Public Policy Update

September 26, 2018

Senate Bill 847: Requires public school districts to provide a daily 20-minute recess for students in kindergarten through grade 5.

With nearly one in four children, ages 10-17, in New Jersey overweight or obese, NJYMCA State Alliance has been at the forefront of advocating policy changes to increase access to physical activity and healthy eating for the state’s children. By ensuring all students have access to at least 20-minutes of daily recess, this new law is an important step in providing children greater opportunity to be healthy and to reach their full potential.

Studies show that physical play has an impact on cognitive skills, concentration, and attitudes—all important components of improved classroom behavior. A case study by the Harvard Family Research Project revealed that a modest investment in recess can have a positive ripple effect with visible improvements in several key areas of childhood development. Teachers witnessed how a well-functioning recess could foster supportive relationships among students, create opportunities for meaningful youth involvement, and teach conflict resolution and other life skills.

Under the new law, which goes into effect next year, recess should be held "outdoors, if feasible." The law does allow for districts to keep a child off the playground under certain circumstances. If a school district's code of conduct has been violated a student may be denied recess, but no student can be denied recess more than twice a week. If a child is denied recess, the school must provide other options. Recess is also not allowed to take the place of physical education courses. 

Status: Signed into law 8/8/18.

Aquatics/Public Bathing Code Rule Changes—In January, new sweeping pool regulations went into effect that required public pools over 2,000 square feet to have two life guards on duty. Over the summer, Alliance leadership and members of the Aquatics Committee met with officials at the New Jersey Department of Health to discuss the YMCA’s concerns with the new rules regarding safety and cost.

Status: As a result of that meeting, the Alliance is submitting a statewide exemption from the new regulations and working with the Department to ensure any new policies are in line with the Y’s highest standards of safety.

Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Update: While the State Budget Governor Murphy signed into law on July 1, 2018, included investments in New Jersey’s children and families, it did not include Budget Resolution 409 that would have provided an additional $20 million to increase the childcare subsidy rate for infants. Equalizing the childcare subsidy rate with the market rate of childcare, beginning with the infant rate, remains a top priority for NJ YMCA State Alliance.

  • Other investments in Fiscal Year 2019 include: Earned Income Tax Credit: Budget increases to the earned income tax credit, which currently benefits about a half-million low-income filers. The budget increases New Jersey’s credit from 35 percent of the value of the federal earned income credit to 40 percent by 2020.
  • Childcare Tax Credit: A new child care tax credit also allows those making $60,000 or less a year (70,000 New Jerseyans) to claim an allowance worth up to 50 percent of a similar federal credit.
  • Pre-K Expansion: $57 million to expand Pre-K.
  • Nourishing Young Minds Fund: An additional $250,000 to the Department of Agriculture to fund child food and nutrition programs throughout the state.