(TRENTON) – An Assembly committee on Thursday cleared legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gilbert L. “Whip” Wilson and Charles Mainor that would create a pilot program to weigh the merits of extending the public school day and year in New Jersey.
The bill (A-1391) would establish a three-year pilot program that would increase the length of the school day and school year in participating public school districts to evaluate the effect on student achievement, and provide tax credits for corporate contributions to fund the program.
“The goal of the pilot program will be to study the effects of a longer school day and school year on advancing student achievement, enhancing the overall school learning environment, and increasing student enrichment opportunities and educational offerings,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Considering the potential benefits to our students, it’s worth looking into.”
“Much has been said about the benefits of longer instructional time, especially on low-income students whose families may not be able to afford private tutoring or after school activities,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “We want to give our students the best tools to succeed academically. This program will help us determine whether additional time in the classroom really makes a difference.”
Under the bill, a school district that wants to participate in the pilot program must submit an application to the state Commissioner of Education. The application must provide information on the number of hours that the school day will be increased and the number of days that the school year will be lengthened, and must include documentation that participation in the pilot program is supported by a majority of school district staff and parents of students enrolled in the district.
The commissioner will select up to 25 school districts to participate in the pilot program, and will submit a report to the governor and the Legislature no later than June 30 of the third school year following the creation of the pilot program, evaluating its effectiveness and making a recommendation on whether to continue and extend the program to additional school districts.
Under the bill, the director of the Division of Taxation in the Department of Treasury will establish a three-year program to provide tax credits to corporations which contribute funding to the Department of Education to fund the costs associated with the pilot program. The total tax credit of all participating corporations is capped at $24 million the first state fiscal year, $48 million the second state fiscal year, and $72 million the third state fiscal year. If the sum of the amount of tax credits authorized in a state fiscal year exceeds the aggregate annual limits, tax credits will be allowed in the order in which contributions are made until the limit is reached.
The bill would take effect immediately.
The bill was released 7-3 by the Assembly Education Committee.