Update from the NJ Statehouse Week of March 7th, 2022 What happened in Education Policy Under the Golden Dome this Week?
-Jennie Lamon, Assistant Director of Government Relations
Both Houses of the Legislature held Education Committee meetings this week. The Senate Education Committee met on Monday, March 7th, and the Assembly Education Committee convened on Thursday, March 10th at the State House, which has reopened to the general public. The Committees met in-person and there is no longer an option to participate by telephone or video. Masks are still required to access the State House, in hallways, and in Committee Rooms at the discretion of the Committee Chair. Between the two committees, a dozen pieces of legislation directly related to education were advanced in Trenton this week.
Following are the bills that were considered by the Senate Education Committee on Monday.
Epi-Pen Administration by Bus Drivers
S-133 (Diegnan / Beach) would permit school bus drivers to administer epinephrine to a student in emergency situations. The bill establishes certain conditions that must be met before a bus driver would be permitted to administer epinephrine, such as parents providing consent and physician orders that their child requires the administration of epinephrine for anaphylaxis. The bill also contains liability protections for bus drivers. The Committee voted favorably to advance this bill (5-0). NJPSA testified seeking amendments to this bill to make it voluntary in nature and to match current law of volunteer delegates.
Suicide Prevention Training
S-528 (Ruiz / Pou) would require additional school district personnel to complete a training program on suicide prevention. Under current law, public school teaching staff members receive instruction in suicide prevention as part of their professional development requirements. This bill provides that a school district employee who is not subject to the current requirement, and an employee of a contracted service provider who has regular contact with students, be required to complete a one-time training program in suicide prevention, awareness and response developed by the New Jersey Department of Education. In addition, each school district and contracted service provider is to annually provide its employees with an educational fact sheet and guidelines on the school district’s reporting and suicide prevention, awareness, and response protocols. The Committee voted favorably to advance this bill (5-0). NJPSA supported this measure having received significant amendments to the original bill.
September 11th Commemoration in Schools
S-713 (Codey) would require school districts to include information on events of September 11th, 2001, as part of New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Social Studies and would require public schools to hold annual events commemorating September 11, 2001. The Committee voted favorably to advance this bill (5-0). NJPSA was neutral on this bill.
Smartphone/Social Media Impact Study
S-715 (Codey) would establish a commission to study effects on adolescents of smartphone and social media usage in school and to determine the effects that use has on students’ physical and emotional health and academic performance. NJPSA would be one of several education organizations that would have a representative on the commission. The Committee voted favorably to advance this bill (5-0). NJPSA supported this measure.
Reading Pilot Program
S-724 (Codey) directs the commissioner of education to establish a three-year pilot program to increase reading levels of certain students and appropriates $1 million to fund the program. The three-year pilot program will provide students who are not reading at grade level by the end of second grade in selected school districts with summer school instruction. The goal of the pilot program shall be to ensure students are able to read at grade level prior to the start of third grade. The Committee voted favorably to advance this bill (5-0). NJPSA supported this measure.
Eliminating edTPA to Help Increase Teacher Pipeline
S-896 (Turner / Greenstein) would prohibit the State Board of Education from requiring the completion of a commissioner of education approved performance-based assessment (i.e., edTPA) as a requirement for teacher certification. It would remove this requirement for both the obtaining of a certificate of eligibility with advanced standing or a certificate of eligibility. Teaching candidates would have to complete a performance-based assessment approved by an educator preparation program. The Committee voted favorably to advance this bill (5-0). NJPSA testified in support of this measure.
“Working Class Families’ Anti-Hunger Act”
S-1677 (Ruiz) would require schools to provide free school breakfasts and lunches to students from working class, middle-income families; designated as “Working Class Families’ Anti-Hunger Act.” “Middle-income family” is defined by the bill to include any family with an annual household income amounting to not less than 186 percent, and not more than 199 percent, of the federal poverty level. This bill would alter the existing law to require each school in the State to offer a school lunch program and a school breakfast program, regardless of the percentage of students at the school who are federally eligible for free or reduced price school meals, and it would further require each school to provide free school breakfasts and lunches to all middle-income students enrolled at the school, including when such meals are offered to students through a breakfast after the bell program or an emergency meals distribution program (which is activated during a period of school closure resulting from COVID-19). Each school district, and the Department of Agriculture (DOA), would be required, by the bill, to publicize, to parents and students, the fact that free meals are being made available to middle-income students under these school meals programs, pursuant to the bill’s provisions. NJPSA supports this measure so long as any cost associated with set up or implementation of the program is fully covered by the state.
Military Impact Aid
S-1929 (Gopal) – Makes FY 2022 supplemental appropriation in the amount of $1,529,089 to provide State military impact aid to certain school districts. This amount is added to the appropriation for stabilization aid in the Department of Education. This supplemental appropriation will ensure that the Rockaway Township and Tinton Falls school districts, both of which have not yet received military impact aid in fiscal year 2022, are allocated military impact aid in the amounts of $776,515 and $752,574, respectively. NJPSA supported this bill.
The Senate Education Committee will meet again on Monday, March 14th to receive testimony from invited guests regarding student mental health and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of students in New Jersey.
The Assembly Education Committee met on Thursday, March 10th. Following are the bills that were considered by the Committee on Thursday.
Concerning School Security and Emergency Communication Policies
A-301 (Munoz) would require school districts to submit emergency communication policies and protocols to the Department of Education for review. The committee unanimously advanced the bill with amendments (7-0). NJPSA supported this measure after successfully obtaining amendments.
Excuses Absence from Public School for Civic Events
A-1271 (Stanley / Rooney) would allow students in grades 6-12 at least one excused absence per year for students who attend civic events. Parents or guardians must alert the district of the absence five days in advance and provide any supporting documentation the superintendent or building principal requests as proof of participation.The genesis of this bill was a group of tri-partisan high school students who were inspired by a similar law that was recently signed in Virginia. The committee amended the bill to include a definition of “civic event”. The bill was unanimously passed by the committee (7-0). NJPSA supported this measure.
Establishes School Meal Fund
A-1822 (Lampitt / Reynolds-Jackson / Caputo) – A food insecurity bill, this measure would require school district to establish “School Meal Fund” to assist students with school meal bills in arrears. Under this measure, a board of education would establish a “School Meal Fund” for the sole purpose of accepting donations to assist students enrolled in the district with the purchase of school breakfast or school lunch and to satisfy any arrears of school breakfast or school lunch bills. The fund would be maintained under the jurisdiction of the board of education and the supervision of the school business administrator. The bill was unanimously advanced by the committee (7-0). NJPSA was neutral on this bill.
Using Graduation Proficiency Test as Field Test for Data Collection Only
A-3196 (Caputo / Lampitt / Jasey) – Under this bill, the New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment (NJGPA) would be administered to current 11th grade students expected to graduate as part of the class of 2023 as a field-test. Under no circumstances would the assessment be used as a graduation requirement for these students. Instead, results would be used to assist in the development of State graduation proficiency tests for future graduating classes. The bill was unanimously advanced by the committee (7-0). NJPSA testified in support of this measure (click here to read testimony).
If you have any questions about the bills that advanced this week, or any other pending legislation, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time: Debra Bradley, Director of NJPSA Government Relations firstname.lastname@example.org or Jennie Lamon, Assistant Director of Government Relations email@example.com. Thank you for your support and advocacy!