SENATE, No. 688







Sponsored by:


District 29 (Essex)


District 6 (Burlington and Camden)


Co-Sponsored by:

Senators Singleton, Diegnan and Lagana






     Establishes the four-year “New Jersey Early Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program” in DOE to fund non-traditional Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics programs for students in grades K through 8.



     As reported by the Senate Education Committee with technical review.


An Act establishing the “New Jersey Early Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program” in the Department of Education.


     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:


      1.   This act shall be known and may be cited as the “New Jersey Early Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program Act.”


      2.   As used in this act:

     “Low-income student” means a student who qualifies for free or reduced price lunch under the federal school lunch program.

     “Non-traditional STEM teaching method” means a STEM education method or strategy such as incorporating self-directed student-learning, inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning in small groups, collaboration with mentors in the field of study, and participation in STEM-related competitions.

     “STEM” means science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.


      3.   The Commissioner of Education shall develop and administer a four-year New Jersey Early Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program. The purpose of the pilot program shall be to award grants to school districts to:

      a.   cultivate interest in the STEM fields at an early age;

      b.   support non-traditional STEM teaching methods for students in grades kindergarten through 8;

      c.   promote innovation and broaden interest in careers in the STEM fields by investing in programs supported by teachers and professional mentors; and

      d.   encourage collaboration among students, engineers, and other professional mentors.

     The grants shall be allocated to school districts on a competitive basis.


      4.   a.   A school district that wants to apply for a grant under the pilot program shall submit an application to the commissioner. The application shall, at the minimum, include a description of how the school district will:

     (1)  implement STEM teaching programs for students in grades K through 8 that use a non-traditional STEM teaching method;

     (2)  identify and recruit partners and mentors to help implement the programs, and to assist students who participate in STEM programs, including through the use of technology;

     (3)  support teachers who lead the STEM programs, and participants in the programs, through stipends or other incentives;

     (4)  recruit young women and students from other populations historically underrepresented in the STEM fields to participate in the programs;

     (5)  identify public and private partners that can support the programs with cash or in-kind contributions;

     (6)  develop a plan for sustaining the programs financially beyond the grant period; and

     (7)  develop a method to evaluate the impact of the STEM teaching programs on participating students.

      b.   The commissioner shall award a one-time, up-front grant not to exceed $150,000 to each of the six qualifying school districts to be used to implement the pilot program. The grant funds may be used by the school district for a period of up to four years. The commissioner shall award an equal number of grants to school districts located in the north, central, and southern regions of the State.

     In awarding grants under the pilot program, the commissioner shall give priority to applications from school districts that propose to carry out activities that target:

     (1)  a rural or urban school;

     (2)  a low-performing school; or

     (3)  a school or school district that serves low-income students.

      c.   A school district that receives a grant may use the grant funds for any of the following:

     (1)  the promotion of STEM education and career activities;

     (2)  the purchase of supplies needed to support participation in non-traditional STEM teaching programs, such as robotics;

     (3)  to provide incentives and stipends for teachers involved in non-traditional STEM teaching methods outside of their regular teaching duties;

     (4)  to provide support and finance the expenses of student participation in regional and national nonprofit STEM competitions;

     (5)  to finance items such as equipment, facility use, technology, broadband access, and other expenses, directly associated with non-traditional STEM teaching and mentoring; and

     (6)  to carry out other activities that are related to the goals of the pilot program.

      d.   A school district that receives a grant under the pilot program shall provide district matching funds in an amount equal to 25% of the grant amount. The district shall also secure matching funds or in-kind contributions from corporate donors or other private sector donors in an amount equal to 25% of the grant amount. The matching funds shall be used by the district to support the STEM-related activities outlined in the application submitted to the commissioner for grant funds.

      e.   Grant funds provided to a school district shall be used to supplement, and not supplant, funds used for STEM activities in the district at the time of the application for the grant.

     5.    a.   There is established within the Department of Education a fund to be known as the “Early Innovation Inspiration School Grant Fund,” hereinafter referred to as the “fund.” The fund shall be used to provide grants to school districts under the pilot program.

     b.    The fund shall be annually credited with money appropriated by the Legislature, any moneys received by the State from corporate donors or other private sector support, and any federal funds which may become available for STEM-related activities.

     c.    The department shall seek to secure the use of such funds or other resources from the federal government or private nonprofit or for-profit sources to effectuate the purposes of this act as may be available therefor.


     6.    This act shall first take effect in the 2019-2020 school year, but the Commissioner of Education may take such anticipatory administrative action in advance thereof as shall be necessary for the implementation of this act.