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A bill sponsored by Assembly members Nelson Albano, Ruben J. Ramos, Jr., Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., and Celeste M. Riley to help provide school districts with a tool to maintain adequate staffing received final legislative approval by the Assembly on Thursday and now heads to the Governor’s desk.

“Now more than ever, schools are struggling to try and maintain the same delivery of services despite severe cuts in aid,” said Albano (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “Allowing them to use collective bargaining concessions to offset staff reductions is a much-needed tool.”

The bill (A-2772), approved by a vote of 67 – 9, would require the monetary equivalent of any wage or benefit concession agreed to by a collective bargaining unit to be used by the school district to offset any reduction in force initiated for economic reasons.

“Our students are the ones who will ultimately benefit from this measure,” said Ramos (D-Hudson). “Any time we have the opportunity to maintain a more productive class size, we improve the quality of the educational experience.”

The legislation provides that when a school district implements a reduction in force for economic reasons or other good causes, if a collective bargaining unit agrees to a wage or benefit concession then the amount of money otherwise necessary to fund those concessions must be applied by the district to maintain bargaining unit staff member positions.

“If teachers and support staff agree to make concessions as a good faith measure to protect our children and their education, then we should be using the savings from those concessions to do just that,” said Diegnan, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee.

“It’s unfortunate that schools throughout the state have been forced to deal with increased class sizes and less staffing,” said Riley. “This is one way to help minimize that impact and create a less disruptive experience for students.”