While the school funding reform proposal announced by Senate President Steven Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto was the most significant piece of news coming out of Trenton last week, there has been plenty of other activity at the State House of interest to New Jersey’s public school districts. The following provides a list of school-related bills that recently advanced out of committee, as well as a rundown of several other measures that cleared the full Senate at its Monday voting session.

Assembly Education Committee

The committee advanced the following bills on Thursday, June 15, each of which are now primed for an Assembly floor vote.

Evaluation Waiver for Supervising Teachers A-336 waives the annual teacher evaluation requirement for certain teachers who supervise student teachers. Under the “Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act,” teachers are evaluated annually based on multiple measures, including measures of student achievement. Under this bill, a teacher who is rated highly effective under the evaluation system for at least two consecutive evaluation periods, or is rated effective or a combination of effective and highly effective for three consecutive evaluation periods, and who accepts responsibility to supervise a student teacher in the following school year, will have the annual evaluation requirement waived during the school year in which the teacher supervises the student teacher. A teacher whose annual evaluation requirement is waived under the bill’s provisions is not precluded from supervising a student teacher in subsequent school years with the approval of the school district’s chief school administrator. NJSBA is monitoring the legislation.

Backgrounds Checks for Athletics Officials A-448 requires that a criminal history records check be conducted on any person who serves as an official for an interscholastic athletics meet, game, or tournament sanctioned by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA). A prospective or current official will be disqualified from serving as an official for any interscholastic athletic event sanctioned by the NJSIAA if the person’s criminal history record information reveals a record of conviction for a disqualifying crime or offense. The bill incorporates by reference the list of disqualifying crimes and offenses applicable to prospective school employees.

Instruction on Interacting with Police A-1114 requires school districts to provide instruction on interacting with law enforcement in a manner marked by mutual cooperation and respect, and on the rights of individuals when interacting with a law enforcement official, as part of the implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Social Studies. The instruction must provide students with information on: the role and responsibilities of a law enforcement official in providing for public safety; an individual’s responsibilities to comply with a directive from a law enforcement official; and an individual’s rights under law in interacting with a law enforcement official. The bill also directs the commissioner of education to appoint an advisory committee, which would include a representative of the NJSBA, to assist in the development of a curriculum for the implementation of the instructional requirement.

Student Online PrivacyA-1272/A-3936, known as the “Student Online Personal Protection Act,” concerns the personally identifiable information of a public or nonpublic school student that is not publicly available, and is created or gathered by or provided to the operator of an internet website, online service, online application, or mobile application that is designed and marketed for K-12 school purposes.

Under the legislation, the operator is prohibited from:

  • engaging in targeted advertising if it is based on any information that the operator has acquired because of the use of that operator’s site, service, or application for K-12 school purposes;
  • using information created or gathered by the operator’s site, service, or application, to amass a profile about a student except in furtherance of K-12 school purposes;
  • selling or renting a student’s information; or
  • disclosing certain information regarding a student.

In addition to the list of prohibited practices listed above, the bill also requires an operator to:

  • implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices which are designed to protect student information from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure;
  • delete within a reasonable time period a student’s information if the school district or charter school requests deletion of covered information under the control of the school district or K-12 school;
  • disclose, in a manner that is clear and easy to understand, the types of information that are collected or generated, the purposes for which the information is used or disclosed to third parties, and the identity of such third parties;
  • implement policies for responding to data breaches involving unauthorized acquisition of or access to personally identifiable information; and
  • delete information in a reasonable timeframe after it ceases to provide services to a school district, school, or student.

NJSBA supports the legislation.

Penalties for Tampering with Emergency Warning Devices A-4983 provides that an employee of a public or nonpublic school who knowingly damages, disconnects, tampers, or interferes with the operation of a public or nonpublic school loudspeaker, alarm, or other emergency warning device or system will be liable to a civil penalty of $1,000 for each offense.

Assembly State and Local Government Committee

The committee on Thursday, June 15 heard testimony on recently-introduced legislation that would require state and local governing units, including school districts, to use an electronic procurement process when going out to bid for certain construction projects.

