Agenda: Lead Testing Gets Regulatory Fast Track

John Mooney | July 13, 2016 | Education
State board to move on several state initiatives, including Abigail’s Law

state seal
Date: Wednesday, July 12, 2016
Time: 10 a.m.
Where: New Jersey Department of Education, 1st-floor conference room, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton
School’s not out for board: The summer months can be slower for the State Board of Education, but the monthly meeting today — and again in August — will take up some pressing issues. First and foremost will be the expedited “special adoption” of new regulations to require schools regularly test their water for lead, as ordered by Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature.

Special adoption: The expedited process for the lead rules is rare, at best, for the State Board and only allowed under specific circumstances. In this case, the statute requiring the inspections specifically ordered the quicker process so as to have the systems in place as soon as possible. Without such language, regulations can take four to six months to enact.

The new requirements: Responding to revelations this winter of elevated lead levels in more than 30 of Newark’s schools, as well as scores of others in smaller districts, the new requirements will require that schools test their water each year and make available the results to the public. The state has put up $10 million to help reimburse districts the costs.

Abigail’s Law: In addition, the board will consider new regulations for putting motion sensors on school buses to prevent accidents like those that took the life of two-year-old Abigail Kuberiet, who wandered in front of a school bus in South Plainfield in 2003 and was struck and killed.

Other business: The state board will also take up broader regulations for teacher evaluations, including changing language to the length and depth of supervisors’ observations. The board will also receive an update on the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its own regulatory process and what that could mean for New Jersey.

Still waiting for charter regulations: Christie in May promised regulatory changes for charter schools, including loosening teacher certification requirements. But the details of those have yet to be presented to the board, and are not on the agenda for today.

August equally busy: The board’s meeting next month could see some fireworks, since the board is planning the final adoption of new graduation rules that include passing the PARCC Algebra I and Language Arts 10 tests. The requirement would start with the Class of 2021, today’s seventh graders. The board is also expected to take up passing scores required for new teachers under what will be new performance assessments for all teacher candidates.