NCSBA Legislative Update
JUNE 30, 2017
On Monday Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the budget that was sent to him by the General Assembly. He held a news conference that morning to explain his veto, at which he highlighted the public education portion as a large concern. Gov. Cooper expressed disappointment that the budget did not put additional funding into teacher assistants, school counselors, or school nurses. He also criticized the budget’s shifting of additional funds to the Opportunity Scholarship voucher program and the decision to not raise salaries at the first and last steps of the teacher salary schedule. If you would like to watch the Governor’s full press conference you can click here. You can read the Governor’s veto message by clicking here.
Twenty-four hours later the General Assembly overrode the veto, with the Senate voting 34-14 and the House voting 76-43. The budget bill has now been codified into law- SB 257 (S.L. 2017-57). As usual a stand-alone bill later passed making technical changes to the budget bill (HB 528, see below).
This marks the first time since 2011-12 that a State budget has been enacted before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.
REGULAR SESSION ENDS/LOOKING AHEAD
In addition to the budget, lawmakers passed a flurry of stand-alone bills this week as they closed out the 2017 legislative regular session. The General Assembly officially adjourned its 2017 regular session early this morning.
Lawmakers will be home for a little over a month and will then return to Raleigh for a limited special session starting on August 3, 2017. At this session, the General Assembly will be able to finish up some work on some bills that were moving in the final days of the regular session, as well as take up overrides of gubernatorial vetoes, confirmation of appointments, and responses to lawsuits.
There will also be a special session on September 6, 2017. House Rules Chairman David Lewis (R-Harnett) said this session will likely focus on redistricting (lawmakers are under court order to redraw the legislative districts). However, the adjournment resolution also says that the GA could take up bills revising districts for local governments (including school boards).
The GA will begin its 2018 regular “short session” on May 16, 2018.
As usual, there will be several committees meeting throughout the periods between legislative sessions, including the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee. Some notable special committees that will be meeting during this time include the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform and a special committee to study the new school construction lottery grant program (see below). Any legislative recommendations that emerge from these committees can be taken up during the 2018 regular session beginning May 16.
This will be our last weekly legislative report until the August special session. We will be publishing monthly reports covering these interim committees and other legislative news that might come up until the next session. We will also be publishing our end of year summary of K-12 legislation and the budget sometime in the middle of July.
Specialty Teachers/Class Sizes
Per HB 13, all school districts will have to lower their K-3 max and average class sizes by 1 starting this upcoming school year. School districts will also have to abide by several new reporting requirements. The Department of Public Instruction has put together a helpful informational document reviewing the class size changes and LEA reporting requirements. To find this document you can click here.
One of the issues looming over the next school year will be the scheduled K-3 class size changes for 2018-19 when LEAs will have to equalize funded and average class sizes and significantly reduce max class sizes. The final budget did not include a new allotment stream for program enhancement teachers in 2018-19 but the budget technical corrections bill (HB528) DID include language expressing legislative intent to establish an allotment stream for K-5 program enhancement teachers starting in 2018-19. Timing will be a big challenge for school districts on this issue. Unless the General Assembly takes up the issue in one of the special sessions the earliest opportunity for the GA to deal with this issue will be the 2018 session that starts May 16. This is the same period when LEAs will be in the latter stages of developing their 2018-19 budgets. During the interim, make sure to speak with your House and Senate members and make them aware of this timing challenge.
While regular session adjourned without passage of the $1.9 billion school construction bond, some new school construction lottery money was included in the budget through a new Needs-Based School Capital Fund. This Fund contains new school construction lottery monies ($30 million in 17-18 and $75 million in 18-19) that will available to the 40 least economically healthy counties as designated by the Department of Commerce (Tier I counties) until 2020-21. Eligible counties will have to apply for grants from this Needs-Based Fund, which can be up to $15 million for one county’s school capital needs in a fiscal year, with a 3 to 1 match. As a comparison, the largest distribution of lottery school capital that went to a Tier I county last year was $1.5 million (Robeson). It is likely that two Tier I counties will get the grants in year 1 and five will get it in year 2. Starting 2020-21, Tier II counties (the next 40 least economically healthy) will also become eligible for grants from this fund.
