Delegates to the New Jersey School Boards Association’s semi-annual meeting on May 14 voted to enhance existing NJSBA policy, which supports alternatives to the statewide assessment that measures student progress toward state academic standards.

Nearly 150 local school board representatives attended the Delegate Assembly at the Conference Center at Mercer, on the Mercer County Community College campus. The Delegate Assembly is the major policy-setting body for NJSBA.

State Testing Acting on a proposal from the Highland Park Board of Education, the delegates called for the state to continue to provide alternatives to the current statewide assessment when determining eligibility for high school graduation. New Jersey’s assessment is the PARCC test. The new NJSBA policy does not seek a change in the state assessment, but rather calls for additional measures to be available to determine eligibility for graduation. The State Board of Education is currently considering proposed requirements concerning the use of a statewide assessment in determining future eligibility for graduation.

The delegates’ action results in the following policy, addressing the use of the statewide assessment to determine eligibility for high school graduation:

“The NJSBA believes the state should provide alternative methods of achieving state and federal requirements for graduation, not based only on standardized tests, such as the Alternate High School Assessment or portfolio assessment.

“The NJSBA further believes that parents should have input into decisions regarding the methods of assessment used, but that the ultimate authority to decide these methods must rest with local boards of education.”

The resolution was supported by 85 percent of the delegates.

Compulsory Attendance In other action, the delegates voted to support the concept that local school boards be given the option to require compulsory school attendance beyond the current state-required age of 16.

Proposed by the Neptune Township Board of Education, the newly approved policy enables NJSBA to seek legislation that would give a local school board the option to raise the drop-out age for the students in its district’s schools.

In its proposal, the Neptune Township school board cited research showing that higher compulsory attendance ages improve overall college entrance rates and career outcomes.

The delegates also approved additional resolutions.

Accepting Tuition Students   Delegate Assembly representatives approved the resolution proposed by the Glassboro Board of Education that would enable the NJSBA to seek legislation that would permit a district to accept tuition students, while participating in the Interdistrict Public School Choice program, when all locally-designed choice seats have been already filled through a neutral selection process. Currently districts participating in the state’s interdistrict choice program are not permitted to accept tuition students.

ACA Surcharges and Pension Funding The South Plainfield Board of Education proposed two resolutions that were resoundingly approved by the delegates. The first supports the concept that local school districts should not bear the financial burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) surcharges or other costs, and that boards should have the legal authority to lessen the consequences of such costs by shifting to less-expensive health benefit plans, which may not be equal to or better than currently offered benefits; passing on the costs of particular health plans to their employees; and taking other actions.

The second resolution is in recognition of the state’s unfunded pension crisis, and adds language to the NJSBA’s policy manual stating that “The NJSBA believes it should oppose any measure to transfer the obligation to fund the pension system from the state to local districts.”

Tax Levy Cap Exemptions One resolution, which sought a change in law that would exclude certain state-mandated programs, including special education, bilingual education, school lunch programs, and transportation, from the state’s tax levy caps and spending growth limitations, was rejected by the delegates. The Wayne Township Board of Education proposed the resolution.

Action by the NJSBA delegates guides the Association in advocacy before the state Legislature, Congress and the courts.