NCSBA Legislative Update – March 26, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – March 26, 2021

 

On Wednesday, the Governor released his recommended budget, which includes $11.1 billion in FY 2021-2022 (11.1% increase from the base budget) and $11.7 billion in FY 2022-2023 (16.3% increase from the base budget) for K-12 public education. The following are highlights from the K-12 education section of the budget:

  • Provides bonuses for teachers, principals, and all other school personnel
    • $2,000 bonus in May 2021
    • $1,000 bonus in each year of the biennium
  • Includes pay increases over the biennium
    • 10% average pay increase for teachers, principals, assistant principals, and instructional support personnel
    • 5% pay increase for noncertified personnel and central office staff
  • Requires all noncertified personnel to be paid at least $15/hour and provides funds to districts to cover noncertified personnel salaries paid with local dollars
  • Restores master’s pay for teachers whose advanced degrees are in the subjects they teach
  • Starting in FY 2022-2023, restores annual State funding to fully fund the cost for up to 1,000 teachers to become National Board Certified
  • Proposes a $4.7 billion statewide bond referendum for November 2021, including $2.5 billion for school capital projects
  • Provides $120 million over the biennium for approximately 1,000 full-time school counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists
  • Creates a new professional development allotment of $30 million over the biennium for teachers and school leaders in areas such as digital literacy and personalized learning
  • Provides $50 million over the biennium in additional teacher assistant funding to support K-3 literacy
  • Provides $4 million in nonrecurring funds in FY 2022-2023 (in addition to the $12 million in federal ESSER funds) to support early literacy instruction based on the science of reading
  • Removes funding caps and increases funding for
    • Children with Disabilities allotments ($40M in FY 21-22/$70M in FY 22-23)
    • Limited English Proficiency allotments ($10M in FY 21-22/$20M in FY 22-23)
  • Increases funding for
    • Disadvantaged Student Supplemental funding ($35M in FY 21-22/$70M in FY 22-23)
    • Low Wealth allotments ($20M in FY 21-22/$40M in FY 22-23)

The Governor’s budget also invests roughly $78 million in early education, with the goal of enrolling more children in the NC Pre-K program. Additionally, the Opportunity Scholarship Program would gradually be eliminated under the budget plan. Governor’s budget links:

Following the release of the Governor’s budget recommendations, a Governor’s budget bill will be filed, including more details on the salary schedule. The Senate is now working on its budget bill to be released in the coming weeks. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, stated in Thursday’s House session that there has already been some discussion between the Governor and legislative leaders on areas of agreement and disagreement of budget priorities, hopefully leading to “a good result this year”. (Note that the Governor’s recommended budget does not include appropriations of the federal funds included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Appropriations of those federal funds are forthcoming.)

 

This week NCSBA released the inaugural episode of our new podcast The Board Table. In this episode NCSBA Director of Governmental Relations, Bruce Mildwurf, talks with Governor Cooper’s Education Advisor, Geoff Coltrane, about the Governor’s education budget proposals. Click here to listen to the podcast!

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Status of Notable Bills

HB 136: Encourage Healthy NC Food in Schools (primary sponsors: Representatives Julia Howard, R-Davie; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Mitchell Setzer, R-Catawba; Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin) passed the House on a 91-22 vote and is now in the Senate. This bill requires public schools to ensure that 100% muscadine grape juice is available to students in all schools. It does not include an appropriation.

HB 205: Abuse & Neglect Resources in Public Schools (primary sponsors: Representatives Ted Davis, R-New Hanover; Donna White, R-Johnston; Kelly Hastings, R-Gaston; Pat Hurley, R-Randolph) unanimously passed the House on Thursday and was sent to the Senate. This bill requires public schools to provide students in grades 6-12 with information and resources on child abuse (including sexual abuse) and neglect. The information and resources must be distributed to students in a document at the beginning of each school year, displayed on a poster, and include warning signs of abuse and how to report it. It does not include an appropriation.

HB 32: Equity in Opportunity Act (three of the four primary sponsors are former school board members: Representatives Dean Arp, R-Union; Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln) was amended and approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Appropriations Committee. Changes to the bill include:

  • Allows eligibility for opportunity scholarships for students whose parents are honorably discharged from the Armed Services in the past 18 months (income eligibility must be met)
  • Allows financial eligibility for opportunity scholarships for all foster children

Additionally, the bill does the following:

  • Expands eligibility even further for other recipients of opportunity scholarships and personal education savings accounts (click here for a bill summary with more details)
  • Increases the opportunity scholarship grant cap by an estimated $446 in the 2022-2023 school year, with an additional increase in the 2023-2024 school year
  • Increases the maximum personal education savings account amount per eligible student by an estimated $1,091
  • Authorizes counties to appropriate local funds toward these scholarships, beginning with the 2021-2022 fiscal year

With the goal of improving the bill, the NCSBA Governmental Relations Team expressed concerns about HB 32 to the bill’s sponsors and Committee members, but the Committee ultimately rejected an amendment along party lines that would have measured educational attainment and success of private school scholarship recipients. For a more thorough bill summary, click here to access a previous Legislative Update.

