The following provides a summary of NJSBA-tracked bills that the Legislature advanced over the past two weeks.

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee met on Feb. 27 and took action on several bills of interest to school districts:

S-990 As amended, this bill provides that beginning with the 2017-2018 ninth-grade class, the State Board of Education will require that the high school graduation requirement on financial literacy include instruction on available state and federal tuition assistance programs, including grants, scholarships, and student loans. The instruction must incorporate issues associated with student loan debt, the requirements for repayment of that debt, and the consequences of the failure to repay student loan debt in a timely manner.

The bill also provides that a school district must ensure that a student enrolled in high school meets with a guidance counselor during either the second or third year of high school to discuss state and federal tuition assistance programs that may be available to the student to finance postsecondary educational opportunities. The guidance counselor must also discuss options available to the student for dual enrollment in high school and an institution of higher education that will enable the student to earn college credit while still in high school and reduce the overall cost of a higher education.

NJSBA supports this bill, which was released out of committee and may now be posted for a vote before the full Senate.

S-2396/A-3785This bill requires the state to pay the educational costs of a student who resides for more than one year in a homeless shelter located outside the student’s district of residence. The purpose of the bill is to avoid concentrating the educational costs of students who live in homeless shelters for extended periods on the districts in which those shelters are located.

NJSBA supports this bill. The measure has already passed the General Assembly and will head to the governor’s desk if approved by the full Senate.

The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee met on March 6 and took action on the following bill.

S-2874 –  This bill authorizes the use of certain electric school buses and provides that the maximum overall width of an electric school bus operated in New Jersey is not to exceed 102 inches, excluding accessories. Current regulations restrict the width of all school buses to 96 inches. The increased permissible width set forth in the bill would apply to electric school buses exclusively.

NJSBA supports the measure.

Senate Select Committee on School Funding Fairness

In addition, it was announced this week that Morris County will the location of the next scheduled public hearing of the Senate Select Committee on School Funding Fairness. The hearing will be held on Wednesday, March 15 at 12:30 p.m. in the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills Municipal Building, 1001 Parsippany Blvd., Parsippany, New Jersey 07054.  The committee will receive testimony from invited guests and from members of the public on inequities in school funding in New Jersey.  The creation of this committee was authorized by the Senate’s approval of SR-100 this past January. Chaired by Senate President Steve Sweeney and vice-chaired by Republican Senator Joseph Pennacchio, the eight-person, bipartisan committee is charged with examining the state’s school funding system and to recommend any necessary reforms.

Persons wishing to testify should register with the Office of Legislative Services at (609) 847-3850 and should submit 15 copies of written testimony on the day of the hearing.  Oral testimony will be limited to three minutes.  Persons who are not presenting oral testimony may submit 15 copies of written testimony for consideration by the committee and inclusion in the record.

Board of education members and school district administrators are encouraged to take this opportunity to testify and share their thoughts on how to improve New Jersey’s system of funding public education.