A-4932, known as the “Electronic Bidding Construction Act,” would require public contracting agencies that contract for the construction of public works to use electronic procurement technologies for public works construction projects valued at more than $5 million.

NJSBA staff testified on the legislation, along with representatives of the N.J. State League of Municipalities (NJSLOM) and the N.J. Association of Counties (NJAC). The groups supported the concept of using technology to improve the public contracting process, which will likely save time and money. Longstanding NJSBA policy holds to the belief that boards of education 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.

However, the groups raised concerns regarding the mandatory nature of the legislation. They urged the committee to consider the potential impact on local government agencies’ finances and operations before moving forward with an across-the-board mandate that they use the electronic bidding for construction projects, particularly in light of the fact that the practice has not been widely used or evaluated in New Jersey localities. NJSBA, NJSLOM and NJAC will continue to work with the sponsors and interested stakeholders to ensure their concerns are addressed as the bill moves forward.

The legislation was heard “for discussion only” and did not receive a committee vote.

Assembly Appropriations Committee

After consideration of their fiscal impact, on Monday, June 19, the Appropriations Committee released the following two school-related bills:

Smokeless Tobacco Ban A-493/S-293 prohibits the use of smokeless tobacco in public schools. The bill requires the board of education of each school district to ensure the placement, in every public entrance to a public school building in its district, of a sign indicating the use of smokeless tobacco is prohibited in the school. The penalties for using smokeless tobacco in violation of this bill would be a fine of not less than $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.

Under the bill, in the event that the local board of health receives a written complaint, or has reason to suspect a public school is in violation of the bill’s provision, then the board of health will provide written notification to the board of education and order that appropriate action be taken. The board of education would be subject to a fine in the event that it fails to comply. The fine would be not less than $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.

A student who uses smokeless tobacco in a public school in violation of the bill’s provisions, will not be subject to the fines, but rather will be prohibited by the board of education of the district from participation in all extracurricular activities and will have his or her student parking permit revoked.

NJSBA supports the bill, which has already passed the Senate and may now be posted for an Assembly floor vote.

Summer Meal Programs A-4906 requires each school district and nonpublic school in New Jersey to notify each student and the student’s parent or guardian of the availability and criteria of eligibility for the summer meals program and the locations in the local school district where the summer meals are available. Notification would be made by distributing flyers provided by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. The bill directs the department to develop and distribute to each school district and nonpublic school in the state.  Additionally, school districts and schools are permitted to provide electronic notice of the information through the usual means by which the school district or school communicates with parents and students electronically. NJSBA supports the bill, which is primed for an Assembly floor vote.

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee

On Monday, June 19, the committee advanced legislation promoting the establishing of dual language immersion programs in New Jersey’s public schools.

Promoting Dual Language Immersion S-2704 establishes a grant program for school districts and charter schools to develop dual language immersion programs. The bill directs the N.J. Commissioner of Education to establish a dual language immersion program. Under the program, the commissioner will provide grants to school districts and charter schools to develop dual language immersion programs in Chinese, Spanish, French, or any other language approved by the commissioner. A school district or charter school may be eligible to receive funds if it uses an instructional model that provides at least 50 percent of its instruction in English and 50 percent of its instruction in the other language. The program would have to begin in kindergarten or grade one and would need to meet any other requirements established by the commissioner. The bill establishes the Dual Language Immersion Program Fund to finance the grant program, which would be credited with money appropriated by the Legislature, any gifts, grants, or donations made to the fund, and any other available revenue. NJSBA supports the bill.

Senate Voting Session

The full Senate convened on Monday, June 19 for a voting session and approved a handful of bills that are being actively tracked by the NJSBA.

