NCSBA Legislative Update – February 5, 2020

NCSBA Legislative Update – February 5, 2020

 

Reopening of Schools

Additional legislative and executive action was taken this week to push for statewide in-person school instruction. SB 37: In-Person Learning Choice for Families, was filed on Monday and passed second reading by 29-16 in the Senate on Thursday. The Senate is scheduled to take its final vote on this bill on Tuesday, February 9, and then it will go to the House. (See bill summary below). Additionally, on Tuesday, Governor Cooper joined State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, and SBE Chair Eric Davis in a call to resume in-person instruction in K-12 schools statewide. Click here to read the joint letter sent by State leaders to school board members and superintendents. When asked if he will sign SB 37 into law, Governor Cooper stated that he had not read the bill but has heard some concerns. Governor Cooper is not mandating statewide in-person instruction, but rather strongly encouraging local school boards to consider the data showing low rates of COVID-19 transmission in schools, as well as the negative effects that remote instruction has on students. DHHS released the following health and safety guidance for in-person instruction:

On Thursday, Governor Cooper released an emergency budget plan that includes a $2,500 bonus for public school teachers and principals and a $1,500 bonus for noncertified school employees. The emergency budget allocates federal COVID-19 relief funds, and implementation of this emergency budget requires legislative approval. Click here for an article covering the push for statewide in-person school instruction and the Governor’s emergency budget.

SB 37: In-Person Learning Choice for Families (primary sponsors: Senators Ballard, R-Watauga; Lee, R-New Hanover; and Hise, R-Mitchell)

This bill requires local school boards to provide:

  • An in-person Plan A option for all students who have an individualized education program (IEP) or a 504 Plan
  • An in-person Plan A or Plan B option for all students who are in grades K-12 (boards may opt for all Plan A, all Plan B, or a combination thereof)
  • A remote option for families that wish to have this option

SB 37 allows local school boards to shift individual schools or classrooms to remote learning due to COVID-19 exposures that result in insufficient staff or required student quarantines. Any move to remote learning must be reported to DPI within 72 hours. The bill will be implemented on the first workday that occurs 15 days after becoming law.

 

Bills in the Spotlight

SB 36: 2020 COVID Relief Bill Modifications (HB 42) (primary sponsors: Senators Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston; Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell)

  • Passed by the Senate and the House and presented to the Governor on Thursday, February 4

The following are some key K-12 education sections:

Section 3.2 extends the deadline for spending appropriations from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) from December 30, 2020 to December 31, 2021 for the following programs:

  • DPI – National School Lunch Program ($75 million)
  • DPI – Instructional Support Allotment ($10 million)
  • DPI – Supplemental Summer Learning Program ($70 million)
  • DPI – Extended Learning and Integrated Student Supports Competitive Grant Program ($5 million)
  • UNC (SEAA) – Alternative educational option scholarships for disabled students ($6.5 million)
  • YMCAs – Remote learning opportunities ($19.8 million)

Section 3.12 extends the deadline for State agencies to procure COVID-19 supplies, materials, equipment, printing, or services from the open market from December 30, 2020 to December 31, 2021.

Section 5 appropriates $1.6 billion to DPI from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund II (ESSER II) in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, P.L. 116-260. DPI must receive approval from the Director of the Budget to spend the federal funds. Positions created with these funds shall terminate at the earlier of the funds being fully expended or the federal deadline for spending the funds. Recipient public school units must report quarterly to DPI beginning March 1, 2021 on the following:

  • Amount of federal funds received
  • Amount of grant funds expended
  • How the funds were used, including program information such as number of people served and geographic distribution
  • The amount spent on administration
  • The amount of funds that remained unspent
  • The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) positions established with funds received and, for each FTE established, a position number, position status, date the position was established, hire date, and date on which the position is to be abolished

According to the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the new federal funds may be used the same as CARES Act funds plus the following spending categories:

  1. Addressing learning loss among students
  2. School facility repairs/improvements that help reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to other environmental health hazards
  3. Inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, and replacement projects to improve the indoor air quality of school facilities

Click here to read the full bill summary by NSBA.

HB 12: Address Pandemic Learning Loss/Alamance County (primary sponsors: Representatives Riddell, R-Alamance and Hurtado, D-Alamance)

  • Referred to the House Education K-12 Committee

This is a local bill that provides Alamance-Burlington Schools with additional options to address pandemic learning loss through the end of the 2022-2023 school year.

NCSBA supports this bill because it provides additional options for local control, which is a request in NCSBA’s 2021 Legislative Agenda. If you agree with HB 12 and want a similar bill filed for your school district, contact your legislative delegation.

HB 32: Equity in Opportunity Act (primary sponsors: Representatives Arp, R-Union; Blackwell, R-Burke; Lambeth, R-Forsyth and Saine, R-Lincoln)

  • Referred to the House Education K-12 Committee

The following are key features of the 15-page bill.