HB 247: Standards of Student Conduct (primary sponsor: Representative John Torbett, R-Gaston) was amended and approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Rules Committee. This bill requires public school unit boards (local boards of education and charter school boards) to do the following:

  • Consult with teachers, school-based administrators, parents, and local law enforcement before adopting discipline policies and student code of conduct
  • Consider existing federal guidance for disciplining students with disabilities, in addition to other school discipline guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education
  • Send most current discipline policies and student code of conduct to DPI by September 1 each year
  • Inform parents and guardians of the full range of responses to disciplinary violations at the beginning of each school year

A major point of Committee member disagreement was the removal of language that provides examples of student conduct not deemed punishable by long-term suspension, including inappropriate language, dress code violations, minor physical altercations, and noncompliance. An amendment that would have restored the language was rejected in Committee.

HB 69: Education on the Holocaust and Genocide (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Julia Howard, R-Davie; Wayne Sasser, R-Cabarrus; Robert Reives, D-Chatham) was amended and approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Appropriations Committee. This bill requires the integration of education on the Holocaust and genocide into the standard course of study.

HB 335: Timely Local Payments to Charter Schools (primary sponsors: Representatives John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg; Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance; Jon Hardister, R-Guilford; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln) will be heard in the House Education K-12 Committee next Tuesday, March 30, at 1:00 pm. This bill increases the amount that a LEA must transfer to a charter school by 8%, plus accrued interest, if the LEA does not transfer funds to the charter school within 30 days of receiving a written request from the charter school. Charter schools receive funds equal to the per pupil share of the local current expense fund.

Athletics Attendance Bills

This week two local athletics attendance bills passed the Senate and were sent the House: SB 232 and SB 256. Both bills allow up to 50% occupancy at outdoor sporting events in a total of 23 counties. Also this week, Governor Cooper announced an increase in capacity limits for indoor and outdoor sports arenas and fields from 30% to 50%, which means that the bills in their current state may no longer be needed.

Bill Chart

Click here for a chart of all education-related bills that NCBSA is tracking.

 

This week DHHS updated its StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit in response to NC’s improved COVID-19 metrics and the CDC’s updated guidance regarding physical distancing of at least 3 feet between students in K-12 schools. DHHS Toolkit updates include:

  • Allows middle and high schools to operate under Plan A
    • Recommends at least 3 feet of physical distance between students
    • Recommends at least 6 feet of physical distance between adults (school employees) and students and adults
  • Daily symptom screenings are no longer required, but are still recommended for employees
  • Regular disinfection of playgrounds is no longer required
  • Physical barriers are no longer recommended
  • Recommends that fully vaccinated and asymptomatic individuals who are identified as close contacts do not need to quarantine

Click here to access the DHHS Toolkit.

Click here to access the DHHS webpage with additional K-12 school resources.

 

The SBE met for a called meeting on Thursday to approve a contract with the ABC Science Collaborative of the Duke University School of Medicine and updates to DPI’s Lighting Our Way Forward guidance for reopening K-12 public schools. The $500,000 ABC Collaborative contract is required by SB 220: The Reopen Our Schools Act of 2021/SL 2021-4. The bill requires middle and high schools that open under Plan A to partner with the ABC Collaborative to collect and analyze data related to reopening schools, followed by a report to the General Assembly, DPI, SBE, DHHS, and the Governor. The contract begins today, March 26, 2021, and ends no later than September 15, 2021.

DPI’s Lighting Our Way Forward guidance was updated to reflect the newly released CDC guidance regarding physical distancing of at least 3 feet between students in K-12 schools. DPI’s guidance operationalizes DHHS’s StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit, which was also updated this week in accordance with CDC guidance. Because of the updated DHHS Toolkit, the DPI guidance now includes allowing all grades in charter schools to operate under Plan A.

 

Statewide Bills

Local Bills

 

10:00 am – House Transportation – Legislative Building, rm 1228/1327 (live stream)

1:00 pm – House Education K-12 – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

1:00 pm – House Local Government – Legislative Building, rm 1228/1327 (live stream)

3:00 pm – Senate Education/Higher Education – Legislative Offices Building, rm 544 (live stream)

 

Bruce Mildwurf
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
bmildwurf@ncsba.org

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rbostic@ncsba.org

Rebekah Howard
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association
rhoward@ncsba.org

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – March 26, 2021

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