Legislation to Strengthen Summer Programs, Address Learning Loss Advances

Trenton – In an effort to address the learning loss which has compounded over the last year, the Senate Education Committee today advanced four bills to strengthen and expand summer educational programs.

“Addressing the learning loss which has occurred over the last 18 months needs to be an all hands on deck effort. If we are truly going to address this issue and prevent the achievement gap from growing further it is going to take everyone in the community coming together to address this, from teachers to businesses to volunteers,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex), chair of the Senate Education Committee. “Through this legislation, we hope to put the infrastructure in place to ensure every student in need of assistance is able to get the support they need this summer and in the years ahead.”

The first bill, S-3531, sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Shirley Turner, would require all boards of education and charter and renaissance schools to develop and implement a summer school program following the 2020-2021 school year and the 2021-2022 school year. The program would be open to all students who will attend grades K-12 in the upcoming school year.

“Summer programs will offer us the first opportunity to address the learning loss compounded this past year, it is crucial to the long term success of our students that they are available to anyone in need of additional instruction,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Requiring quality summer programs in all of our schools will ensure these programs are accessible, so we can address the learning loss that has occurred during the pandemic and begin to bridge the ongoing achievement gap.”

Under the bill, the summer school programs would provide high-quality learning experiences and instruction with a focus on language, literacy, mathematics and social and emotional readiness. They would also provide additional family support and resources to assist the students participating in the program.

A second bill, S-3684, sponsored by Senator Ruiz, would require the Department of Education to establish a central registry of individuals and organizations interested in providing supplemental tutoring support to students.

A third bill, S-3725, sponsored by Senator Ruiz, would establish the Summer Earn and Learn Pilot Program in the Department of Education. Open to school districts, charter schools and renaissance schools, the program would run for two years before providing a report to the Governor and the Legislature on the implementation of the program and if it should continue or expand. This model has been successfully piloted in both D.C. Public Schools and Baltimore Public Schools.

Under the bill, the DOE would establish partnerships with private and government agencies to assist students in obtaining employment opportunities, including tutoring. As much as possible, the bill would require the program be funded by federal funding provided to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s important that schools have the funding they need to host the summer programming necessary to ensure the long term success of their students. Many of our children were out of the classroom for over a year, and are in need of significant support to regain what was lost during the pandemic,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “To get our students back on track we must invest in quality summer learning programs throughout the state.”

A final bill, S-3479, sponsored by Senator Sandra Cunningham, would establish the Alleviating Learning Loss in New Jersey Grant Program in the DOE to assist public schools in establishing or expanding certain educational programs aimed at addressing learning loss.