Establishes a pilot program in DOE to increase the length of the school day and school year and provides tax credits for corporate contributions to fund the program.
NJEA understands and supports the concept of S-2087 (Ruiz/Turner), which would create a pilot program to increase school instructional time for students in an effort to spur greater student achievement. However, we do have concerns about the lack of specificity in the bill on several key areas. They are:
- Negotiation with majority representative. Any changes to terms and conditions of employment must be negotiated and reflected in the collective bargaining agreement before the start of the pilot. Staff should be compensated for any additional time using the existing salary guides as a starting point. Moreover, the signature of the local association’s president should be required in the application to indicate that the school employees support the district’s participation.
- Funding. We have two main concerns. First, the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA) should be fully funded before other monies are diverted for new education programs. Second, we think a direct appropriation would be more appropriate to provide a stable source of funding, as we do not know the level or extent of interest by corporations to participate in and sustain the program.
- Prep time for extended day/year. Appropriate time should be given for teaching staff to develop additional curricula, where needed. That time should be compensated at a negotiated rate.
- Criteria for Pilot Selection. More details on the criteria would help to ensure that appropriate districts are chosen to ensure the pilot program yields the best data.
- DOE Measures for Success. What will happen during the three year period? How will DOE be monitoring each district? What will be the benchmarks used to assess the “growth” within each district? Will there be yearly benchmarks established to allow participation in subsequent years?
- Exit Strategy. We suggest the addition of language that requires each district to negotiate how to phase out the program, should the program be discontinued or the funds are no longer available to the district.
NJEA looks forward to working with the bill’s sponsors to address these issues.