submit to the Commissioner of Education, 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 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. The law goes into effect in six months. NJPSA supported this legislation as a first step in addressing the teacher shortage.
Creates NJ Legislative Youth Council – P.L.2021, c.398
S-3164 /A-4987 (Gopal / Singleton / Houghtaling / Vainieri Huttle / Giblin) – This act creates the New Jersey Legislative Youth Council. The council will 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 will 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.
Student Representative on Boards of Education that Include Grades 9-12 – P.L.2021, c.446
A-3392 /S-1219 (Reynolds-Jackson / Timberlake / Jasey / Turner / Beach) – This bill requires that at least one student representative be appointed to each board of education of a school district and board of trustees of any charter school that includes grades nine through 12. The student is to be selected by the student body. In the event that there is more than one high school in the district, the position will rotate among the high schools. The representative shall attend all meetings, present to the board on matters of student concern and provide a monthly report to the student body. The student representative would have no vote and will not be permitted in closed session. The law goes into effect at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year. NJPSA was able to negotiate important amendments to improve this bill.
School District Regionalization – P.L.2021, c.402
S-3488 (Sweeney / Gopal / O’Scanlon) – This bill modifies various procedures pertaining to school district regionalization. The bill also establishes a grant program for conducting regionalization feasibility studies in this voluntary program, as well as other financial incentives for districts to explore regionalization, particularly those that are losing state aid because of declining enrollment. Specifically, districts facing adjustment aid cuts would see those cuts phased in over eight years — stretched out from the current four years — if the districts involved choose to start a regionalization plan. An additional incentive provides that, through 2028-2029, newly established K-12 regional districts would receive the greater of the state aid to which the newly established district would be entitled, or the sum of the aid of what would have been provided to the constituent districts prior to the creation of the new regional district. In addition to the financial incentives, the bill establishes various flexibilities regarding implementation of a regionalization plan that are intended to make the process easier. The law also maintains voter approval over any final decision to regionalize. 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 – P.L.2021, c.408
S-3685 /A-5576 (Ruiz / Codey / Jasey / Lampitt) – This Act permits a retired teacher to return to employment for up to two years without reenrollment in the pension system. The bill also applies to any retired professional staff member who provides special services, such as speech language specialists or therapists. Current law includes a substantially similar provision that permits a retired superintendent or administrator to return to work with a board of education in a pensioned position for a limited period of time and without reenrolling in the pension system. In addition, a recently enacted state law permits the employment of retired school nurses on an interim basis. The law goes into effect immediately but will only apply to retirees hired during the current or 2022-2023 school year. NJPSA Supported this Legislation as amended.
Modifies Current School Security Provisions – P.L.2021, c.365
S-3726/A-5727 (Lampitt / Greenwald / Caputo /Weinberg / Turner) This bill requires school security drills to be age-appropriate and to prevent unnecessary traumatization of schoolchildren. Among other requirements, the legislation prohibits the use of fake blood, real or prop firearms, or the simulations of gunshots or explosions in school security drills. The legislation, which Governor Murphy announced his support for last April as part of a package of bills concerning gun safety, is the only bill in the package directly impacting schools. Brady United Against Gun Violence, an organization focused on stopping gun violence in this country is a prime advocate for the entire bill package. NJPSA was able to successfully obtain several important amendments to this legislation. Specifically, as amended, the act requires that:
- advance written notice be provided to staff before a drill has been scheduled (NJPSA was successful in eliminating advance written notice to parents prior to the holding of a drill);
- Clear messaging is provided to students and staff that the event is a drill and that there is no current danger;
- The drill does not expose students to content or imaging that is not developmentally appropriate;
- The operation of the drill is paired with trauma-informed approaches to address any student inquiries or concerns which may arise as a result of a school security drill;
- The drill does not include the use of fake blood, real or prop firearms or the simulation of gunshots, explosions or other sounds or visuals that may induce panic or a traumatic response from a student or school district employee;
- The drill does not require a student to role play as a victim, but may include first aid training in which students participate, and
- Is accessible to students with disabilities and mental health conditions, providing all necessary accommodations for these students.
The act also requires the district to provide written notification to the parent or guardian following completion of the school security drill no later than the end of the school day on which the drill was conducted. NJPSA also successfully advocated for the elimination of bill language that would have prohibited law enforcement and emergency personnel from being on school grounds during the school security drill. Such a provision violates current New Jersey law and best practice.
