NCSBA Legislative Update – May 1, 2020

NCSBA Legislative Update – May 1, 2020

The Fight Against the Coronavirus

NCDHHS has reported 10,923 positive cases for COVID-19 in 98 counties, and 399 deaths from COVID-19 in North Carolina. Click here to access the NCDHHS webpage that keeps North Carolinians updated on the state’s response to the coronavirus. Additionally, NCSBA has been updating its webpage containing information and resources about the coronavirus.

 

This Week at the Legislature

The General Assembly convened on Tuesday, April 28 for the 2020 legislative short session. Both chambers passed bills in response to the coronavirus, HB 1043: Pandemic Response Act and SB 704: COVID-19 Recovery Act. House Speaker Tim Moore announced during today’s House session that House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on all money items, which will total close to $1.6 billion, but policy items are still being reconciled. One of the big bones of contention is over Medicaid expansion. Speaker Moore anticipates the approval COVID-19 legislation on Saturday, May 2. He also stated that, following legislation approval, the House will go home to work remotely for a few weeks.

House Bill 1043: Pandemic Response Act

  • Primary Sponsors: Representatives Bell, R-Wayne; Jackson, D-Wake; Lewis, R-Harnett
  • $1.7 billion
  • $291.7 million for K-12 schools

Senate Bill 704: COVID-19 Recovery Act

 

Policy items included in HB 1043, but not in SB 704:

  • SBE required to report recommendations for alternative interventions to summer instruction for at-risk students and students recommended for additional support (pg. 9)
  • Budget flexibility for local boards of education to transfer funds from one allotment category to another within certain limitations for the 2019-20 and the 2020-21 fiscal years (pgs. 14-15)
  • Delay K-3 class size reduction/adjust program enhancement teacher allotment funding (pgs. 15-16)
  • Allows unexpended funds for drivers education from the 2019-20 fiscal year to remain available until the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year (pg. 69)
  • Temporarily removes barriers to allow retirees of TSERS to return to work on a part-time, temporary, or interim basis during state of emergency related to COVID-19 (pgs. 77-78)

Click here for a chart comparison of K-12 education components of both bills.

 

State Board of Education Meeting – April 30

The State Board of Education met in a called meeting on Thursday, April 30. Board members addressed the following:

Board members approved additional emergency sick leave for public school employees, which was initially presented at the March 27 meeting. The approval extends the policy through May 31, 2020. It was noted that the policy may be readdressed in future weeks. Without adding additional changes to the policy, some Board members requested that DPI strongly encourage LEAs to provide remote working opportunities for noncertified employees.

Board members reviewed DPI’s completed certification and agreement for funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. It appears that disbursements will be based on 2019-20 Title I allocations. The SBE will take action on approving this item at its monthly meeting next week.

Board members were presented with an update on the State’s K-3 literacy diagnostic. The Board was told that the most recent contract with Istation, which maintains all collected data but does not gather new data for the next three months, remains in effect, but the three-year Istation contract that was signed last year has been terminated. The Superintendent stated that DPI will be working closely with the Department of Information Technology (DIT) and plans to establish a new contract before the start of the 2020-21 school year, per Read to Achieve requirements. Following the update, a testy exchange occurred between Board members and the Superintendent about the process, timeline, and panel members. The Superintendent acknowledged the questions and stated that his team is still in the initial steps of the process.

Board members approved a response letter to an audit by the NC State Auditor that was released on Wednesday. Findings include:

  • Fiscal monitoring results not communicated timely
  • Inadequate award communication
  • Ineffective monitoring of several federal programs including Title I spending
  • Errors in reported state per pupil expenditures

Click here to read more about the findings and DPI’s response to the findings. The SBE’s response letter states that it plans to support and monitor DPI’s efforts in improvement, noting the DPI has “many outstanding employees who provide great service…in supporting the education of our children.” The late addition of the letter to the SBE agenda led to heated remarks from the Superintendent to the Board.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced the creation of the Schools Reopening Task Force (SRTF). The Superintendent stated that all action so far has been reactive to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the goal of SRTF is to be proactive. We would like to note that Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools board member Dana Caudill Jones is a member of the task force.

Click here for all meeting materials.

Click here for more coverage of the meeting and exchanges between Board members.

 

Governor’s Education and Nutrition Working Group

The Governor’s Education and Nutrition Working Group met on Thursday, April 30. The following was presented.

Goals for Reopening Schools

  • Increase social distancing
  • Implement hygiene protocols
  • Monitor workforce and student health
  • Protect vulnerable populations
  • Provide education to build awareness and combat misinformation

Click here for more on the draft plan for reopening schools. DPI and DHHS are requesting feedback on these preliminary goals, which can be sent to David Stegall at david.stegall@dpi.nc.gov. There is not a hard deadline for feedback, but the Working Group will be meeting again on Thursday, May 14.

Hope4Healers (919-226-2002) Updates

  • Helpline expanded to childcare staff, in addition to health care professionals, first responders, etc.
  • Equipped with 24/7 call line support, allowing callers to speak to a live person
  • Partnership with NC Psychological Foundation

Access to Internet

  • Received $75,000 in donations to purchase up to 280 Wi-Fi hotspots for buses to help bring Wi-Fi to communities in need – from AT&T, Duke Energy, and Google
  • Districts to receive these hotspots were identified and have been notified this week by Regional Case Managers

 

Governor’s Press Releases

 

U.S. Secretary of Education Report on IDEA Waiver Authority

On Monday, April 27 U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released a recommended waiver report under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. NSBA reported that the Secretary did not recommend Congress to pass additional waiver authority concerning the Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). NSBA sent the Secretary a letter describing the challenges school districts are experiencing in providing FAPE to children with disabilities pursuant to IDEA, which were not addressed in her recommended waiver report. NSBA stated that it is committed to working with Congress to provide temporary flexibility and additional funding for IDEA in the wake of this pandemic.

 

 

 

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 Update – May 1, 2020

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