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Education Issues – from PARCC to Superintendents’ Pay – Focus of State Senate

Democrats’ bills make their way through Senate committee but face two key obstacles – GOP lawmakers and Gov. Christie

statehouse (trenton)
Credit: Amanda Brown

It was a busy day for education bills before the state Senate yesterday, with several pieces of legislation advancing -- but with plenty of questions about whether any of them will ever become law.

The highlight was a crowded hearing before the Senate’s education committee, which reviewed a package of bills dealing with the state’s new PARCC exams.

In the end, the committee moved forward all of the bills, including one resolution calling for the establishment of guidelines for students whose families choose to “opt out” of the controversial tests and a second bill that would prohibit the state from withholding funds from schools with high opt-out numbers.

In the full session, the Senate approved a separate bill that would eliminate the state’s controversial cap on school superintendent pay.

The votes were all rebukes of key education initiatives under the Christie administration – but there was plenty of debate over whether they went far enough.

Each piece of legislation will have to overcome steep political odds, as Democrats and Republicans are clearly at odds over the proposals and it’s doubtful that Gov. Chris Christie will go along with any of them.

Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex), chair of the Assembly’s education committee and a co-sponsor of several of the bills, said yesterday that he doesn’t have high hopes at this point.

“Without sounding too political, I think a lot of this will have to be dealt with when we have another governor in office,” Diegnan said in an interview. “That’s just the reality.”

The round-up of the bills voted on yesterday:

  • Senate bill 1987: Prohibits the DOE from regulating the maximum salary amount a school district may pay its superintendent of schools. Passed the full Senate, 22-13.

  • S-2766: Prohibits administration of standardized assessments in kindergarten through second grade. Passed Senate education committee.

  • S-2844: Requires school districts to post on their websites information regarding student participation in certain assessments. Passed Senate education committee.

  • S-2811: Prohibits withholding of state school aid based on student participation rate on state assessments. Passed Senate education committee.

  • S-2922: Requires state to post on its website a list of all third-party individuals or vendors employed or retained by the state for work associated with state assessments. Passed Senate education committee.

  • S-2923: Requires school district or charter schools to provide notification to parents or guardians of enrolled student on upcoming administration of state assessments or commercially-developed standardized assessments. Passed Senate education committee.

  • Senate Resolution 129: Urges Commissioner of Education to develop guidelines on how students not participating in statewide assessment will be supervised and what alternate arrangements may be provided. Passed Senate education committee.

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