Governor Expands Education Commissioner’s Authority during COVID-19 Emergency

April 7, 2020
Kasi Marie Gifford, Esq.

To Our School Board Community:

We have been trying to anticipate and quickly respond to your questions during this time, given the unprecedented challenges presented to our Boards with COVID-19 and the school closure to students.  We have been providing guidance on how best to meet the needs of your students, staff, and community. On April 7, 2020, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 117.  

Notably, Executive Order 117 provides:

  • The Commissioner of Education is authorized and empowered to waive, suspend, or modify any existing rules within Title 6A of the New Jersey Administrative Code, where the enforcement of which would be detrimental to the public welfare during this emergency, for the duration of this Executive Order, subject to my prior approval and in consultation with the State Director of Emergency Management and the Commissioner of the Department of Health. Any such waiver, modification, or suspension shall be promulgated in accordance with N.J.S.A. App. A:9-45.
    • Title 6A contains the rules and regulations (N.J.A.C.) of the State Board of Education and touches upon just about every facet of school district operations.   Many regulations fill out and more fully define obligations set forth in Title 18A which is the codification of the laws relating to education (N.J.S.A.)
    • N.J.SA. App. A:9-45 empowers the Governor to make such orders, rules and regulations as may be necessary to adequately meet the various problems presented by any emergency, and from time to time, to amend or rescind such orders, rules and regulations.
  • The statutory requirement for a statewide assessment of all eighth-grade students pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:7C-6.2 is waived and such assessment is cancelled for the 2019-2020 school year.
  •  The statutory graduation assessment requirement mandated by N.J.S.A. 18A:7C-1 et seq. is waived for any twelfth-grade student who is expected to graduate in the class of 2020 but, as of March 18, 2020, had not met said graduation assessment requirement for the 2019-2020 school year, N.J.S.A. 18A:6-121 and N.J.S.A. 18A:6-123(b)(2), (3), (4), and (6) shall be waived and student growth data shall not be used as a measure of educator effectiveness in the overall evaluation of any educator.
  • The statutory requirement of three observations and evaluations for all non-tenured teaching staff as outlined in N.J.S.A. 18A:27-3.1 is waived for the 2019-2020 school year.

Our e-mails about recent developments are not intended to substitute for our legal advice to our clients based on your specific needs or requests.  In addition, our guidance is subject to, and can be superseded by new laws, rules, regulations, or orders.  Moreover, some directives from the Federal and State authorities can appear, and can be, contradictory or in conflict, so please contact us for assistance.

As always, please contact us with any questions. We will continue to do our best to keep you updated in the coming days and weeks.

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