The act further requires that districts review and update their security drill procedures every three years after collecting input from emergency personnel, parents, teachers and staff, mental health professionals and student government representatives from multiple grade levels. Annual collection of data on school security drills and reporting of that data to the Commissioner of Education is also required. This act takes effect immediately. NJPSA sough amendments to this bill.
Responsible Collective Negotiations Act – P.L.2021, c.411
S-3810/A-5826 concerns the settlement of labor disputes among public employers and employees. In general, the bill only applies to the state and unions representing state employees and does not affect public school districts. However, the bill contains a couple of amendments to the New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act and a 2018 law known as the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act, both of which apply to boards of education. This new act requires that every 120 calendar days, public employers provide to the union the following information for each employee not represented by the union: name, job title, worksite location, work email and work phone number, and, within 30 days of a request by the union, a job description for each non-represented employee, including the names and job titles of all employees supervised by the employer; provides that employees who authorized a payroll deduction of union fees prior to the effective date of the WDEA may revoke the authorization by providing written notice to their employer, consistent with the terms of the authorization as consistent with the law at the time the authorization was given; provides that employees who have authorized the payroll deduction of fees to employee organizations on or after the effective date of the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act may revoke such authorization by providing written notice to their employer at any time. Under existing law, an employee may only revoke such authorization by providing written notice to an employer during the 10 days following each anniversary date of their employment. NJPSA was Neutral on this Legislation.
Commission on Asian American Heritage in NJDOE – P.L.2021, c.410
A-3369/S-3764 (Johnson / Stanley / Karabinchak/Gopal/Weinberg) – This bill establishes the Commission on Asian Heritage within the Department of Education. 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 takes effect immediately. NJPSA supported this Legislation.
AAPI Instruction – P.L.2021, c.416
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 further requires a board of education to seek the assistance and advice of the Commission on Asian Heritage in fulfilling the requirements of the bill. This act takes effect immediately and first applies to the 2022-2023 school year. NJPSA Supported this Legislation as amended.
Addressing the CTE Teacher Shortage – P.L.2021, c.420
S-4074 /A-6000 (Ruiz, Beach / Verrelli, Lampitt, Carter) – This bill eliminates the requirement to pass a basic skills test to become a career and technical education teacher. As an alternative, a prospective CTE teaching candidate can demonstrate basic skills proficiency in a manner to be determined by the New Jersey Department of Education. The bill is intended to alleviate the shortage of career and technical education teachers in the state’s public schools. This act goes into effect at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year. NJPSA Supported this Legislation.
Establishes Student Wellness Grant Program – P.L.2021, c.456
A-4434/S-2716 directs the Commissioner of the NJ Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Children and Families, to establish a student wellness grant program. The purpose of the program will be to provide grants that support school districts in implementing school-based programs and practices that promote mental wellness, social and emotional learning and student resilience. The governor conditionally vetoed the bill to revise the funding language to provide the NJDOE with flexibility to fund the grant program alongside other priorities. In addition, he recommended allowing for a pause of the grant program in the face of insufficient available funding. This new law takes effect immediately. NJPSA Supported this Legislation.
District Website Accessibility – P.L.2021, c.461
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. This law goes into effect July 1, 2022. NJPSA was Neutral on this Legislation.
Enrolling Military Students in School District Ahead of Relocation – P.L.2021, c.470
A-5694/S-3783 (Houghtaling / Downey / Dancer / Gopal / Madden) – This act 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. This Act take effect immediately. NJPSA Supported this Legislation.
Creates Office of School Bus Safety in NJDOE – P.L.2021, c.471
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. This act takes effect immediately. NJPSA supported this Legislation.
Removes Requirement for DOE/Others to Purchase “Manual of the Legislature of NJ” – P.L.2021, c.473
A-5997/S-4084 (Coughlin / Lopez / Sweeney / O’Scanlon) – This new law 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”. This act takes effect immediately. NJPSA was Neutral on this Legislation.
Eliminates Requirement for DOE to Set Certain Tuition Rates for APSSDs – P.L.2021, c.487
A-6207/S-4222 (Greenwald / Lampitt / Benson / Sweeney) – This act 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.
Awards School Security Project Grants for Certain School Districts – P.L.2021, c.374
A-6258/S-4309 (Sarlo) – This act 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. This act takes effect immediately. NJPSA supported the original bonding legislation.
Your NJPSA Government Relations team is always available to answer any questions about these, or any other bills. We are excited to keep you updated as the new 220th New Jersey Legislative Session gets underway!