On Monday, Nov.14 several Assembly committees convened, and the full Senate held a voting session. The following provides a rundown of any measures advanced by the Legislature which impact New Jersey’s public schools and students.

Assembly Education Committee Bill A-1024 directs the commissioner of education to appoint a traumatic brain injury education coordinator who would be responsible for evaluating, coordinating, and developing local, county, regional, and state educational programs and services for students with a traumatic brain injury. The bill also establishes a comprehensive, statewide network of regional traumatic brain injury consultants, appointed by the commissioner, to aid school districts in meeting the needs of students with traumatic brain injuries. The bill has been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further consideration of its potential fiscal impact.

A-2422 directs the commissioner of education to work with the national nonprofit organization, Natural High, to encourage the implementation of the “Natural High Drug Prevention Program” in each school district. The program will include use of Natural High videos and research-based curricula, training for educators on the Natural High program, program assessments, support to activate Natural High clubs at middle schools and high schools, and participation of a New Jersey educator on the Natural High Leadership Council to provide New Jersey-specific input on the program. Among other features, the curriculum for the Natural High Drug Prevention Program includes information on identifying and engaging in positive activities or passions, referred to as “natural highs.” The bill’s upper house counterpart, S-1010, passed the Senate Education Committee, but has not yet received a floor vote. NJSBA supports the legislation.

A-2786/S-1474 provides that the State Board of Education must require that the preparation program for an instructional certificate include a minimum of six semester credit hours of classroom instruction or clinical experience in special education. The bill also requires that the preparation program for an instructional certificate for a teacher of students with disabilities endorsement include credit hours in autism spectrum disorder, to address the educational needs of students with autism. NJSBA supports the legislation, which passed the full Senate in October.

A-3856/S-1451 requires the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to make available on its website an electronic database of legal decisions concerning special education in New Jersey. The database must be easily accessed by anyone who wishes to obtain information on legal decisions regarding New Jersey special education matters. The department may meet the requirements of this bill by maintaining the database directly on its website or by entering into a memorandum of understanding with another entity that maintains a database of such legal decisions. NJSBA supports the legislation, which has already passed the full Senate.

A-4019 requires school districts to allow a student who has completed basic training and is an active member of a branch of the United States Armed Forces to wear a military dress uniform while participating in his or her high school graduation ceremony.

A-4175 would require the commissioner of education to develop guidance for school districts on identifying English language learners for gifted and talented programs. Under the bill, the commissioner’s guidance would assist districts in identifying gifted English language learners in grades kindergarten through 12 in an effort to reduce the underrepresentation of this student population in gifted and talented programs. The guidance would include information on recognizing and addressing potential challenges in the process of identifying gifted English language learners; the use of multiple methods and measures in assessing the eligibility of English language learners for gifted and talented programs; and the importance of professional development and collaboration among teachers in the identification process, including teachers of English language learner programs, teachers of gifted and talented programs and general classroom teachers. NJSBA supports the measure.

Assembly Human Services Committee Bill A-4328 provides for the procurement by the state of a pharmacy benefits manager, automated reverse auction services, and claims adjudication services. According to the bill’s Senate sponsor, Senate President Sweeney, the measure is expected to save at least $200 million in prescription drug costs. Therefore, the NJSBA supports the legislation. The measure will now go before the Assembly Appropriations prior to being posted for a floor vote. S-2749, the Senate counterpart to A-4328, was approved by the full Senate on Monday. See the description of S-2749 below for additional information.

Assembly State and Local Government Committee Bill A-4064 authorizes the state treasurer to sell and convey all of the state’s right, title and interest in and to the property known as the Millburn Regional Day School in Millburn Township, Essex County. The property has been declared surplus. The property will be offered first to the Millburn Township Board of Education and second to Millburn Township for an appraised value of $3,550,000. This past September, the voters of Millburn approved the school district’s referendum that authorized the district to raise funds to finance the purchase of Millburn Regional Day School. S-2708, the Senate counterpart to A-4064, passed the full Senate at its Monday voting session.

Senate Voting Session Each of the following NJSBA-tracked bills unanimously passed the full Senate on Monday.

S-308 requires that all public bodies, such as boards of education, covered by the provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act have a United States flag displayed in the meeting room and that the person presiding (or his or her designee) lead those present in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

S-742 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 the legislation is limited to a small number of districts statewide. NJSBA supports this bill. The bill now moves to the Assembly, where its lower house counterpart, A-1205, was released from committee earlier this year, but has yet to be posted for a floor vote.

S-2364 establishes a Commercial Driver License Testing Pilot Program to provide for commercial driver license (CDL) testing by private third-party vendors, and requires the chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to authorize third-party administration of commercial testing on a more permanent basis based on an evaluation of the program. Current law already permits, but does not require, the MVC to use third parties for commercial driver license testing purposes. The MVC currently does not make use of that authority. The intent of the legislation is to speed up the process of getting a CDL, which could help to increase the pool of qualified school bus drivers across the state. NJSBA supports the bill.

S-2708 authorizes the state treasurer to convey surplus real property known as Millburn Regional Day School in Millburn Township, Essex County, to the Millburn Township Board of Education or to Millburn Township for $3,550,000. See A-4064 above for additional information.

S-2749 provides that the state will procure, in an expedited manner, professional services contracts for: technical assistance to evaluate the qualifications of bidders on a Pharmacy Benefits Manager (PBM) procurement and online automated reverse auction services to support comparison of the pricing for the PBM procurement; real-time, electronic, line-by-line, claim-by-claim review of invoiced PBM pharmacy claims using an automated claims adjudication technology platform that allows for online comparison of PBM invoices and auditing of other aspects of the services provided by the PBM; and a PBM for the State Health Benefits Plan or the School Employees’ Health Benefits Plan. NJSBA supports the legislation, which is expected to save substantial amounts of public funds.