The Senate Education Committee passed the following measures:
- S-177 establishes a 16-member task force to study and evaluate issues associated with school district regionalization. The task force would consist of 11 members appointed by the governor including one member appointed upon the recommendation of the NJSBA. NJSBA supports this legislation
- SCS-638/1455 requires full-day kindergarten in all school districts and establishes uniform age requirement for enrollment in kindergarten. NJSBA voiced concerns about what will amount to a new unfunded mandate, since districts not currently providing this service lack the resources and/or the necessary facilities to do so.
- S-757 requires public school students with a concussion to be evaluated by licensed health care professionals before returning to school. It also requires school districts to provide restrictions or limitations to the student as needed. NJSBA supports this bill.
- S-792 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. NJSBA supports this bill, which allows districts apportionment options, pending voter approval.
- S-973, called the “Early Childhood Innovation Act,” establishes an early childhood innovation loan pilot program and study commission within New Jersey Economic Development Authority. NJSBA is represented on the study commission. NJSBA supports this bill, which will provide a framework for creating public-private partnerships to address various early childhood education issues.
- S-997 makes a supplemental appropriation of $103 million from the Property Tax Relief Fund to NJDOE to provide preschool expansion aid to certain school districts. Specifically, the bill directs the commissioner to provide state aid to up to 17 qualified districts for the purpose of providing free access to full-day preschool for all three- and four-year old children residing in the school district. The commissioner would determine which qualified districts would receive the aid based on the districts demonstrating their readiness to operate a preschool program consistent with the state’s preschool quality standards, with priority going to the districts with the highest concentration of at-risk pupils (defined as students residing in a household in which income does not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty guideline). NJSBA supports this proposal as the first step to addressing the need for these services in all school districts.
- S-1454 establishes as a new principal department within the executive branch, the Department of Early Childhood. The bill transfers the functions of the current Division of Early Childhood Education in the NJDOE, as well as functions related to early childhood programs in the departments of human services; health, children and families; and agriculture, NJSBA has no current policy on this merger
- S-1456 makes a supplemental appropriation of $18 million from the state’s general fund to the New Jersey Department of Human Services to expand eligibility for “wrap around” child care services provided to families in former Abbott school districts. This proposal restores funding previously reduced from these districts. NJSBA is monitoring this bill.
- SJR-21, a Senate Joint Resolution, urges President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to include substance use disorder among disabilities qualifying children for special education programs and services. NJSBA is monitoring this resolution.
The following bills were approved by the Assembly Education Committee on March 3:
- A-191 requires school buildings to be equipped with an emergency light and panic alarm that is linked to local law enforcement. NJSBA supports this legislation, which was carried over from the last session and includes the Association’s recommended amendments.
- A-209 excludes certain increases in school security expenditures from the tax levy cap applicable to school districts. NJSBA supports this bill.
- A-1205 requires that if a school building is equipped with video surveillance equipment that is capable of wirelessly streaming live video to a remote location, the board of education must enter into a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement authorities giving the authorities the ability to activate the equipment and view live streaming videos. The impact of legislation is limited to a small number of districts statewide. NJSBA supports this bill.
- A-2158 authorizes the use of an emergency reserve fund or proceeds from bonds issued by the Economic Development Agency to finance school security improvements. NJSBA supports this proposal.
- A-2689, the “Secure Schools for All Children Act,” establishes a state aid program for security services, equipment or technology to ensure a safe and secure school environment for nonpublic school students. NJSBA believes that A-2689 would divert already scarce public resources to private schools. Additionally, this legislation would unduly burden certain school districts with bureaucratic responsibilities simply because private schools operate within their borders. The superintendent of the public school district, as well as his or her support staff, are already overburdened with the duties of serving the district in which they were hired. They should not have the additional burden of dealing with private schools and the associated liability thrust upon them. NJSBA opposes this measure.
- A-3347 establishes the New Jersey School Safety Specialist Academy within the 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 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 and successfully obtained amendments clarifying that the certification program and any related training and professional development will be provided free of charge to designated school safety specialists. A-3347 is modeled on a similar program established by the Indiana Department of Education. The bill would codify the first recommendation of the New Jersey School Security Task Force, which released its final report in July 2015. The legislation would become effective 180 days following enactment.
- A-3348 requires certain school security measures to be incorporated in architectural design of new school construction and certain school security measures for existing buildings. NJSBA supports this bill.
- A-3349 would implement various recommendations of the New Jersey School Security Task Force related to school security drills. First, it provides that an actual fire or school security emergency will be considered a “drill” for the purposes of meeting the requirements of the School Security Drill Law. Second, it requires a law enforcement officer to be present for at least one drill each school year so he or she can make recommendations for improvements or changes. Third, it expands the definition of “school security drill” to include practice procedures for responding to a bomb threat. Fourth, it provides that all school district employees will be provided with annual training on school safety and security. Current law stipulates that such training is only provided once to teaching staff members. The bill also requires annual training to be conducted collaboratively with emergency responders (e.g., law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel) in order to identify weaknesses in school security policies and procedures while increasing the effectiveness of emergency responders. The NJSBA supports the measure, which would go into effect in the first full school year following enactment.
Budget Hearings to be Held The Legislature has also released a schedule for public hearings on the proposed state budget. There are hearings scheduled in locations throughout the state, as well as in Trenton.
- March 9, 9:30 a.m., Assembly Budget Committee, Montclair State University, University Hall Conference Center, 1 Normal Avenue, Montclair
- March 15, 11 a.m., Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, Rowan University, Chamberlain Student Center, 201 Mullica Hill Road, Glassboro
- March 16, 9:30 a.m., Assembly Budget Committee, Scottish Rite Auditorium, 315 White Horse Pike, Collingswood
- March 21, 9:30 a.m., Assembly Budget Committee, State House Annex, Committee Room 11, 125 West State Street, Trenton
- March 22, 10 a.m., Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Campus Center Atrium, 150 Bleeker Street, Newark