NEW JERSEY – Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Senators Steven Oroho and Robert Singer which would create a special education unit within the Office of Administrative Law, cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Tuesday.
“The unique challenges of educating students with special needs lead to disagreements between concerned parents and school districts that often end up in court,” Oroho (R-Morris/Sussex/Warren) said. “Long delays only add to the frustration and can interfere with the development and learning opportunities of children. The unit established by this legislation would increase efficiency and help all parties with more timely decisions and resolutions.”
“Students with disabilities are often left in unfortunate positions due to lengthy court decisions between parents, courts and school districts,” Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland) said. “This bill would establish a panel of judges who have the understanding and experience to review and handle special education cases. Judges who are best equipped to deal with these cases will ensure that students with disabilities are able to receive the services and education they need in a timely manner.”
“There is no question New Jersey needs to do a better job addressing special education conflicts,” Singer (R-Monmouth/Ocean) said. “It is unacceptable for people to have to wait so long to get answers impacting the education of a child with special needs. With regular review of the data demonstrating the effectiveness of this strategy, we will know if there are enough judges assigned to the unit, and how we can better improve the process.”
The bill, S-2160, would require the director and chief administrative law judge of the Office of Administrative Law to create a unit consisting of law judges that have an expertise in special education law. The number of administrative law judges in the special education unit would be proportional to the number and complexity of special education cases referred to the office. This legislation was a recommendation of the bipartisan economic and fiscal policy work group.
Under the bill, the director and chief administrative law judge would prepare an annual report to the Governor and to the Legislature. The report would include statistics on the number of special education cases referred to the special education unit and the average time to resolve the cases.
This act would take effect on the first day of the ninth month following enactment. The Director and Chief could take any action needed to enact the goals of the bill.
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 8-0.