An NJSBA-backed measure that would expand the voting rights of school board members representing sending districts in sending-receiving relationships was among several education-related measures approved by the state Senate. The full Senate convened for a voting session on Thursday, May 25.

Send-Receive Bill Approved S-3191, which was passed by a vote of 38-0, broadens the voting rights of representatives of sending school districts who are eligible for membership on a receiving district board of education. The current statute permits the representatives to vote on tuition which the receiving district will charge the sending district, along with certain bill lists or contracts; new capital construction to be utilized by sending district pupils; the appointment, transfer or removal of certain teaching staff members and professional administrative staff; and the addition or deletion of curricular and extracurricular programs involving pupils of the sending district. This bill provides that the representative would also vote on any matter directly involving sending district pupils or programs and services utilized by them; approval of the annual receiving district budget; any collectively-negotiated agreement involving employees who provide services utilized by sending district pupils; any individual employee contracts not covered by a collectively-negotiated agreement, if those employees provide or oversee programs or services utilized by sending district pupils; and any matter concerning governance of the receiving board, including, but not limited to, the selection of board president and vice-president, approval of board bylaws, and the employment of professionals or consultants such as attorneys, architects, engineers, or others who provide services to the receiving district board of education.

The NJSBA-initiated bill is based on policy adopted at the May 2014 Delegate Assembly which states: “The statutory language of N.J.S.A. 18A:38-8.1 should be revised to expand the voting rights of sending district representatives on matters before the receiving district board of education to include the ability to vote on all matters that impact the students of the sending district in the receiving district; all district-wide issues, all board governance issues and all matters related to the grade levels to which the sending district sends its students.”

When the bill was heard in committee earlier this month, NJSBA counsel John Burns testified in strong support of the legislation. The bill now heads to the General Assembly and joins its counterpart, A-3370, in the Assembly Education Committee.

The NJSBA thanks Senate President Steve Sweeney for sponsoring S-3191 and posting it for a vote. The NJSBA additionally thanks the full Senate for its unanimous approval of the legislation.

In addition to S-3191, the Senate advanced the following NJSBA-tracked bills:

School District Food Donations A-3056/S-2360 would require the Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to establish voluntary guidelines for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste. The guidelines would include: (1) information on food waste generally and the benefits of reducing, recovering, and recycling food waste; (2) recommendations for how schools can incorporate this information into their curricula and create programs and activities for the reduction, recovery, and recycling of food waste; (3) recommendations for how schools can reduce the volume of surplus food they generate; (4) guidance on how schools can create share tables in their cafeterias; (5) information on cost-effective, safe, and sanitary means by which schools may donate excess, unused, and edible food to nonprofit organizations that distribute food to needy individuals; and (6) information on how schools can recycle their food waste. The NJDEP, the Department of Education, and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education would be required to post the guidelines on their websites. The bill would also amend the “Food Bank Good Samaritan Act” to extend legal immunity to public and nonpublic schools that donate food that appears to be fit for human consumption at the time it is donated to a nonprofit organization.

NJSBA supports the bill as it encourages, rather than mandates, school districts to follow the food waste guidelines. The bill now returns to the General Assembly, which passed a previous version of the legislation last spring.

Merging Non-Operating Districts A-4352/S-2843 provides for the elimination of non-operating school districts that were established after the effective date of a 2009 law under which the executive county superintendents of schools were required to develop plans for eliminating the non-operating school districts in their counties. To date, 14 such school districts have been eliminated; however, additional districts have subsequently become non-operating school districts. This bill specifies that if, at the time of a required merger, a school district has a deficit in its general fund, the Commissioner of Education will require that the district that incurred the deficit raise a supplemental general fund tax levy to eliminate the deficit. Any such supplemental tax levy would be in addition to any increase that is authorized under the tax levy growth limitation, and the commissioner will determine if the supplemental levy will only affect the current year or if it will be a permanent increase.

In addition, the bill increases the term under which a Type II school district may rent buildings for school purposes without voter approval. Under current law, a district may, in the case of emergency, enter an agreement to rent a building for a term of five years. This bill increases the maximum term to 10 years.

NJSBA supports the bill, which now sits on the governor’s desk.

School Bus Aides S-2757 requires that a board of education or school bus contractor that provides transportation services under contract with a board of education maintain a minimum ratio of one school bus aide for every 15 students with special needs on the school bus. This ratio must be maintained at all times that a school bus is transporting students with special needs or a combination of students with special needs and general education students. Prior to the Senate’s passage of the bill, NJSBA raised concerns about the additional costs to local districts of providing the additional aides and urged the Legislature to find the funds to cover the additional expenses.

The bill was approved by a vote of 27-9 and now heads to the General Assembly where its counterpart, A-4332, has yet to receive committee consideration.