legupdateOn Monday, Aug. 10, Gov. Chris Christie took action on 40 legislative proposals, several of which impact New Jersey’s local school districts and students.  The following provides a rundown of those measures that are of relevance to the NJSBA and its members:

Bill Signed into Law S-2484/A-3845 requires the state Department of Education to conduct a study on the issues, benefits, and options for instituting a later start time to the school day in middle school and high school.  The study will:

  • consider the recent recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics on the establishment of later school start times;
  • include an assessment of the health, academic, and safety benefits associated with establishing later start times in middle schools and high schools;
  • evaluate any potential negative impacts on school districts and families that may be associated with a later start time and consider strategies for addressing potential problems; and
  • review all available literature and data on the experiences of school districts in the nation that have instituted later start times.

Under the bill, which became effective upon the governor’s approval, the department must submit a report on the study to the governor and to the Legislature that details the findings of the study.

The report will include a recommendation on the advisability of establishing a pilot program to test later school start times in select middle schools and high schools throughout the State that are interested in participating in the program.  The NJSBA supported the legislation.

S-1760/A-4212 recognizes American Sign Language as a world language for meeting high school graduation requirements.

Conditional Vetoes The governor has returned the following bills to the Legislature with recommended changes.  The Legislature can either adopt the recommendations of the governor and return the measures to his desk, or override the governor with a vote of two-thirds of the members of each house.

S-300/A-4119 establishes the “New Jersey Out-of-School Time Advisory Commission” to review before-school, after-school, and summer programs. (The conditional veto statement is available here. )

As passed by the Legislature, this bill would have established a 20-member New Jersey Out-of-School Time Advisory Commission to examine out-of-school programs in New Jersey, adopt statewide standards, and make recommendations to the governor and Legislature.

While indicating support for the bill’s objective, the governor proposed some amendments.  In his statement, the governor highlighted the fact that the proposed composition of the commission fails to include any representatives from actual out-of-school program providers.  To ensure meaningful collaboration and the sharing of best practices, he recommended “reconstituting the commission’s membership to include representatives from out-of-school program providers without making the commission cumbersome.”  The governor has specifically recommended reducing the size of the commission from 20 to seven members as follows: the Commissioner of Education, ex officio, or a designee, who shall serve as chairperson, and six public members appointed by the Governor, including at least one representative of an organization that provides out-of-school programs to children in New Jersey.  The NJSBA supported the version as passed by the Legislature, which explicitly designated a representative of the Association to serve on the commission.

S-1857/A-2699 establishes measures to deter steroid use among students and appropriates $45,000 to the Department of Education for New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association testing of student-athletes for steroids and other performance enhancing substances. (The conditional veto statement can be accessed here. )

This bill would require the establishment and implementation of a plan for the expanded testing of student-athletes for steroids and performance enhancing drugs (“PEDs”), and would enact other measures designed to prevent their use.  While supportive of the reforms and initiatives set forth in the proposal, the governor stopped short of signing it into law because it contains a supplemental appropriation outside of the annual appropriations process.  The governor has recommended removing the $45,000 appropriation that would have been used to fund random testing of student-athletes for steroids and other performance enhancing substances.  The NJSBA supported the bill as passed by the Legislature.

S-2058/A-3738 authorizes establishment of three pilot recovery alternative high schools that provide high school education and substance dependency plans of recovery. (The conditional veto statement is here. )

As approved by the legislature, this legislation would have authorized the commissioner of education to permit school districts or county vocational school districts to create three pilot recovery alternative high schools, one each in the northern, central, and southern regions of the state. The recovery alternative high schools would serve students diagnosed with substance use disorder or dependency by providing a comprehensive four-year high school education in an alternative public school setting and a structured plan of recovery. The commissioner would issue a request for proposals for an entity to operate a recovery alternative high school; the proposal must detail how the district would satisfy the criteria for an alternative education program pursuant to State Board of Education regulations, as well as how it will satisfy the requirements for accreditation by the Association of Recovery Schools.  The NJSBA supported the proposal.

In his veto statement, the governor expressed concern that this proposal could unnecessarily restrict access to these programs as a result of overly burdensome State oversight and regulation. “Instead,” the governor wrote, “local school districts, which are best situated to understand the needs of their students and the merits of potential programs, should be responsible for the approval and oversight of new recovery programs. Therefore, I recommend that the bill be amended to authorize local school districts to approve and operate alternative education programs, including recovery high schools, that the districts determine will best serve their students.”

S-2489/A-3859 permits certain government entities (including school districts) to enter into public-private partnerships to undertake certain building and highway infrastructure projects, and provides for oversight of these agreements by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA).  (Click here for the conditional veto statement.) To ensure competitive bidding for projects and reduce project costs, the governor is recommending that the provisions imposing prevailing wage requirements and those mandating project labor agreements be removed from the bill.

Absolute Vetoes The following bills were vetoed by the governor without any recommended changes.

S-3100/A-4605 requires the state to pay its pension contributions on quarterly basis by August 1, November 1, February 1 and May 1 of each year. (Absolute Veto Statement)

S-3107/A-4606 makes FY 2015 supplemental State appropriations totaling $300 million for prepayment of a portion of FY 2016 employer contributions to State-administered public employee defined benefit retirement systems. (Absolute Veto Statement)