A bill that would have allowed school districts to let certain students who are not enrolled in the district, play on athletic teams in the district, is one of a number of school-related bills “pocket vetoed” as the 2016-2017 Legislative Session ended. In the final voting sessions, the Senate and General Assembly gave final legislative approval to more than 100 pieces of pending legislation, several of which impact New Jersey’s public school districts and students.

Following is a summary of action taken by Gov. Christie as he left office. Bills approved become law on their respective effective dates; any measures not approved by the governor were pocket-vetoed and would have to be reintroduced and approved by the new Legislature in the 2018-2019 session. 

Bills Approved:

A2873/S2485 – Requires that the computer science course required to be offered by public schools be informed by the work being done by the state Department of Education pursuant to L.2015, c.229, which provides that the department review the New Jersey Student Learning Standards to ensure that modern computer science standards are incorporated, where appropriate; and provides that by the 2022-2023 school year the State Board of Education will adopt appropriate changes to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards and to high school graduation requirements that reflect that work.

A4404/S2978 – This bill, as amended, revises current law governing the types of securities that may be purchased by local units and school districts to provide that local government investment pools must be managed in accordance with generally accepted accounting and financial reporting principles established by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). Current law requires local government investment pools to be managed pursuant to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations governing money market funds (17 C.F.R. s.270.2a-7). Local government investment pools function like money market funds in the private sector.

A5071/S3409 – This bill establishes standardized changed condition clauses for construction contracts awarded under the “Local Public Contracts Law,” L.1971, c.198 (C.40A:11-1 et seq.) The bill requires that these clauses be included in local public construction contracts, and provides that they apply even if they are not expressly included in such a contract. The specific clauses required by the bill cover differing site conditions, suspensions of contract work, changes in the character of the contract work, and changes in the amount of work to be performed by a contractor. This bill would establish a standard process for the handling of changed conditions on local public construction projects.

A597/S3637 – The bill provides that a person who knowingly operates a school bus transporting one or more students while that person’s driving privileges have been suspended or revoked is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. A crime of the fourth degree is ordinarily punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months or a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The bill further provides that a person, knowingly operating a school bus while that person’s driving privileges have been suspended or revoked, who is involved in an accident resulting in bodily injury to another person is guilty of a crime of the third degree. A crime of the third degree is ordinarily punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years or a fine of up to $15,000, or both. The bill requires the chief administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission to revoke for life the passenger and school bus endorsements on the commercial driver’s license of a person convicted of either offense. Finally, the bill specifies that a person convicted of either offense is permanently disqualified from employment as a school bus driver.

A1257/S2638 – This bill requires school buses that provide transportation for students using wheelchairs to be equipped with a four-point securement system for each student using a wheelchair on the school bus. A four-point securement system is defined as a complete four-point system that includes four wheelchair restraints to secure a wheelchair to the vehicle floor; a lap and shoulder belt that integrates to the rear wheelchair restraints; and floor anchorages installed in the vehicle floor. Under the bill, students using wheelchairs are required to be secured using the four-point securement system at all times while the bus is in operation.

A4906/S3371 – This bill requires each school district and nonpublic school in the state to notify each student enrolled in the school district or nonpublic school and the student’s parent or guardian of the availability of, and criteria of eligibility for, the summer meals program and the locations in the local school district where the summer meals are available. Each school district or nonpublic school would provide notification by distributing flyers provided by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. The bill requires that the Department of Agriculture develop and distribute the flyer to each school district and nonpublic school in the state no later than June 1 of the school year. Additionally, school districts and nonpublic schools are permitted to provide electronic notice of the information through the usual means by which the school district or nonpublic school communicates with parents and students electronically.

Bills Pocket-Vetoed:

A2352/S447 – This bill would have required that, in the event that 10 percent or more of the students enrolled in a public school are chronically absent, the school must develop a corrective action plan to improve absenteeism rates. The bill would have required that in developing the corrective action plan, the school must solicit input from parents through multiple means, including through the administration of a survey, engaging with the school’s parent organization, and, if the school does not have a parent organization, holding a public meeting to provide parents with the opportunity to provide input. The school would be required to present its corrective action plan to the board of education. The school would annually review and revise the plan, and present the revisions to the board, until the percent of students who are chronically absent is less than 10 percent. The bill also would have required the New Jersey Commissioner of Education to include on School Report Cards data on the number and percentage of students who were chronically absent and the number and percentage of students who received a disciplinary suspension.

A3870/S2397 –The bill directs the State Board of Education to authorize a computer science education endorsement to the instructional certificate.

A4318/S2704 – This bill establishes a grant program for school districts and charter schools to develop dual language immersion programs

A5254/S3447 – This bill would have allowed public schools to let certain students not enrolled in the school to participate in high school interscholastic athletics. Specifically, the bill permitted (but did not require) school districts to allow students who attend nonpublic schools to try out for, and participate in, a high school interscholastic athletics team in the student’s district of residence if the district is unable to field a team due to a decline in interest or participation in the sport that impacts the ability of the district to safely field a team or squad. Such participation would also be permitted if the nonpublic school does not sponsor a high school interscholastic sports team in the sport in which the student wishes to participate. Comparable provisions were included in the bill that make it similarly applicable to homeschooled and charter school students. In addition, public school students who wished to participate in a school-sponsored high school interscholastic athletics team at a charter school would also be permitted to do so, under similar criteria. The bill also would have required the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to allow public high schools in the same school district to enter into a cooperative sports program for any sport at the varsity level if either of the schools demonstrates an inability to field a team at the varsity level due to: a decline in interest or participation in the sport at one of the schools that impacts the ability of that school to safely field a team; or budgetary constraints which force the elimination of certain sports programs at one of the schools. As amended, local board control over the decision to allow nonpublic, homeschooled and charter school students to participate on a public high school’s interscholastic athletics team was preserved. Therefore, the NJSBA would have supported the legislation.

A191/S2313 – The bill requires school buildings to be equipped with an emergency light and panic alarm linked to local law enforcement.

A2220/S1729 – The bill authorizes local units of government subject to the “Local Public Contracts Law” and “Public School Contracts Law” to use electronic procurement technologies. The bill authorizes local units to use electronic procurement practices for such purposes as may be authorized by the governing body of the local unit. The bill requires a local unit that uses an electronic procurement system to continue to publish advertising bids and requests for proposal in the local unit’s official newspaper. 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 NJSBA, along with its local government partners at the N.J. State League of Municipalities and N.J. Association of Counties, strongly supports this legislation

A3396/S2885 – The bill requires financial literacy instruction to pupils enrolled in grades kindergarten through eight.