Senate committee advances special education-related bill

TRENTON – The Senate Education Committee Thursday released a bill that is designed to provide some help to special education.

S1949 directs the state Board of Education to draw up regulations to require school districts to develop a plan to establish stability in special education programming. 

Such a plan would consider consistency of location, curriculum, and staffing. 

The bill was released unanimously.

Prime sponsors include Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, and Sen. Linda Greenstein, (D-14), Plainsboro.

A2739, the lower-chamber version, was approved by the Assembly in June.

The Assembly version was amended to remove a regulation giving a parent’s preference for location primary consideration when developing the student’s individualized education program. The amended version also clarified that the IEP is to be developed with the parent.

Greenstein said that the bill was spurred by a Hamilton family with a 9-year-old son, Liam, who has severe disabilities.

Large districts often place special education classes in whatever school has space, which causes problems and leads to regression, Greenstein said.

“It’s a very simple bill, but it’s one which is very important,’’ Greenstein said.

The mother of Liam, Celia Wolf, said he was diagnosed with autism, and said he was placed in an early intervention program, but the district moved him into four schools in five years, forcing him to readjust to new therapists and teachers and endangering whatever progress he had made.

“Any progress he had made was lost,’’ she said.

The committee also released these other bills and resolutions.

S2189: This bill directs the commissioner of Education to develop a “framework” for school districts to promote the achievement of all students. It passed unanimously.

The so-called Response to Intervention, as outlined in the bill sponsored by Sen. Teresa Ruiz, (D-29), Newark, would seek to identify struggling students and reduce behavioral problems.

It also would seek to identify students with learning disabilities, and utilize methods to help educators work with such students.

SJR28: This joint resolution designates April 2 of each year as “World Autism Awareness Day.” Autism is a developmental disability that affects, on average, 1 in 110 children in the United States, with New Jersey having one of the highest rates in the nation at 1 in 94 children.

Prime sponsors are Sens. Teresa Ruiz, (D-29), Newark, and Linda Greenstein, (D-14), Plainsboro. It was approved unanimously.

SJR31: This joint resolution designates October of each year as “Disability History and Awareness Month” to foster awareness and understanding of the history, achievements, and experiences of people with disabilities. It was released unanimously.

Sponsors include Sens. Teresa Ruiz, (D-29), Newark, and Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), Teaneck.

Senate committee advances special education-related bill