NCSBA Legislative Update – April 1, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – April 1, 2021

 

Legislators wasted no time moving along many significant education bills before both chambers take a spring break next week. Bills were passing out of one chamber and being heard in the next chamber’s committee meeting within minutes, making it feel much more like the end of session rather than early April. A bill sponsored by Senate Leader Phil Berger and a bill sponsored by House Speaker Tim Moore are now awaiting the Governor’s signature. SB 387: Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021 (primary sponsors: Senators Phil Berger, R-Rockingham; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover), which modifies the State’s Read to Achieve program, was filed on Monday and quickly sped through the legislative process. HB 82: Summer Learning Choice for NC Families (primary sponsors: Representatives Tim Moore, R-Cleveland; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Jeff Zenger, R-Forsyth), which mandates that each LEA provide a voluntary summer learning program for at-risk students, passed the Senate and concurred in the House. See more about each of these bills below.

Read to Achieve Bill

A bill modifying the State’s Read to Achieve program was filed on Monday, passed the Senate 48-0, passed the House 113-5, and was sent to the Governor. Bill sponsors and State Superintendent Catherine Truitt held a press conference announcing the filing of SB 387: Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021 (primary sponsors: Senators Phil Berger, R-Rockingham; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover), emphasizing its implementation of the science of reading into early childhood literacy. Before passing the Senate, an amendment was approved that sets a minimum $1,200 signing bonus for teachers who (i) work in reading camps, (ii) are associated with high growth in reading based on EVAAS data, and (iii) were previously awarded a reading performance bonus by DPI. The amendment also sets a performance bonus for teachers of at least $150 for each of their third-grade students who becomes proficient in reading by the end of the reading camp. Additionally, SB 387 does the following:

  • Defines the science of reading as “evidenced-based reading instruction practices that address the acquisition of language, phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics and spelling, fluency, vocabulary, oral language, and comprehension that can be differentiated to meet the needs of individual students.”
  • Bill sponsors mentioned Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) as the training program to be used for science of reading training for teachers working with NC Pre-K and K-5 students
    • HB 196/SL 2021-3 appropriates $12 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to contract with Voyager Sopris Learning, Inc. to provide LETRS training for teachers.
  • Establishes the Early Literacy Program within DPI (and in collaboration with DHHS) to facilitate the implementation of the science of reading into the NC Pre-K program
    • Requires an assessment of each child at the end of NC Pre-K to determine kindergarten readiness and share the results with the child’s kindergarten teacher
  • Requires Education Preparation Programs (EPPs) seeking approval or renewal on or after July 1, 2022 to include science of reading coursework
  • Requires LEAs to align literacy instruction with science of reading standards and an implementation plan developed by the State Board of Education (SBE) and DPI by the beginning of the 2024-2025 school year
  • Incorporates the science of reading into literacy interventions and reading camps
    • Requires LEAs to offer reading camps to third grade students who do not demonstrate reading proficiency and second grade students who demonstrate difficulty with reading development, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year
    • Allows LEAs to offer reading camps to first grade students who demonstrate difficulty with reading development, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year
    • Requires LEAs to submit a plan to DPI annually by October 1 describing literacy interventions that will be offered during the next school year, including reading camps, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year
  • Requires the development of an Individualized Reading Plan (IRP) for K-3 students demonstrating difficulty with reading development, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year
  • Establishes a Digital Children’s Reading Initiative that requires DPI to provide links to high-quality resources for families based on the science of reading and categorized by skill deficiency and grade level
  • Requires the SBE to approve one alternative reading comprehension assessment for use, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year
  • Requires DPI to create a uniform reporting structure for Read to Achieve data, beginning with 2021-2022 school year

Click here for an article on SB 387.

Summer Learning Bill

After a month of waiting to be heard in the Senate, HB 82: Summer Learning Choice for NC Families (primary sponsors: Representatives Tim Moore, R-Cleveland; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Jeff Zenger, R-Forsyth) passed the Senate 48-0, concurred in the House 119-0, and was sent to the Governor. This bill mandates that each LEA provide a voluntary summer learning program for at-risk students (allows for additional students to participate within space available). Changes to the bill include:

  • Clarifies that year-round schools may offer the program during vacation periods through October 1, 2021
  • Allows LEAs to offer courses to high school students through the NC Virtual Public School
  • Clarifies that transportation to the program must be aligned with the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) as of March 24, 2021
  • Requires a student who was retained for the 2021-2022 school year to be reassessed by their principal upon completion of the program (was “students who are at-risk of grade retention”)
  • Requires LEAs to provide teacher bonuses:
    • A minimum $1,200 signing bonus for teachers who have previously received a reading performance bonus or hold National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification
    • A minimum $150 performance bonus to teachers for each third-grade student who becomes proficient in reading by the end of the program
  • Extends the expiration of temporary contracts for all school personnel hired under this program from August 1, 2021 to October 1, 2021
  • Removes language that would have removed K-3 class size limits for the program
  • Clarifies that reading camp funds must only be used to support K-3 reading instruction in the program
  • Removes language that would have allowed students not enrolled in the LEA to participate in the program (enrolling those students was optional)
  • Removes language that would have directed the SBE to require LEAs to implement innovative benchmark assessments in certain grades and core subjects, beginning with the 2021-2022 school year
  • Requires the SBE to provide LEAs with an assessment per grade and subject for K-8 students to be taken at the beginning and end of the program
  • Changes the student academic performance reporting requirement date for LEAs to DPI from September 1, 2021 to October 15, 2021 (DPI will report to the legislature)

Additionally, HB 82 does the following:

