legupdateThe Senate Educational Committee passed a bill that would help facilitate the construction of county vocational school facilities with overwhelming support on Jan. 29. The bill, S-2659, would amend the “Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act” (EFCFA) and authorize a county improvement authority to finance the construction of a new facility for a county vocational school district.

Upon the request of the board of education of a county vocational school district, the county improvement authority would issue its bonds to finance either the local share of a project that will receive an upfront grant for the state share of the project under EFCFA, or the total cost of a project that is eligible to receive state debt service aid under that same law.

The NJSBA supports the measure. Other supporters include the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, the New Jersey Education Association and the New Jersey Association of Counties. The bill is now primed for a vote before the full Senate. Its Assembly counterpart, A-3970, was released by the Assembly Education Committee in mid-January.

Also on Jan. 29,  NJSBA testified before the state Senate Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee to oppose S-2453, a bill that would limit the polling hours for the April school elections. Current law mandates that polls be open from at least 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for the April school election and any other hours starting at 7 a.m. that the school board may designate. The proposed change would mandate that polls be open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and any other hours, beginning at 6 a.m. Current NJSBA policy supports the 9 p.m. closing of polls during the April school elections.  The bill was released from committee.

Senate Ed Committee Actions The Senate Education Committee also took action on several other bills impacting New Jersey’s school districts and students.

S-295, a bill that requires a board of education to provide an individual textbook for each student enrolled in a class, was also released by the committee. The legislation defines “textbook” to include not only books, but also various teacher prepared materials, intended as the principal source of study material for a given class. A similar measure was introduced in the Assembly at the beginning of the current session but has not been heard at the committee level.

The committee advanced S-2245 and A-3256, which would require any teachers appointed to teach health, physical education, or both, in grades kindergarten through six to possess the appropriate endorsement to their instructional certificate. The stated intent of the bill is to ensure that all health and physical education instruction at public schools is provided by individuals who have received comprehensive content and pedagogical training.

Under existing New Jersey State Board of Education regulations, in order to teach health, physical education or both to elementary school students, a teacher is not required to have these specific endorsements to the instructional certificate. Currently, a teacher with an elementary school endorsement is permitted to teach these courses.

The full Assembly approved the measure last October by a vote of 76-1. The legislation may now be posted for a vote by the full Senate. If signed into law, S-2245/A-3256 would go into effect at the beginning of the first school year following enactment. 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.

The committee also released the following bills that are being closely monitored by the NJSBA:

  • S-1760 recognizes American Sign Language as a world language for meeting high school graduation requirements.
  • S-2425 / A-3360 requires each school district with a middle school or high school to establish a food services advisory committee to consider menu options that reflect students’ cultural, traditional, and dietary preferences.
  • S-2712 / A-1499 requires a school business administrator to annually report to the board of education on district contracts.
  • S-2716 requires that a school district’s request for permission to use an unrecognized position title include a list of abolished positions and positions in which there have been layoffs and detailed job descriptions for them.