Part I. Opportunity Scholarship Grant Program

  • Expands the definition of eligible beginning student from those entering grades K-1 to students entering grades K-2, beginning spring semester 2021-2022. Added to eligible students are four-year-olds with birthdays on or before April 16 that a school principal deems to be gifted or mature enough for school admittance (currently at least five years old by August 31).
  • The scholarship grant cap increases from a fixed amount of $4,200 to 70% of the average State per pupil allocation beginning in the 2022-2023 school year. Based on last year’s numbers, the scholarship would increase to $4,646. The formula increases from 70% to 80% in the 2023-2024 school year.

Part II. Personal Education Savings Accounts

  • Expands eligibility of students to four-year-olds with birthdays on or before April 16 that a school principal deems to be gifted or mature enough for school admittance (currently at least 5 years old by August 31).
  • Modifies the maximum scholarship amount per eligible student to be based on a percentage formula, rather than a fixed amount. Using last year’s numbers, the maximum amount per scholarship would increase from $9,000 to $10,091.

Part III. Local Funds to Supplement K-12 Scholarships

  • Authorizes the use of county property taxes for supplemental funds for students receiving K-12 scholarships for educational purposes.
  • Beginning in fiscal year 2021-2022, authorizes counties to appropriate up to $1,000 per child who lives in the county and receives a grant from one of the following: Special Education Scholarships for Children with Disabilities, Opportunity Scholarship Grant, and Personal Education Savings Account.

 

Bills Filed

The following additional education-related bills were filed this week:

 

The 2021 NCSBA Legislative Agenda was approved by the NCSBA Delegate Assembly on Thursday, January 7. Following the approval of the agenda, the NCSBA Governmental Relations Team has been creating issue briefs on each agenda item. See links for completed issue briefs below. We will provide links to additional issue briefs in next week’s legislative update.

 

The SBE met for their monthly meeting on Wednesday and Thursday. Board members were presented with the following:

K-12 social studies standards: The SBE voted 7-5 to approve draft five of the new K-12 social studies standards, which also includes a preamble written by State Superintendent Truitt. The vote was roughly split along party lines. Prior to the approval of the draft five standards, a substitute motion to approve draft four of the standards was voted on with only two Board members voting “yes”. The changes from draft four to draft five include replacing “systemic racism”, “gender identity” and “systemic discrimination” with “racism”, “identity”, and “discrimination”, respectively. With SBE approval of these standards, DPI staff will now begin the implementation process. For more on Board member discussion, click here.

2020-2021 legislative and budget priorities: Board members unanimously approved their legislative and budget priorities for this session. The priorities reflect the Leandro action plan, the SBE’s strategic plan, and Superintendent Truitt’s vision. The priorities totaling $184,717,140 are divided into the following categories:

  • Addressing statewide learning challenges and recovery ($31,782,940)
  • Student mental health, wellbeing, and school safety ($55,896,000)
  • Education workforce development – teacher and principal recruitment and retention ($7,478,700)
  • Connecting middle/high school students to post-secondary and career opportunities ($12,854,500)
  • School business system modernization ($28,900,000 non-recurring; $37,355,000 recurring)

Click here to read more about each category.

DHHS COVID-19 update: DHHS staff began their presentation with statewide metrics, including age group data showing that case count is lowest among the State’s youngest population. Additionally, reports of K-12 cluster-related cases in both public and private schools account for only .15% of total cases in the State. DHHS staff identified numerous studies that reaffirm the low rates of COVID-19 transmission in schools, despite higher community transmission rates. Updated health and safety guidance for schools was also provided, as the State progresses to returning more students to in-person learning. DHHS released the following health and safety guidance for in-person instruction:

State Superintendent Truitt’s vision and priorities: During her State Superintendent’s Report, Superintendent Truitt presented her North Star, as well as three guiding priorities to transform public education in the State. Literacy, testing and accountability, and human capital will guide the Superintendent’s efforts as she works towards her long-term goal of every student benefitting from a highly qualified, excellent teacher. Superintendent Truitt also reaffirmed her commitment to working with the SBE, the General Assembly, and teachers to achieve this vision.

ESSER II draft allotments: SBE members were presented with draft allotments for the $1.6 billion the State will receive from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund II. 90% of the funds will go to public school units, while 10% will be used for administrative costs at DPI. Click here to view the draft allotments.

2021-2022 Allotted ADM: The Board heard from DPI staff about the declining average daily membership (ADM) in traditional public schools, which can be attributed to lower birth rates, decrease in the 5-17 age population, increase in homeschools and charter schools, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to access the full presentation.

Click here to access an article summarizing the meeting.

Click here to access all meeting materials.

 

NCSBA has been maintaining a chart containing each LEA’s reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year. We know that many school districts’ plans are constantly changing, so please let us know if our chart does not reflect your district’s most updated reopening plan information. Click here to access the chart.

 

 

 

Bruce Mildwurf
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
bmildwurf@ncsba.org
(919) 747-6692

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

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

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – February 5, 2020

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