Seek Proactive Efforts to Safeguard Students’ Rights

Education Law Center is leading a call for Governor Phil Murphy to establish a Coronavirus Education Task Force to respond to the State’s decision to close New Jersey public schools in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In a letter to the Governor dated March 19, 2020, ELC and eight other advocacy organizations explain the need for a separate task force, whose mission is to ensure that NJ students emerge from the current crisis as educationally intact as possible.

In the letter, the advocates recognize that, no matter how well districts respond to the unprecedented closing of their schools, a significant number of students will fall behind educationally due to the loss of in-school services. Certain student groups are especially vulnerable to learning loss, including preschoolers, students in the early elementary grades, students with disabilities, English language learners, students who are homeless or in foster care, and at-risk students throughout the age spectrum.

The advocates identify both short- and long-term roles for the proposed task force. In the short term, the group will closely monitor services provided by school districts and student progress during closure. This also includes fielding concerns and complaints, providing guidance to address inequities and gaps, and sharing effective district practices.

In the long term, the task force will examine how to prepare for transitioning students successfully back into learning when schools reopen, and how to quickly assess learning losses and gaps that will inevitably occur for many students and provide the resources necessary to close those gaps.

The advocates are recommending the task force be housed within the Governor’s office but include cross-agency participation and leadership by the Commissioner of Education. Advocates are also emphasizing the inclusion of educational experts, local educators, parents and students.

“Even with the herculean efforts of New Jersey’s educators, a considerable number of our students will return to classrooms with significant gaps in learning, socialization and other skills when schools reopen,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “We must not wait for that to happen. It is critical that New Jersey be proactive in doing everything we can to ensure all school children are provided with effective and equitable learning opportunities during the coming weeks and months. And we need to begin to plan for their return to school so we’re ready to give students all the help needed to get them back on track as quickly as possible.”

Along with ELC, the organizations supporting this request are: Advocates for Children of New Jersey, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, Disability Rights New Jersey, Education and Health Law Clinic at Rutgers Law School, Innisfree Foundation, New Jersey Special Education Practitioners, SPAN Parent Advocacy Network, and Volunteer Lawyers for Justice.


Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24



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Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x240