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Legislative Alert – Feb 17, 17

Legislative Alert – Feb 17, 17

K-3 CLASS SIZE FIX UPDATE

HB 13 unanimously passed the House on Thursday 114-0.  The K-3 class size fix bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

While the House was fully supportive of HB 13, it is not clear to us how the measure will fare on the Senate side As your LEA develops your local budget request for 2017-18, you need to be prepared to ask for both the current expense and capital funding necessary to implement the scheduled changes to K-3 class size averages.  We suggest that the additional funding needed to implement the class size changes in your LEA be broken out as a separate line-item in your local budget request.  This will put a public spotlight on the actual monetary impact of the K-3 class size changes.  Please also share with us what you estimate the financial impact of the class size changes will be.

Also note that the NC Association of School Administrators has sent a survey to superintendents on behalf of the Senate about how the money generated through the funded/average K-3 class size differential is used.  The purpose of this survey is to gather data on this issue for the Senate to examine before taking any action.  We know that not all LEAs have returned the survey and we have concerns about what the Senate’s reaction will be for those LEAs that do not return the survey.

Please contact your Senate members in support of HB 13.  Click here to find your Senate members.  Talking points on HB 13 are below.

Talking Points on HB 13

HB 13 would:

a) Provide substantial relief from the drastic K-3 class size changes that have passed and are scheduled to take effect in the upcoming school year.

b) Give LEAs the flexibility to have a differential of 3 between the funded and average classroom teacher ratios starting in 2017-18 for K-3, which has been the historical practice.  The differential of 3 for average class sizes returns 75% of what is allowed (not necessarily used) this school year.

While understanding that HB 13 is not a perfect solution to the K-3 class size issue, remember that if there is no legislative fix, teacher allotment flexibility will disappear and districts will be forced to equalize the funded and average ratios in 2017-18 which could lead to (i) drastic cuts in art, music, and physical education teaching positions; (ii) an increase in class sizes in grades 4-12; or (iii) a funding hole that would need to be filled by an infusion of local dollars.

If the Senate does not pass this bill soon, LEAs might have no choice but to begin developing their budgets under the assumption that they will not have this important flexibility.

Outside Coverage

There continue to be strong voices publicly opposing HB 13.  Click here and here for more recent example of this.

PARTISAN SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS

Senate Bill 94 was filed this week to require all elected local school boards to be partisan (along with city council and judicial races).  Please communicate any concerns you have with this bill to members of your local delegation, particularly if you serve on a board that is currently nonpartisan.  The bill has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee.

One of the significant concerns with making all elected school boards partisan is that, because of a federal law called the Hatch Act, school board members who are also federal employees may not be able to continue serving on their local board.  The Hatch Act restricts federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities.  There are also concerns that making all elected school boards partisan would dissuade individuals working in the non-profit sector from running and/or serving because they may not be comfortable making partisan public statements while under the employ of a tax-exempt organization.


SCHOOL CALENDAR

A report on the school calendar law was released by the General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division (PED) on Monday.  The report surveyed school board members, superintendents, school personnel, parents, and others about their thoughts on various aspects of the current calendar law.  We were asked to express appreciation to all school districts for responding to this calendar survey.  You can read the report at this link.

The report shows that those who run school districts as well as parents are dissatisfied with several aspects of the calendar law.  It noted that both school personnel and parents complain about the same scheduling problems created by the restrictive parameters of the calendar law.  Eighty percent of LEA superintendents reported that the State mandated start and end dates make scheduling the start and end of the school year somewhat or very difficult.  Another notable finding was that over 60% of respondents in two citizen polls believed that school calendar design should be a local decision instead of following mandates from the State.

Despite these findings, the report makes no recommendation for changing the school calendar law because “the disagreement among stakeholders about when North Carolina should start and end the school year cannot be reconciled.”

The report does recommend that calendar flexibility be given to low-performing schools and low-performing LEAs.  It reviews the extensive documentation on how summer learning loss significantly impacts low-income children.

FUNDING FORMULA STUDY

A proposal to establish a special committee for examining alternative ways of funding public schools was discussed by the House K-12 Education Committee Tuesday.  Lawmakers spent most of the meeting debating who should sit on the special committee and whether the special committee should look at any alternative way of funding public schools or only look into a method called the “weighted student” formula.  A modified version of the bill is anticipated to come back up when the committee meets again next week.  A copy of the bill as filed is here.  If you want to watch a video of the meeting you can click here.

BILLS

New Bills: Click here for a list of bills filed this week that NCSBA is tracking.

Action Bills: Click here for NCSBA-tracked bills that had action this week


UPCOMING LEGISLATIVE MEETINGS

Monday, February 20

4:00 PM

The House will convene for session

7:00 PM
The Senate will convene for session

Ramona PowersLegislative Alert – Feb 17, 17