NCSBA Legislative Alert – April 3, 2020

NCSBA Legislative Alert – April 3, 2020

The Fight Against the Coronavirus

The NCSBA Governmental Relations team continues to follow action being taken by local, state, and federal government in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). NCSBA has also been updating its webpage containing information and resources about the coronavirus.

DHHS has reported 2,093 positive cases for COVID-19 in 86 counties, and 19 deaths from COVID-19 in North Carolina. Click here to access the DHHS webpage that keeps North Carolinians updated on the State’s response to the coronavirus.

From the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction

The SBE held its monthly Board meeting on Thursday, April 2. While there were presentations about the state’s response to the coronavirus, the SBE also received updates from each Board committee. Click here to access the meeting agenda and materials.

DPI staff presented its COVID-19 Accountability Workgroup Report, which contains state statutes and SBE policies that the group identified as requiring consideration or action based on the approval of NC’s waiver request of assessment and accountability requirements for the 2019-20 school year. The approved waiver would affect:

  • Read to Achieve program
  • Principal and teacher bonuses based on growth and test scores
  • ACT administration
  • CTE testing
  • Identification of qualifying schools for the Innovative School District
  • SBE policy requiring that students’ scores on EOCs or NC Final Exams count toward at least 20% of their final grade
  • State statutes requiring use of EOG/EOC test scores or individual student scores for student placement recommendations

The SBE was also presented with teacher bonus reports, which will be submitted to the General Assembly. Dr. Tomberlin of DPI noted the following two takeaways from the Fourth and Fifth Grade Reading Teacher Bonus Report and the Fourth through Eighth Grade Math Teacher Bonus Report:

  1. There are high percentages of teachers in small NC districts earning reading and math bonuses this year (can be found on Table 1 of both reports), which other districts can learn from
  2. Teachers who earn the bonus have much lower attrition rates than those who don’t earn the bonus

 

Last week the SBE approved a distribution model for the $50 million of flexible funding directed by Governor Cooper to public schools. The model allocates 50% of the $50 million based on the percentage of low wealth students and 50% of the $50 million based on ADM. Click here to see what each LEA and charter school will receive based on low wealth and ADM.

 

From the Governor

Governor’s Education and Nutrition Working Group

The Governor’s Education & Nutrition Working Group held its third meeting on Thursday, April 2. The following information was presented.

Access to safe, affordable childcare and out-of-school time care options

  • As of April 1, ~3,800 providers applied to remain open (about 66% of facilities)
  • Received ~1,600 calls to date and connected 996 families with care for 1,200 children
  • Launched an enhanced referral process to encourage that a family will get a response of a confirmed opening within 3 hours
  • Financial assistance available in April and May for essential workers whose income is below 300% FPL and who attest to having no other childcare options
  • About 9 LEAs are currently operating at least one site in their district and 9 are planning to start operating

 

Access to nutritious food while schools and childcare programs are closed

  • In the last week, 3 million meals were served by ~1,000 meal sites (average of 611,000 meals a day)
  • USDA approved several additional waivers:
    • Allow parental/guardian pick-up of meals in Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and School Nutrition programs
    • CACFP waivers related to monitoring – working group is continuing to approve submitted plans from CACFP institutions to exercise flexibility
    • Allow non-area eligible sites to be approved based on emerging demographics around business closure and unemployment
    • SNAP emergency max monthly allotments for March and April

 

Access to structured learning while schools and childcare programs are closed

  • Over the past two weeks:
    • 125,792 page views on DPI’s remote learning website
    • 9,442 participants in virtual remote learning professional development
    • 1,300 hotspots/devices distributed to students
  • The UNC-TV and DPI partnership “soft” launched on Monday – UNC-TV airing blocks of instructional programming by grade level on the NC channel and online
  • Aggregating the remote learning survey results and will communicate with districts and partners our “next steps” as a result of the feedback
  • Working with the Friday Institute to provide video support to teachers on topics, such as how to support social and emotional learning and children with disabilities
  • Teachers needing additional support can be matched up to mentors/coaches

 

If you have concerns about these issues that you would like the Working Group to address, please email Richard Bostic at rbostic@ncsba.org.

 

Governor’s Press Releases and Executive Orders

  • On March 31 Governor Cooper signed Executive Order 124. The order prohibits utility disconnections; provides guidance about restrictions on evictions; and urges telecommunications providers, banks, and mortgage servicers to provide customers with assistance and flexibility.
  • On March 30 the Governor signed Executive Order 123, which extends the NC Early Childhood Advisory Council.
  • On March 30 Governor Cooper signed Executive Order 122, which calls for the transfer of state property to aid healthcare workers, local governments, and schools.
    • By request, surplus property including computers owned by the state may be requested by governments and school districts, and the state will supply them to try to bridge the digital divide during school closures.”
  • On March 29 Governor Cooper announced that the first payments of COVID-19 unemployment benefits will be paid this week.

