Senate Education Committee takes on bills

The new session opened with a bill that got unanimous support by the Senate Education Committee. In the past, advocates explained a school district, out of fear of damaging its reputation, might hide information about potential child abuse by an employee. Instead of taking formal action, they’d just tell the employee to find another job.

“The offender should not be allowed to victimize other children in other schools, and schools that are aware of such incredible wrongdoing should not be permitted to pass on potentially problematic personnel,” said Lisa Kirshenbaum, associate director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Jersey.

This bill would make it a requirement for schools to disclose that information, and require the hiring district to investigate any claims they are given.

Among the bills getting another shot under the new administration is S692, which would give school districts control of how much they pay a superintendent. People in support testified they’ve lost of good talent because of the current cap.

Right now, a superintendent can be paid anywhere between roughly $169,000 for the smallest districts to around $220,000 for the largest.

Sen. Samuel Thompson asked that be put into perspective by looking at the governor’s salary of $175,000. Fellow Republican Sen. Michael Doherty echoed his statement and said when you compare, the current scales set are adequate.

“Superintendents are among the most highly compensated individuals anywhere in the state of New Jersey,” Doherty said. “and the idea that you can’t get qualified applicants go take a look whenever these positions open up at a school with this cap in place, you get dozens, if not hundreds of applicants.”

NJAHPERD Advocacy Chair JoAnn Doherty says the third time may be the charm. She testified in favor of a bill requiring public school districts to have a daily recess period for students in Kindergarten through fifth grade.

“It was pocket vetoed not last session, but the session before by Gov. Christie, because he felt it should be a local district issue,” said Doherty.

The bill passed the committee along with another bill to require full day Kindergarten in all school districts.

“Unfortunately, here today we saw a lot of bills say, ‘Hey, let’s start new government programs and that’s going to cost taxpayer money. Where is that money coming from?” asked Doherty.

That is now a question for Gov. Murphy.

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