Friday Facts and Figures is a weekly newsletter with data points, analysis, and commentary on the biggest policy debates in New Jersey and beyond.
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In a big win for language access, legislation that would require state websites and documents to be translated into 15 languages advanced out of a Senate committee earlier this week. A diverse coalition of policy experts, advocates, and direct service providers testified in support of the bill — including NJPP’s Marleina Ubel — highlighting how language barriers exclude many residents from accessing benefits and government programs they qualify for and pay into. According to the latest Census, 40 percent of New Jersey households speak a language other than English at home, and 12 percent of residents do not speak English very well. The proposal, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, has yet to move in the Assembly. [NJ Monitor / Sophie Nieto-Munoz]
A scathing new report by the state Comptroller uncovered major issues with the New Jersey State Police’s training bureau — from cutting curriculum on use of force, to using outdated lesson plans, to employing troopers with a history of assault or domestic violence as mentors for recent academy graduates. The report finds that the training bureau does not update its lesson plans, and those in use are “overly simplistic,” often cut short, and wildly inconsistent depending on the instructor. Approximately one in five instructors do not undergo any sort of vetting, resulting in many with “questionable” histories teaching courses. The report concludes with 11 recommendations, while also noting that the agency has yet to implement recommendations from previous reviews. Yikes. [NJ Monitor / Sophie Nieto-Munoz]
“Police in schools have got to go,” chanted students from Newark and Elizabeth who marched in support of more mental health resources and staff in their schools. The number of school counselors and other support staff has declined over the past decade for Black and Latinx students, and students have noticed — especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Now, they’re calling for more resources in schools that do not center police. Given that Black and brown students see higher rates of disciplinary action and poverty than their white classmates, lawmakers should establish broader access to mental health professionals in schools to break cycles of poverty and inequality. [Chalkbeat / Jessie Gomez]
Congrats, Massachusetts! On Election Day, Bay Staters voted in favor of the Fair Share Amendment, creating a four percent surcharge on incomes over $1 million (read: millionaires’ tax). Revenue raised from the new measure will fund education and transportation, a big step toward creating a fairer economy for all who live in Massachusetts. Lawmakers instituted a similar change to New Jersey’s tax code in 2020 to help fund education and make the tax code more just. [ITEP / Marco Guzman]
Open enrollment is here! If you’re uninsured or rely on the marketplace for health insurance, make sure to enroll before the end of January. And remember, thanks to state laws passed over the last few years that expanded health insurance subsidies, most New Jersey residents who purchase coverage through GetCoveredNJ receive financial help. [GetCoveredNJ]
Pets of NJPP
Meet Erica Boland’s cats … or dogs, if you’re someone who believes you are what you eat. When Erica noticed the cats really liked the new cat food her husband bought last week, she checked the label and realized she was feeding them dog food. Oops!
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