NCSBA Legislative Update – April 9, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – April 9, 2021

 

Despite the legislature not holding session or committee meetings this week due to their spring break, a whopping 248 bills were filed. This is compared to most weeks which average around 100 bills filed. Most bills were filed by Senators prior to the Senate public bill filing deadline on Wednesday. The House still has until May 4 to file public bills and May 11 to file public money bills. Of the 248 bills filed this week, 38 are education-related (see list below). We have provided summaries of some of the filed bills. Bill content ranges from teacher pay increases to school capital to early education.

Today the Governor signed the following education bills into law:

For summaries of these bills, click here to access last week’s Legislative Update.

Notable Bills Filed This Week

SB 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions (primary sponsors: Senators Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Don Davis, D-Pitt; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover)

  • Waives the reporting of school performance grades, annual report cards, and low performing school identification based on 2020-2021 school year data
  • Provides remote instruction guidance, clarification on principal recruitment supplements, and context on teacher performance/effectiveness data for the 2021-2022 school year

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) has many similarities to HB 32: Equity in Opportunity Act (primary sponsors: Representatives Dean Arp, R-Union; Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln), but also has the following major differences:

  • Does not include a 10-year appropriated reserve for education savings accounts
  • Does not allow counties to fund vouchers
  • 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
  • Changes the amount paid per voucher from $4,200 to the amount the State pays per charter school student
    • HB 32 increases the voucher from $4,200 to 70% of the average State per pupil allocation beginning in the 2022-2023 school year and further increases to 80% in the 2023-2024 school year

HB 497: Support Veteran Teachers (primary sponsor: Representative Brenden Jones, R-Columbus)/SB 551: Support Veteran Teachers (primary sponsor: Senator Danny Britt, R-Robeson)

  • Raises base salaries for teachers with 15-24 years of experience from $5,000 to $5,250 per month and for teachers with 25 or more years of experience from $5,200 to $5,460

SB 700: Balanced Political Discussion in Classrooms (primary sponsors: Senators Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson; Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth; Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell)

  • Applies to all public school units (PSUs), except charter schools
  • Requires curriculum, professional development, and teaching standards used in public school classrooms to reflect balanced political viewpoints
  • When the viewpoint of one of the two major political parties is presented by whatever means in a classroom or other area of the school, the viewpoint of the alternative political party must also be presented and given equal weight during the same instructional unit
  • Requires applicable PSUs to post to their website a list of instructional materials, activities, and any procedures for approval of those materials
    • Applicable PSUs with less than 500 students are not required to comply with this requirement

SB 514: Youth Health Protection Act (primary sponsors: Senators Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell; Warren Daniel, R-Caldwell; Norman Sanderson, R-Carteret)

  • Requires school personnel that notice a student demonstrating gender dysphoria or nonconformity to immediately notify, in writing, each of the student’s parents or guardians and specifically describe the circumstances
  • States that school personnel will be disciplined if they withhold information or coerce a student to withhold information from their parents regarding the student’s physical and mental health

Attention School Board Attorneys

SB 593: Special Education Due Process Hearings (primary sponsors: Senators Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover), which was filed on Tuesday, 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 the bill become law, such decisions would be appealed in state or federal court.

We are asking school board attorneys to review SB 593 and provide any concerns or feedback to Bruce Mildwurf, Director of Governmental Relations, at bmildwurf@ncsba.org.

Attention School Finance Officers

HB 159: Education Law Changes (primary sponsors: Representatives John Torbett, R-Gaston; Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke), which passed the House last week and is now in the Senate, contains a school nutrition section that we would like to bring to the attention of school finance officers and others involved in this area. This bill prohibits public school units from assessing indirect costs to a school nutrition program unless the program has a minimum of three month’s operating balance (currently is one month). Additionally, the bill adds a new requirement prohibiting public school units from assessing indirect costs that are more than 8% of a school nutrition program’s annual budget per fiscal year. If this provision is a concern for your district, please contact your State Senator and the House bill sponsors, as well as Bruce Mildwurf, Director of Governmental Relations, at bmildwurf@ncsba.org.