Governor Roy Cooper’s statewide stay at home order that was issued on Friday, March 27 in Executive Order 121 began at 5:00 pm on Monday, March 30 and will remain in effect until April 29.

 

From the NC General Assembly – House Select Committee on COVID-19

The Education Working Group of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 met at 2:00 pm on Thursday, April 2. The agenda consisted of presentations from the NC Independent Colleges & Universities, the University of North Carolina System, and North Carolina Community Colleges.

Dr. Hope Williams, President of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities,  reported the following:

  • Student teaching and counselor interns and students in pre-internship field experiences cannot complete their required weeks
  • Students seeking admission to education preparation programs (EPPs) in fall 2020 cannot take the required Praxis Core test
  • Students seeking admission into EPPs in fall 2020 may not have the required 2.7 GPA, since most spring 2020 classes have become pass/fail
  • Legislative Requests:
    • Waiver of the legislated number of weeks required for student teaching and counselor internships, and for pre-internship field experiences, for spring and summer 2020
    • Waiver of Praxis Core test for EPP admission for the 2020-21 academic year
    • Waiver of the 2.7 individual and 3.0 cohort GPA for students entering EPPs in the 2020-21 academic year
    • Delay implementation of sanctions on EPPs by one year

 

Dr. William Roper, Interim President of the University of North Carolina System, requested the following:

  • Regulatory flexibility for ed prep programs
  • Waive state retirement 6-month break in service requirement for health care and education workers to reenter workforce

 

The Continuity of State Operations Working Group of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 met at 2:00 pm on Tuesday, March 31. Amber Harris, Director of Governmental Relations for the NC Association of County Commissioners (NCACC), spoke to the committee about the challenges faced by counties during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her presentation was taken from a March 31 memo to the State Operations Working Group written by NCACC Executive Director Kevin Leonard. The key points of the memo for school boards are as follows:

  • Open Meetings Laws – The law is not clear about mechanisms to vote remotely and allow public comment and participation.
  • Internet Access – Because a large amount of public school children already lack access to reliable internet, “counties want to help the private sector build permanent or temporary infrastructure to get their internet services to the school children who now have to work from home.”
    • Erin Wynia, Chief Legislative Counsel for the NC League of Municipalities, told the Committee that broadband access could be increased with the passage of the FIBER NC act.
  • County Budget Impact – Counties will experience great difficulty in balancing their budgets for fiscal year 2020-21.
    •  “Sales tax makes up 14-20% of a county’s budget. The economic impact of COVID-19 will likely severely reduce sales tax revenues, and the full impact is unknown.” Counties received $2.3 billion in sales tax revenue in fiscal year 2018-19.
    • “At a time when counties will most need property tax revenue to provide mandated services, many will relax collection efforts on delinquent bills and may adjust property tax rates in response to the crisis.”
    • Although water and sewer services are necessary during this crisis, counties cannot endure the budget loss that will be caused by suspension of disconnection for nonpaying customers.
  • Budget Timelines
    • “Counties will need flexibility for budget deadlines and audit ramifications imposed under the Local Government Budget and Fiscal Control Act.”
    • “While GS 115C-429 requires the local board of education to submit its entire budget to the board of county commissioners by May 15, there will be uncertainty in the timing and what to include in the budget. The county will, in turn, be challenged to know its full revenue picture and may be unable to pay for all of the local board of education’s needs and requests.”

 

The Economic Support Working Group of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 met at 10:00 am on Tuesday, March 31. One presentation that may be of interest to education nonprofits was delivered by Thomas Stith, North Carolina District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Mr. Stith reported on programs that assist small businesses that have closed or reduced operations due to COVID-19. Mr. Stith’s presentation highlighted the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program that is available to small businesses, including private nonprofit organizations. To receive these loans, a business must:

  • Have a credit history acceptable to SBA
  • Have the ability to repay the loan (this will be determined by SBA)
  • Provide collateral if the loan is over $25,000

A small business or nonprofit can borrow up to $2 million in a 30-year loan, and the interest rate would be 2.75% for nonprofits. The loan funds can be used for payroll, fixed debts, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid if not for disaster (in this case COVID-19). While applying for a loan and awaiting payment, the small business or nonprofit can apply for an Emergency Economic Injury Grant of up to $10,000. This grant does not have to be repaid.

 

Also during the meeting, the NC Travel Industry Association stated that it is in strong opposition to allowing an early start to school in August to make up for classroom time that is being lost because of the coronavirus. Executive Director Vince Chelena explained that “This would be a second wave of destruction to hit our coastal communities…If this were to happen, it’s game over for family-owned and small businesses.”

 

 

 

Leanne E. Winner
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6686

Bruce Mildwurf
Associate Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6692

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6677

Rebekah Howard
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6688

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Alert – April 3, 2020

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