Legislature approves bills to address school staffing issues

By: - January 11, 2022 6:52 am

Hundreds of schools have closed to in-person instruction since the end of winter break, according to state education officials. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Lawmakers approved two bills Monday intended to help schools struggling with continuing staffing issues amid a new, highly-transmissible coronavirus variant.

One bill (A5576), passed unanimously by both chambers Monday, would allow retired teachers to return to the classroom through the 2022-2023 school year and still collect their pensions.

Another measure (S4203) would eliminate the requirement for public school employees to live in the state for three years before they are hired. Currently, public school employees can’t reside outside New Jersey unless they have a waiver, largely barring schools from hiring people living in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York.

The measures come as school districts around the state are reporting staffing issues that have led them to return to virtual instruction or close entirely. More than a quarter of New Jersey schools were closed Monday due to COVID-related matters, including staffing shortages, according to NJ.com.

At an education committee hearing last week, teachers and administrators said longstanding staffing issues have been aggravated by COVID-19.

The bills passed Monday, and dozens of others passed during the final voting session of this legislative session, will now go to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk. He has until Jan. 18 to sign them.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.