Attention School Finance Officers and Superintendents

HB 508: Education Funding Transparency (primary sponsor: Representative Mike Clampitt, R-Swain), which was filed this week, contains local school board budget reporting requirements that we would like to bring to the attention of school finance officers and superintendents. HB 508 is a companion bill of SB 406: Education Funding Transparency (primary sponsors: Senators Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson; Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell; Kevin Corbin, R-Macon). The bills do the following:

  • Require reporting on local education expenditures and annual independent audits of LEA accounts to include program report code and object code
  • Require local school boards to submit their annual budgets to county commissioners with detail on local funds down to the program report code and object code level
  • Allow county commissioners to appropriate local funds at the program report code level

Next Week

The legislative meeting calendar is quickly filling up for next week, most notably in the House Education K-12 Committee meeting on Tuesday, April 13 at 1:00 pm (live stream). The Committee’s agenda currently includes 13 local school calendar flexibility bills that affect a total of 19 counties. Some bills are focused on combatting pandemic learning loss and expire within the next few school years, while others do not include a sunset date. See the April 12-16 Legislative Meeting Calendar section at the end of the Update for the list of bills, including links.

Bill Chart

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

 

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

Testing and accountability updates: The State’s federal waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education was approved on March 26 and waives the State from accountability measures, school identification, and some reporting requirements for the 2020-2021 school year. Despite this waiver, national assessments are still required and will be administered in-person. These assessments include grades 3-8 reading and math, grades 5 and 8 science, and high school end-of-course tests (EOCs). State Superintendent Catherine Truitt stated that her team will provide recommendations on how much end-of-grade tests (EOGs) and EOCs will count towards students’ grades. Following the approval of the federal waiver, the next step is to submit a waiver request from State accountability measures to the General Assembly, which was previously approved by the SBE. DPI presenters said that they will be tracking SB 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions, which was filed by Senate leadership on Tuesday and would waive school performance grades, annual report cards, and low-performing school identification based 2020-2021 school year data.

ESSER III application, draft allotments, and allotment policy: Board members approved the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III) funding application, draft allotments, and allotment policy. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides NC with $3.6 billion in ESSER III funds, $3.2 billion (90%) of which will go directly to public school units (PSUs). The following are ESSER III funding requirements for PSUs:

  • At least 20% must be used to address learning loss
  • PSUs must create a safe return to in-person instruction plan
  • PSUs must maintain equity in high-poverty schools (funding levels cannot be disproportionately lowered)

Like ESSER II, PSUs are required to apply for funding. DPI plans to open the application on April 12 and expects to receive submitted applications by May 7 in order to process them during this current fiscal year. DPI staff also provided an informative presentation on ESSER I, II, and III allotment policies, which includes total funds, funding uses, and expiration dates.

StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit: The Board voted to approve the current version of the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit (updated on March 24, 2021) as official guidance for in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, unless otherwise extended or modified. The motion to approve the Toolkit included language saying that the Board’s approval does not override the requirements of SB 220: The Reopen Our Schools Act of 2021/SL 2021-4, which requires compliance with the Toolkit as that guidance existed on March 4, 2021. The SBE, DPI, and NCSBA have been trying to work with legislators to modify the language in SB 220. To date, legislative leaders have not been willing to do so. We will continue our efforts next week as legislators return from their weeklong vacation.

DHHS COVID-19 update: DHHS staff presented updates to the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit, including the recommendation that school entry screenings are no longer necessary. DHHS still recommends testing as a component of mitigation strategies in K-12 schools, and these tests will continue to be offered at no cost to schools for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. Staff added that they are submitting a funding request and plan to the CDC for a statewide vendor to support screening testing in schools. Additionally, students who are 16 or older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The presentation concluded with joint DHHS/DPI guidance on prom and graduation, which includes compliance with current capacity limits, requirement of face coverings, and utilization of rapid tests. Click here to access the DHHS presentation that includes data, resources, and guidance.

Click here to access all meeting materials.

Click here for an article summarizing the meeting.

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

Statewide Bills

Local Bills

 

Tuesday, April 13

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

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

Wednesday, April 14

12:00 pm – House Judiciary – 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 9, 2021