legupdateCommittees of the state Legislature met on Thursday, Dec. 10 and Monday, Dec. 14 and advanced several measures of interest to the NJSBA and its members.

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee passed the following on Dec. 10:

SCR-184 proposes a constitutional amendment to require payments by the state to state-administered retirement systems and to establish in the New Jersey Constitution the right of public employees to pension benefits. The bill also provides for the enforcement of funding obligations and benefit rights. The proposed constitutional amendment will be submitted to the electorate if it is approved by three-fifths of the total membership of each house of the Legislature, or if it receives a majority in each house in two successive years.

Also on Dec. 10, the Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee passed the following measure:

A-2893/S-1940 exempts payments for electric, gas, telecommunications, water, and sewer utility services provided by companies under the jurisdiction of the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) from school district and local government certification requirements related to payments for goods and services with public money. An exemption from these certification requirements may provide savings for taxpayers that may be used to fund school districts and local government entities, and may save money for public utility ratepayers throughout the state. The NJSBA supports the measure.

The following measures passed the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee on Dec. 10:

A-2583 requires the commissioner of education, in consultation with the commissioner of health and the National Pest Management Association, to develop a fact sheet that provides information about bedbugs. The fact sheet will also be posted on the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) website. Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, each school district may distribute the fact sheet to students and their parents or guardians. The NJSBA supports the measure.

S-1977 would establish a five-year pilot program to provide state funding for certain students enrolled in adult education programs. Beginning in the 2016-2017school year, a school district that operates an approved adult high school program will receive $1,500 in adult education aid for each eligible pupil enrolled in the program.

On Dec. 14 the Assembly Education Committee passed the following:

A-4328 requires the commissioner of education to develop and establish an initiative to support and encourage the use of a Response to Intervention (RTI) framework by school districts to promote the achievement of all students. The initiative would include the dissemination of information and guidance to school districts regarding the development and effective implementation of an RTI framework as a methodology to identify struggling learners, maximize student achievement, and reduce behavioral problems. The NJSBA supports the legislation.

A-4562/S-2844 requires school districts and the NJDOE to post information on their websites regarding student participation in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments. Under the bill, a school district must provide on its website, and make publicly available upon request, information regarding the number of students in each grade level who participated in the administration of a PARCC exam and the number of students who did not participate in the assessment. A school district must provide the required information on its website, and provide the information to the NJDOE, no later than ten days after the district completes its administration of any PARCC assessment to any grade level. The NJSBA expressed concerns regarding the 10-day timeline established by the bill could skew the results. For instance, some students could be absent during the initial test administration, but will take the assessment at later date. Instead, the NJSBA recommended that the NJDOE be given the responsibility of reporting participation data back to local school districts and the public, as it can report the information in a uniform manner using district information uploaded through systems such as NJSMART.

A-4653/S-3067 requires that teachers appointed to teach health, health and physical education, or physical education in grades kindergarten through six possess the appropriate endorsement to their instructional certificate. The NJSBA did not take a public stance on the measure. However, the Association supports the bill’s “grandfather” provision, which will permit any teacher who has obtained an elementary school endorsement prior to the bill’s effective date to continue teaching health and/or physical education without obtaining the appropriate endorsements in those subject areas. This provision acknowledges the need to grant school districts adequate time and flexibility to comply with the new endorsement requirement.

A-4693 requires the commissioner of education to include data on chronic absenteeism and disciplinary suspensions on the School Report Card, and requires public schools to make efforts to combat chronic absenteeism. The NJSBA supports the concept of the legislation, but feels that more resources must be committed to assist school districts in addressing chronic absenteeism, which has many different causes and symptoms, on a global basis.

A-4753 Requires employees of nonpublic schools to undergo criminal history record checks and requires certain types of formerly-exempt child care centers to obtain a license from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.

A-4878/S-3240 authorizes a school district to establish alternative education programs, including recovery high school alternative education programs, upon the approval of the board of education. The NJSBA supports the measure, as it maintains local discretion regarding the establishment of alternative education programs.

The Senate Education Committee passed the following measures on Dec. 14:

A-1431 / S-1501 would require the State Board of Education regulations regarding school nurse certification to include certain minimum eligibility requirements. The State Board adopted new school nurse regulations in June 2013, which increased flexibility for local districts. The intent was to simplify certification requirements and address the mismatch between the supply and demand of nurses. The NJSBA took no position on the 2013 code amendments and remains neutral on A-1431/S-1501.

A-1667 / S-2155 permits a child whose parent or guardian is a member of the New Jersey National Guard or a member of the reserve component of the armed forces of the United States and who has been ordered into active military service in any of the armed forces of the United States in a time of war or national emergency to remain enrolled in the school district in which the child’s parent or guardian is domiciled at the time of being ordered into active military service, regardless of where the child resides during the period of active duty. The NJSBA supports the legislation.

A-2597/S-2161 provides that beginning with the class of students who enter ninth grade in the 2016-2017 school year, Advanced Placement computer science courses may satisfy a part of either the mathematics or science credits required for high school graduation. The NJSBA supports the bill.

A-4148/S-2731 provides an excused absence on Veterans Day for a pupil who participates in certain activities for veterans or active duty members of the United States Armed Forces or New Jersey National Guard. The NJSBA supports the legislation.

A-4415/S-3230 permits newly-created regional school districts or enlarging regional school districts to determine apportionment methodology for their boards of education on a basis other than population. The NJSBA supports the bill.

S-658/S-2798 raises the age requirement of compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18 years old. The bill was referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

S-2426 requires public schools to weight courses in visual and performing arts equally with other courses worth the same number of credits in calculating grade-point average.

S-2633 authorizes a board of education that includes grades nine through 12 to establish a community service credit program. The program will allow a high school student to earn credit as an optional elective towards the high school graduation requirements upon the completion of an approved community service activity. The NJSBA supports the legislation.

S-3006 requires each public school teacher to complete, as part of the teacher’s professional development, training on maintaining appropriate professional teacher-student relationships.

S-3244 eliminates the per-pupil administrative cost limit for school districts. Under current law, the proposed budget submitted by a school district to the education commissioner for approval may not include per-pupil administrative costs which exceed its per-pupil administrative cost limit. The district’s limit would be the lower of: 1) the district’s prior year per pupil administrative costs; or 2) the prior year per pupil administrative cost limits for the district’s region inflated by the cost of living or 2.5 percent, whichever is greater. The elimination of the per-pupil administrative cost limit will provide school districts with greater flexibility in addressing the allocation of school district resources. The NJSBA supports the legislation.

S-3279/A-4415 establishes the State Seal of Biliteracy to recognize high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more world languages in addition to English. The NJSBA supports the legislation.

SJR-64 designates the second Friday in December of each year as “PSRPs in Our Schools Day” in New Jersey to recognize the contributions of paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRPs).

SR-38 urges school administrators, teachers, parents, and students to be better educated about the potential health impacts of heavy backpacks and to take proactive measures to avoid student injury. The NJSBA supports the resolution.

The Senate State Government Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee passed the following on Dec. 14:

S-3276 authorizes local units of government subject to the Local Public Contracts Law and the Public School Contracts Law to use electronic procurement technologies. The NJSBA believes that boards should be able to take advantage of electronic procurement technology and practices that result in streamlined purchasing procedures and more efficient use of taxpayer funds. Therefore, the Association strongly supports the bill.