NCSBA Legislative Update – April 23, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – April 23, 2021

 

The deadline for bills to pass out of their originating chamber in order to “remain eligible” for the rest of the legislative biennium (also known as Crossover) is less than three weeks away. This is why we are starting to see more bills being scheduled for committee hearings. Below we have outlined five important education bills being heard in committee next week, four of which are controversial: HB 284, SB 654, SB 671, and SB 593. We encourage you to reach out to committee members if you have concerns about any of these bills.

Notable Bills in Committee Next Week

HB 284: Repeal Right of Actions/Capital Outlay Fund (primary sponsors, which are all former county commissioners: Representatives Larry Potts, R-Davidson; Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck; Ben Moss, R-Richmond; Mark Pless, R-Haywood) will be heard in the House State Government Committee meeting at 11:00 am on Wednesday, April 28. This bill removes local school boards’ ability to take county commissioners to court if capital funding disputes are not resolved in mediation. If you have concerns about HB 284, we urge you to contact Committee members as soon as possible. This bill is currently scheduled to be heard in three more committees before going to the House floor for a vote. To date, there has not been a lawsuit filed exclusively over capital.

SB 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions (primary sponsors: Senators Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Don Davis, D-Pitt; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) will be heard in the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee meeting at 11:00 am on Wednesday, April 28. This bill provides statewide waivers of school performance grades, annual report cards, and low-performing school identification based on 2020-2021 school year data. SB 654 also includes language that would not permit the use of virtual academies for the 2021-2022 school year. It allows public school units to use up to 5 remote instruction days when schools cannot open due to severe weather or other emergency situations but does NOT allow additional remote instruction days to be used to satisfy the minimum number of instructional days for the school year.

This contrasts with a bill that was filed this week in the House that authorizes the use of remote academies by LEAs. HB 644: Remote Academies (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; John Torbett, R-Gaston) allows no more than 10% of total student enrollment in the LEA to be enrolled in a remote academy and applies beginning with the 2021-2022 school year (does not include an end date).

SB 671: Changes to the K-12 Scholarship Programs (primary sponsors: Senators Michael Lee, R-New Hanover; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Amy Galey, R-Alamance) will be heard in the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee meeting at 11:00 am on Wednesday, April 28. Some of the bill’s key points are as follows:

  • Opportunity Scholarships
    • Expands eligibility to students who are at least four years old, if approved by the principal (currently at least five years old by August 31)
    • Increases income eligibility from 150% to 175% of the amount required for the student to qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program
    • Allows students previously enrolled in Department of Defense Elementary and Secondary Schools to qualify for the scholarship
    • Changes the amount paid per voucher from $4,200 to the amount the State pays per charter school student (average was $6,451 in the 2019-2020 school year)
    • Authorizes up to $500,000 to promote the voucher program
  • Merges the Special Education Scholarships for Children with the Disabilities and Personal Education Savings Accounts into a new program called the Personal Education Student Accounts for Children with Disabilities (PESA-CWD)
    • Expands eligibility to students who are at least four years old, if approved by the principal (currently at least five years old by August 31)
    • Clarifies that students with certain disabilities would be eligible for scholarship funds up to $17,000 (this is the combined amount awarded in the previous two programs)
    • States that the total amount of funds carried forward for an eligible student in a personal education student account cannot exceed $30,000

SB 593: Special Education Due Process Hearings (primary sponsors: Senators Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) will be heard in the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee meeting at 11:00 am on Wednesday, April 28. While this bill will be for discussion only and will not be voted on in the meeting, it is important because it alters the appeals process for special education due process hearings by eliminating State Hearing Review Officers (SHRO). The SHROs currently review, upon the request of a party, the decisions made by administrative law judges. Should SB 593 become law, such decisions would be appealed in state or federal court.

HB 428: Teacher Licensure/Retired Education Program (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Mark Brody, R-Union; Charles Miller, R-Brunswick; Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford) was approved by the House Education K-12 Committee this week and will be heard in the House Pensions and Retirement Committee meeting at 2:00 pm on Tuesday, April 27. This bill modifies a limited teacher license to be a three-year renewable license (was nonrenewable). The limited license can only be requested by the local school board employing or seeking to employ the individual and can only be used for employment in that LEA. This bill also extends and expands the program that allows retired teachers to work in high-need schools.

School Calendar Flexibility Bills

This week two school calendar flexibility bills passed the House and were sent to the Senate:

  • HB 376: School Calendar Flexibility (primary sponsors: Representatives Phil Shephard, R-Onslow; George Cleveland, R-Onslow; Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin) is a statewide bill that permits schools to open no earlier than the Monday closest to August 19 (currently August 26). HB 376 passed 114-1.
  • HB 202: School Calendar Flexibility/Certain Counties (primary sponsor: Representative Howard Penny, R-Harnett) provides full calendar flexibility to schools in Harnett, Jackson, and Swain counties. HB 202 passed on a voice vote.