Farm to School Coordinating Council A-3058/S-2366 would establish the “Farm to School Coordinating Council.” The council would consist of five members as follows: the N.J. Secretary of Agriculture, the N.J. Commissioner of Education, and three members of the public who have experience working with the New Jersey Farm to School Program. The council would examine all areas of the New Jersey Farm to School Program and identify any outstanding issues or problems that need to be resolved and areas in need of improvement. The council would focus on the procurement process relating to the purchase of agricultural products by schools from New Jersey farmers, and recommend ways to increase the participation of both farmers and schools in the program. The council would also make recommendations on ways to promote and increase the use of fresh farm foods at schools throughout the state.

The bill has now passed both houses and heads to the governor. NJSBA supports the bill.

School Safety Specialists A-3347/S-2242 establishes the “New Jersey School Safety Specialist Academy” within the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). The purpose of the academy will be to serve as a repository for best practices, training standards, and compliance oversight in matters regarding school safety and security. Under the bill, the academy will develop and implement a School Safety Specialist Certification Program. Each school superintendent will be required to designate a school administrator as a school safety specialist who must complete the certification program. The school safety specialist will be responsible for the supervision and oversight of all school safety and security personnel, policies, and procedures in the school district; ensure that these policies and procedures are in compliance with state law and regulations; and provide the necessary training and resources to school district staff in matters relating to school safety and security. The school safety specialist will also serve as the school district liaison with local law enforcement and other agencies and organizations in matters of school safety and security.

The NJSBA supports the legislation, which would codify one of the recommendations of the New Jersey School Security Task Force, which released its final report in July 2015. Earlier in the legislative process, the NJSBA successfully obtained amendments to the bill clarifying that the certification program and any related training and professional development will be provided free of charge to designated school safety specialists. The bill will now return to the Assembly, which passed a previous version of A-3347, to concur with amendments made by the Senate.

College Readiness Commission A-4088/S-2567 establishes a “High School to College Readiness Commission.” Under the bill, the commission will consist of 18 members including: the commissioner of education, the secretary of higher education, the executive director of the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, and 11 members from various associations representing the K-12 and higher education communities. NJSBA will have a representative on the commission. The commission will study and develop recommendations on “issues related to enhancing student preparation for postsecondary education and raising the awareness of students and parents on the admission requirements and other issues associated with postsecondary education.”

NJSBA supports the bill. The measure now returns to the Assembly, which passed a previous version of the bill, to concur with amendments made by the Senate before heading to the governor’s desk.

ELL Students in G&T Programs A-4175/S-2808 directs the N.J. Commissioner of Education to develop guidance for school districts regarding the identification of English language learners for gifted and talented programs. The purpose of the guidance is to: (1) assist districts in identifying English language learners in grades kindergarten through 12 who are gifted and talented in order to match them with programs that will help them achieve in accordance with their full capabilities; and (2) provide guidelines on appropriate identification methods that may help reduce the underrepresentation of English language learners in gifted and talented programs.

NJSBA supports the bill, which heads to the governor’s desk.

Guidance on Transgender Students S-3067 requires the commissioner of education to develop guidelines for school districts regarding transgender students. The guidelines are intended to provide direction for schools in addressing common issues concerning the needs of transgender students, and to assist schools in establishing policies and procedures that ensure a supportive and nondiscriminatory environment for transgender students. The guidelines will also include information on organizations or other resources available to students and parents that provide support to transgender individuals.

In addition, the bill requires the commissioner to provide school districts with guidance and resources regarding: (1) providing professional development opportunities to school staff regarding issues and concerns relevant to LGBTQ students; and (2) making developmentally appropriate information about LGBTQ issues available in school facilities.

NJSBA supports the bill, which joins its counterpart, A-4652, in the Assembly Education Committee.

Athletic Code of Conduct SR-81, a non-binding resolution, urges New Jersey’s school boards and youth sports team organizations, to post conspicuous signs at each sporting event in order to emphasize to students, parents, coaches, school officials, and other attendees the rules and penalties established in an athletic code of conduct. The resolution also urges school boards and youth sports team organizations to make a verbal announcement at the beginning of a sporting event reminding participants and attendees of the rules established by an athletic code of conduct. NJSBA supports the resolution.