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Whelan Bill Package To Support And Honor Veterans Approved

Bills Would Create Expedited Teacher Certification for Vets, Would Encourage Private Businesses, Individuals to Honor Fallen NJ Service Members’ Sacrifices

TRENTON – A pair of bills sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan which would make it easier for returning veterans to become public school teachers, and would allow New Jerseyans to appropriately honor fallen heroes were passed in two different Senate committees today.

“Our State’s active duty military service members and veterans have sacrificed so much in the name of protecting American freedom abroad,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “These folks have given of their time, talents, and in some cases, have paid the ultimate price in service to their fellow countrymen. These bills would recognize the sacrifices, and pay tribute to the brave men and women who serve or have served in the armed forces.”

The first bill, S-1026, would establish the “VETeach Pilot Program” in the Department of Education in order to address a pending shortage in public school teachers and allow veterans to transition into the classroom. Under the pilot program, the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey would enroll veterans who served in the Armed Forces on or after September 11, 2001 into a 36-month teacher preparation program. Upon completion of the expedited program, participants would receive a baccalaureate degree, and would be able to apply to the State Board of Examiners for a certificate allowing them to teach in grades K through 8, and in certain secondary education fields.

Senator Whelan noted that under the bill, any educational expenses incurred would be covered under the “Post 9-11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act,” also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill. He also added that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans nationwide was 11.5% in 2010 – nearly 2 percentage points above the national average.

The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee.

“With an increase in the number of public school teachers filing for retirement, New Jersey is on the brink of a teacher shortage,” said Senator Whelan. “In order to give our kids the best education possible, we need to recruit the best and brightest into the profession. The VETeach pilot program is intended to transition veterans into the classroom, and to allow our State’s students the benefit of learning the value of service from someone who know firsthand what it means to serve their country.”

The second bill, S-325, would require the Secretary of State to create an e-mail notification system alerting private citizens and business establishments whenever the Governor issues an order to fly the flag at half-staff over State buildings to honor the passing of a fallen armed services member. Under the bill, individuals and business owners would be able to sign up for e-mail alerts whenever the Governor signs an executive order calling for U.S. and State flags to be flown at half-staff to honor the passing of a New Jersey military service member, state official, or prominent resident. According to Senator Whelan, the bill is intended to allow flag caretakers on private property to follow the same rules as are applied to U.S. and State flags flown outside State buildings.

The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.

“When one of our State’s residents dies in the line of duty, the Governor orders State and U.S. flags to fly at half-staff to pay tribute to the fallen soldier,” said Senator Whelan, who chairs the Senate State Government Committee. “While there’s a notification system in place to allow municipal and county buildings to also honor the dead, the general public doesn’t receive a similar kind of notification. This bill would create a voluntary e-mail notification system to allow private individuals and business owners to join with the public sector in paying respect to the sacrifices of our State’s fallen heroes.”

Both bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.

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