Note that this new money is in addition to the $100 million in school capital lottery money that has traditionally been going out to counties. Those counties that apply for and receive lottery school capital money through the new Needs-Based Fund will be excluded from receiving a portion of the $100 million appropriation for a five-year period, meaning that the remaining appropriation will be reallocated to the other districts.
While this new money for school construction is helpful, it is just a drop in the bucket compared to the staggering $8 billion backlog of school construction needs around the state. If you talk to your legislators during the interim let them know the new lottery school capital money is appreciated but it is not by itself going to be enough to deal with the school construction backlog.
With regard to the statewide bond, we will be working with other interested groups over the coming weeks and will have a more detailed plan of action shortly.
Bills Still Eligible for 2018 session
As a reminder here are some of the notable K-12 education bills that made crossover in 2017 and can be taken up during the next regular session that begins May 16, 2018.
School Calendar Flexibility
HB 375. Allows LEAs statewide the flexibility to start the school year as early as August 15 to align with their local community college. It passed the House and is currently residing in Senate Rules.
HB 389. Allows 20 LEAs to start the school year as early as August 10 for 3 years as part of a pilot to study the impact of an earlier school year on travel/tourism and student achievement. It passed the House and is currently in Senate Rules.
Make sure to continue talking about school calendar flexibility with your Senate members during the interim. Make them aware that school districts were forced into another condensed calendar in 2017-18, with school not allowed to start until August 28. Continue to make them aware of the challenges of setting academically sound calendars into this extremely narrow window.
Local Education Funding Lawsuits
SB 531. Eliminates school boards’ local education funding lawsuit authority. It passed the Senate and is currently residing in the House State and Local Government I Committee.
A-F School Grades
HB 322. Reforms the A-F school grade formula to give equal weight to performance and growth (50/50) instead of the 80/20 weight that is currently used. It passed the House and is currently in Senate Rules.
Low-Performing Schools Definition
HB 826. Narrows the definition of “low-performing school” so that if a school is meeting growth it is not considered low-performing.
School Construction Bond
HB 866. Puts a statewide $1.9 billion bond for school construction on the ballot. Because it is a Finance bill it remains eligible for session. It has passed a House Committee and is now in House Finance.
Fines/Forfeitures and School Technology
HB 554. Establishes a plan to repay the $747 million in improperly withheld fines that Judge Manning ordered are owed to schools for technology purposes. It is residing in the House K-12 Education Committee.
UPDATES ON NOtable bills THIS WEEK
SB 117, the bill to retroactively overturn the court ruling in the pension-spiking case, did not move this week and remains in the House K-12 Education Committee.
Additionally, the House inserted language into HB 894 that includes the 2-hour LEA personnel training requirements on suicide prevention and awareness that mirrors the original version of HB 285. This version is NOT aligned with the State Board’s Mental Health Policy. The bill did not pass this week but under the rules of adjournment could be taken up during the August special session.
Below are some of the notable bills that passed the General Assembly in the waning days of session this week and have been sent to the Governor.
HB 528. This is the annual bill that makes technical corrections to the budget. It includes language stating the General Assembly’s intent to fund K-5 program enhancement teachers in 2018-19 (see story above). It also changes some reporting requirements for DPI.
HB 155. This omnibus education bill includes:
– A provision saying that if a high school has 1,500 students or more then assistant principals may conduct the annual performance evaluation of a teacher, provided that the principal does at least one of the teacher’s first three annual evaluations.
– A provision that delays implementation of the State Board’s recently passed school-based mental health policy.
HB 800. This bill makes it easier for charters not identified as low-performing to expand their student population without needing approval from the State Board of Education. Starting immediately, these charters can expand automatically if they are expanding 25% (was 20%) beyond their original anticipated enrollment. This allowance will expand to 30% on July 1, 2018.
Leanne E. Winner
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919)747-6686 direct dial
Associate Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 606-3916 mobile
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919)747-6677 direct dial