  • Requires each LEA to submit a plan for its program to DPI no later than 30 days prior to the last instructional day of the 2020-2021 school year, and the plans must include:
    1. Instruction for at least 150 hours or 30 days
    2. Meal service each day
    3. A physical activity period each day
    4. Grade level course offerings
    5. Transportation in accordance with Plan A
    6. Time in the instructional day for teachers to provide individual or small group instruction to at-risk students
    7. Voluntary student participation (kindergarten students participating in the program are exempt from retention for the 2021-2022 school year and all other students who were retained for the 2021-2022 school year who participate in the program will receive a reassessment of promotion eligibility)
    8. Outreach to increase program participation
  • Allows retired teachers (retired by March 1) to be hired after one month separation (normally six months)
  • Requires schools to provide in-person social and emotional learning supports for students
  • Expresses intent to use federal COVID-19 funds directed to DPI for the program
  • Clarifies that the program will be funded by the LEA’s existing funds, including the recently appropriated federal COVID-19 funds, fiscal year 2020-2021 reading camp funds, and at-risk funds

Charter School Payment Bill

Following intense and lengthy negotiations between NCSBA, the NC Association of School Administrators, and the NC Coalition for Charter Schools, a much-improved bill was presented to the House Education K-12 and House Rules Committees and passed the House on a 117-2 vote. Changes to 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) include:

  • Requires that the 30-day clock for an LEA to submit payment to a charter school begin after the LEA is in receipt of both a charter school invoice and the monies into the local current expense fund (originally, the 30-day clock started after the LEA received a charter school invoice)
  • Requires an LEA to submit a payment to a charter school for the undisputed amount within the 30-day period
  • Requires an LEA to pay a 5% late fee only if both of the following occur:
    • A charter school provides written notice to the LEA’s superintendent and school finance officer after the 30-day period stating that the payment was not received
    • Electronic payment is not transferred within 15 days of that notice, or if mailed, not postmarked within 15 days of that notice (originally, the bill included an 8% late fee on day 31)
  • If the late fee is triggered, requires interest to accrue at a rate of 8% annually until the payment is received by the charter school
  • Requires the State Superintendent, in consultation with LEAs and charter schools, to create:
    • A standardized enrollment verification and transfer request document used by charter schools to request the per pupil share of the local current expense fund
    • A standardized procedure that LEAs must use when transferring the per pupil share of the local current expense fund

NCSBA does not support a late fee for LEAs but given the procedures and timeframes in the newly compromised bill, it is our hope that the penalty will never come into play.

Status of Other Notable Bills

HB 53: Educ. Changes for Military-Connected Students (primary sponsors: Representatives George Cleveland, R-Onslow; John Bell, R-Greene; Grier Martin, D-Wake) passed the Senate, concurred in the House, and was sent to the Governor. This bill would allow students of active-duty military parents who live out-of-state to attend school in NC if the student lives with a caregiver who lives in-state.

HB 18: Local School Administrative Unit Cash Management (primary sponsor: Representative Ted Davis, R-New Hanover) passed the House and was sent to the Senate. This bill authorizes public school units to hold State funds in local bank accounts for up to three business days after the date of drawing on the State funds, before making a final disbursement to the ultimate payee. This is a departure from the current cash management statute that requires the State Treasurer to keep money on deposit until final disbursement to the ultimate payee.

In 2020, the State Treasurer’s office identified a problem during the pilot testing for the DPI School Business Modernization Development Process software implementation. Without the change in HB 18, the new software could potentially make public school units out of compliance with the State Controller’s cash management statute.

HB 159: Education Law Changes (primary sponsors: Representatives John Torbett, R-Gaston; Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke) was approved by the House Rules Committee and passed the House. Highlights of the bill include:

  • Allows LEAs to use a payroll deduction plan to pay teachers in 12 monthly installments, regardless of
    • When the request is made (currently must be made on or before the first day of the school year)
    • If they are employed for less than 12 months
  • Requires the State Board of Education to follow the rulemaking process (G.S.150B) when adopting course standards

NCSBA is continuing to work with DPI and legislators to ensure that the payroll deduction plan is available to school employees paid on an hourly or other basis.

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 approved by the House Education Appropriations Committee and referred to the House Rules Committee. This bill does the following:

  • Expands eligibility even further for recipients of opportunity scholarships and personal education savings accounts
  • 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 in the 2023-2024 school year
  • Authorizes counties to appropriate local funds toward these scholarships, beginning with the 2021-2022 fiscal year

The bill does not include measures of educational attainment and success of private school scholarship recipients. Click here to access the General Assembly’s summary of HB 32.

HB 285: ENS Railroad Train/Driver Ed Curriculum (primary sponsors: Representatives Howard Penny, R-Harnett; Mike Clampitt, R-Swain) was approved by the House Transportation and Education K-12 Committees and referred to the House Rules Committee. This bill requires driver education curriculum to include instruction on the Emergency Notification System for railroad train emergencies.

Bill Chart

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

 

Last week’s Legislative Update summarized the Governor’s recommended budget, including a $4.7 billion bond referendum for November 2021, which would provide $2.5 billion for school capital projects. Click here to see the LEA allocation list for the recommended bond. As a reminder, following the release of the Govenor’s budget recommendations, a Governor’s budget bill will be filed. The Senate is continuing to work on its budget bill to be released in the coming weeks.

 

Statewide Bills

Local Bill

 

A new NC teacher’s group called the Carolina Teachers Alliance was recently formed, and you may be hearing more about them in the coming weeks. According to news reports, the Alliance was created by conservative activists who are “focused on traditional education.” Amy Marshall, the Alliance’s president, is a former Wake County teacher and leader of the Wake Conservative Parents Alliance. To read more about the Carolina Teachers Alliance, click here.

 

 

 

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 – April 1, 2021