Updated 5/21/2015

On Monday, May 18, the full Senate approved legislation that would eliminate the state-imposed superintendent salary cap. The legislation, S-1987, sponsored by Senators M. Teresa Ruiz and Paul Sarlo, would overturn state Department of Education regulations that restrict the maximum salary amount that a school district could pay its superintendent of schools. NJSBAstrongly supports the measure and has actively advocated for its passage.

On Monday afternoon, the NJSBA released a statement thanking members of the state Senate for their support of the legislation.

“The goal of the New Jersey School Boards Association is not to advance administrators’ salaries, but to ensure that local boards of education are able to carry out their responsibility to employ the best qualified individuals as superintendents,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “Our research shows that the superintendent salary cap is impeding local school boards’ ability to fulfill that responsibility.”

The superintendent salary cap went into effect in February 2011. According to data collected by NJSBA in February 2014, the cap has been a major factor in superintendent turnover and has resulted in a decrease in experience levels of superintendent candidates. The situation will likely worsen when a large number of superintendent contracts expire in 2015-2016.

Unnecessary When the restriction was first proposed, NJSBA opposed the cap, terming it an unnecessary “cap within caps.” Several controls are in place to ensure accountability and fiscal prudence in administrative spending, according to the Association. These controls include the 2 percent tax-levy cap; statutory limits on the annual growth of school district administrative expenditures; and oversight and review of school administrator contracts and compensation by the Department of Education.

NJ Low Administrative Expenditures In addition, New Jersey spends less on public school administration than the vast majority of states, according to Feinsod. He pointed to January 2015 statistics from the U.S. Department of Education, showing that New Jersey school districts spend a smaller share of their budgets on school building and district administration than do 46 other states.

“Directing available resources to the classroom is an important goal, but the superintendent salary cap is not needed to advance that goal. It is unnecessary and will create a vacuum in educational leadership. It’s an experiment that New Jersey should abandon.”

S-1987, which passed the Senate by a vote of 22-13, now heads to the General Assembly. Its lower house counterpart, A-2930, has yet to receive a committee hearing.

Several dozen boards of education have joined the NJSBA’s advocacy efforts on this issue by adopting formal resolutions expressing their support for the bills. Boards of education can demonstrate their support for S-1987/A-2930 by adopting thesample resolution drafted by the NJSBA. Upon adoption, the resolution should be sent to your local legislative delegation, the Speaker of the General Assembly, the President of the state Senate, the Governor, and the chairs of the Assembly and Senate Education committees. A copy should also be forwarded to the NJSBA headquarters either electronically or by mail. Any questions on this legislation may be directed to Jonathan Pushman in the NJSBA governmental relations department.

In addition to S-1987, the Senate also approved the following measures that impact local school districts:

A-3256/S-2245 requires teachers of health and physical education in grades kindergarten through six in public schools to possess the appropriate endorsement to the instructional certificate. The legislation includes a “grandfather” provision which specifies that it will not apply to teachers who received an elementary school endorsement prior to the bill’s effective date. If enacted, the bill will go into effect at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year. Under existing New Jersey State Board of Education regulations, in order to teach health, physical education or both to elementary school students, a teacher is not required to have these specific endorsements to the instructional certificate. Currently, a teacher with an elementary school endorsement is permitted to teach these courses. The “grandfather” provision acknowledges the need to grant school districts adequate time and flexibility to comply with the new endorsement requirement. The legislation now returns to the General Assembly, which passed a previous version of the bill, to concur with Senate amendments before heading to the governor’s desk. The NJSBA did not take a public stance on the legislation, but does support the delay in its implementation.

S-295 requires a board of education to provide an individual textbook for each student enrolled in a class. The legislation defines “textbook” to include not only books, but also various teacher-prepared materials, intended as the principal source of study material for a given class.

S-1895 provides that, in the case of a school district under partial or full state intervention, the state must withdraw from intervention in an area of school district effectiveness in which the district has satisfied 80 percent or more of the quality performance indicators in that area. The bill further provides that the education commissioner and the State Board of Education may not use any other factor in making the determination to withdraw from an area of school district effectiveness if the district meets or exceeds the 80 percent threshold. NJSBA supports the measure.

S-2058 would authorize the state education commissioner to authorize three alternative recovery high schools that would be open to students who are both “clinically and academically appropriate” for referral by the student’s home district. Participation would be voluntary. A report on the effectiveness of the programs, including graduation rate, scholastic performance and performance on state assessment tests, would be submitted annually.  NJSBA supports the bill.

This article was updated from an earlier version to reflect more clearly the results of NJSBA’s February 2014 study of the impact of the superintendent salary cap.