Also this week, the House Local Government Committee approved nine local school calendar bills affecting 21 school districts, and the House State Government Committee approved a modified version of HB 12: Address Pandemic Learning Loss/Counties. HB 12 now gives Alamance-Burlington Schools and Guilford County Schools local control of the school calendar for two years. All 10 local bills have been referred to the House Rules Committee, which is the last stop before a vote on the House floor. Last week two local school calendar flexibility bills passed the House and were sent to the Senate but neither have seen any action: HB 125 and HB 201. All local school calendar flexibility bills affect a total of 45 school districts.

Other Education Bills with Action This Week

HB 545: Mandatory Training Contributing to CEUs (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford; John Torbett, R-Gaston) passed the House 115-0 and was sent to the Senate. This bill allows teachers to receive continuing education credits for completing mandatory trainings and modifies the digital teaching and learning renewal requirements for professional educators.

HB 256: Smart Sch. Bus Safety Pilot/Certain Counties (primary sponsors: Representatives Larry Strickland, R-Harnett; John Bell, R-Greene; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Destin Hall, R-Caldwell) was modified and approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Appropriations Committee. This bill establishes the Smart School Bus Safety Pilot Program in 21 LEAs with the goal of modernizing student transportation through technology in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds are appropriated to each participating LEA and the program is set to begin in the 2021-2022 school year and end by January 1, 2025.

Bill Chart

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

 

The State Board of Education met for a called meeting on Monday and approved:

HB 82: Summer Learning Choice for NC Families/SL 2021-7 requires LEAs to provide a voluntary summer learning program for at-risk students (allows for additional students to participate within space available). The SBE approved guidance for the program, as well as a definition of competency-based assessment. SL 2021-7 requires DPI to provide LEAs with a single competency-based assessment tool that will be used to evaluate students’ progression in the program and retention rates for the upcoming school year. DPI is recommending iReady as the assessment tool because it is already widely used in the State, but LEAs may use an alternative assessment tool with approval of DPI’s Office of Learning Recovery.

LEAs are required to identify at-risk students and notify parents or guardians about a student’s eligibility for the summer learning program. Although attendance to the program is optional, LEAs have the authority to retain students who are at-risk and do not participate in the program. With the end of the 2020-2021 school year quickly approaching, it is important to note that LEAs are required to submit a plan for their summer learning program no later than 30 days prior to the last instructional day of this school year. The following are helpful links as districts prepare their plan for the program:

The Board also approved budget considerations for the 10% DPI reserve of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III funding. Budget considerations include:

  • Extended learning recovery after-school enrichment ($50,000,000)
  • Social-emotional learning resources and programs ($10,000,000)
  • High-impact tutoring ($30,000,000)
  • Cybersecurity ($10,000,000)

There is a total of 17 budget considerations that add up to $248 million. The next step is SBE approval of DPI’s fully developed plans for each budget consideration and policy recommendations. Following Board approval, these budget considerations will need to be appropriated by the General Assembly. Click here to access DPI’s ESSER III budget considerations presentation.

Click here to access all meeting materials.

 

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that child nutrition waivers will be extended through the 2021-2022 school year as the nation continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously the waivers were only extended through September 30, 2021. These waivers allow meals to continue being free for all children and support flexibilities in serving meals while practicing social distancing. Additionally, the USDA’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option will be available through the school year. Click here for a USDA press release, and click here for a USDA message to child nutrition leaders.

 

On Wednesday, Governor Roy Cooper announced his plans to lift mandatory social distancing, capacity, and mass gathering restrictions by June 1. These plans are contingent upon continued stable trends and vaccination success. Additionally, the mask mandate would remain in place. Should the capacity and mass gathering restrictions be lifted, this will allow more flexibility for spring graduation ceremonies and what is left of the spring sports season. The Governor will be issuing a new executive order next week outlining safety restrictions for May.

 

The DRIVE (Developing a Representative and Inclusive Vision for Education) Task Force met on Tuesday to discuss its next steps in implementing and advocating for the recommendations and strategies included in the DRIVE Report that was presented to the Governor on January 1, 2021. Task Force members were presented with initiatives, pending legislation, and nonprofit work that relates to the recommendations in the report. The purpose of the Task Force is to improve equity and inclusion in the teacher workforce, with the ultimate goal of improving student success. To read more about the meeting and the Task Force’s report recommendations click here.

 

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

Statewide Bills

 

Monday, April 26

7:00 pm – State of the State Address (live stream)

  • Governor Roy Cooper will report on the state of North Carolina and his priorities for the next two years to a joint session of the House and Senate

Tuesday, April 27

10:00 am – House Health Committee – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (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)

2:00 pm – House Pensions and Retirement – Legislative Offices Building, rm 415 (live stream)

Wednesday, April 28

11:00 am – Senate Education/Higher Education – Legislative Offices Building, rm 544 (live stream)

11:00 am – House State Government – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (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 – April 23, 2021