Update from the NJ Statehouse Week of January 31st What Happened in Education Policy Under the Golden Dome This Week?
The 220th New Jersey Legislature is underway. Senate Committees met in person at the Statehouse this week, while the General Assembly continues to conduct remote hearings.
Newly appointed Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Senator Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) convened his first committee meeting on Thursday, February 3rd. The following are the bills that were considered and advanced by the committee.
Requires 8th grade students to have a physical exam that includes cardiac component.
S-129, sponsored by Senator Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., requires that every student enrolled in grade eight in a public or nonpublic school undergo a physical examination using
the “Preparticipation Physical Evaluation” form. Under current law, this form is required prior to the participation of any student enrolled in grades six through twelve on a school-sponsored interscholastic or intramural athletic team or squad. The bill was advanced by the committee by a vote 3-1, with one Abstention. NJPSA supported this bill.
Establishes Criminal Justice Career Academy Pilot Program in NJDOE
S-248, sponsored by Sandra B. Cunningham and Senator Nellie Poe, requires the Commissioner of Education to establish a five-year pilot program to provide support to school districts in developing and establishing criminal justice career academy programs in high schools within the districts. The purpose of the pilot program shall be to afford high school students the opportunity to earn college credit and access hands-on learning experiences in the fields of criminal justice and law enforcement. This bill was advanced by the committee by a vote of 5-0. NJPSA supported this bill.
Establishes School Funding Formula Evaluation Task Force
S-354, sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Senator Steven V. Oroho, would establish a task force to study, evaluate and, if needed, suggest changes to the School Funding Reform Act of 2008. The task force would assess the various weights applied to different student characteristics – such as “at risk” or English Language Limited students – geographic cost adjustments and the provision of special education aid. The task force shall issue a final report detailing its findings and recommendations to the Governor, and to the Legislature no later than one year after the organization of the task force. This bill was advanced by the committee by a vote of 5-0. NJPSA supported this bill.
Revises conditions for use of virtual or remote instruction
S-464, sponsored by Senator Nicholas J. Sacco and Senator Joseph A. Lagana, would permit a public school or an approved private school for students with disabilities (APSSD) to meet the 180-day school year requirement through the use of virtual or remote instruction when the school is required to close for one or more school days due to inclement weather or hazardous transportation conditions, or any other circumstance that requires the closure of the school. This bill was advanced by the committee by a vote of 5-0. NJPSA provided testimony in support of this bill.
Establishes Division of School Desegregation in DOE
S-820, sponsored by Senator Joseph P. Cryan, established in the Department of Education the Division of School Desegregation. The purpose of the division is to identify instances of de facto racial and socioeconomic segregation of school districts and to ensure better integration and a more diverse enrollment in public schools. The Director of the Division of School Desegregation will be appointed by the Commissioner of the Department of Education. The Director will compile statistics on the racial, ethnic, and economic composition of students for each public school in the State, and develop a strategic plan for increasing and subsequently maintaining diversity in all school districts. This bill was advanced by the Committee by a party-line vote of 3-2. NJPSA supported this bill.
Establishes educational service agencies for procuring custodial and food services in schools
S-903, sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal, mandates the consolidation of procurement of food and custodial services through educational service agencies established at the county level. The bill was advanced by the committee by a vote 3-1, with one Abstention, and has been second-referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
NJPSA testified, expressing initial concerns about this bill.
Eliminates residency requirement for public school employees for three years
S-904, sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Steven V. Oroho provides for a three year period during which a person hired by a school district, charter school, or renaissance school project will not be required to comply with the State residency requirement (established by law in 2011 and currently applies to all public officers and employees in the State, with certain limited exceptions). Under the bill, a school district, charter school, or renaissance school seeking to fill an open position would be required to make a good faith effort to hire a person who maintains a principal residence in the State for the open position. This bill was advanced by the committee by a vote of 5-0. NJPSA testified in strong support of this bill as a means of helping to address staffing shortages. Read NJPSA’s testimony here.
Extends period of time for filing special education due process petitions related to COVID-19
S-905, sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Vin Gopal, this bill extends the period of time a parent, guardian, or local educational agency has to request a due process hearing regarding the education of a child with disabilities during a COVID-19 school closure or during periods of virtual, remote, hybrid, or in-person instruction. This bill would allow a parent, guardian, or local educational agency to file a request for a due process hearing regarding the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or the provision of a free and appropriate public education of a child with a disability during a COVID-19 school closure or a period of virtual, remote, hybrid, or in-person instruction occurring between March 18, 2020 and September 1, 2021 at any time prior to September 1, 2023. This bill was advanced by the committee by a vote of 5-0. NJPSA worked to secure important amendments that enabled us to ultimately support the bill. Read NJPSA’s testimony.