NCSBA Legislative Update – May 7, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – May 7, 2021

 

This week at the legislature consisted of non-stop action as next week’s legislative deadlines quickly approach. The House public bill filing deadline is Tuesday, May 11 and the Crossover deadline is Thursday, May 13. As a reminder, Crossover is the deadline for bills to pass out of their originating chamber in order to remain eligible for the rest of the legislative biennium. Numerous House bills were filed, and important education bills passed both the House and Senate. Below you will find five sections of education-related bills based on their progress this week. Click here for an article summarizing legislative action this week.

Bills that Passed the Senate

SB 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions (primary sponsors: Senators Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Don Davis, D-Pitt; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) passed the Senate 49-0. NCSBA and the NC Association of School Administrators (NCASA) continued to work with Senators on this bill up until its passage. Prior to receiving Senate approval, a bill sponsor amendment was adopted that amends the virtual instruction sections of the bill. Now SB 654 allows the following virtual instruction for the 2021-2022 school year:

  • A public school unit (PSU) is required to submit a virtual instruction plan to DPI by June 1, 2021, in order to provide virtual instruction to students (with consent of parent or guardian) during the upcoming school year
  • PSUs with good cause waivers can use up to 15 days or 90 hours of remote instruction for severe weather and other emergencies
    • All other PSUs can use up to 5 days or 30 hours
  • PSUs can provide remote instruction to address health and safety concerns related to COVID-19 during the upcoming school year
  • The State Superintendent must create a Working Group on Virtual Academies to make recommendations by January 15, 2022
  • The following language was removed by the amendment: LEAs assigned a school code to operate a virtual school by May 1, 2021, may continue to provide virtual school for the upcoming school year

Additionally, SB 654 does the following:

  • Waives school performance grades, report cards, and low-performing school identification for the upcoming school year based on 2020-2021 school year data
  • Continues the principal recruitment supplement for the 2021-2022 school year
  • Allows seniors to graduate in 2021 without completing CPR instruction
  • Extends exam requirements for teachers seeking a continuing professional license from June 30, 2021, to September 30, 2021
  • Adds another definition of a year-round school: allows a single-track school to operate on the same multi-track schedule of another school in that LEA

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) passed the Senate 29-20. Before the vote, which essentially spit along party lines, Senator Natasha Marcus, D-Mecklenburg, contested the bill saying that private schools are not held accountable when using public dollars. SB 671 bill does the following:

  • Opportunity Scholarships
    • Changes the amount paid per voucher from $4,200 to 90% of the average State per pupil allocation for average daily membership (ADM) in the prior fiscal year (average of $5,948 based on 2019-2020 school year data)
    • 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
    • Extends financial eligibility to include foster children
    • Allows students previously enrolled in Department of Defense Elementary and Secondary Schools to qualify for the scholarship
    • 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 172: Additional 2021 COVID-19 Response & Relief (primary sponsors: Representatives Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston; Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell) passed the Senate 49-0. This bill appropriates COVID-19 relief funds, including $3.2 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III) funds included in the American Rescue Plan. This is the 90% of ESSER III funds that go directly to PSUs, while the other 10% goes to DPI. 20% of the PSU funds are required to address learning loss, and they expire on September 30, 2024.

Bills that Passed the House

HB 644: Remote Academies. (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; John Torbett, R-Gaston) passed the House 95-22. This bill allows no more than 10% of total student enrollment in a LEA to be enrolled in a remote academy, beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. It also allows a LEA that is assigned a school code for virtual instruction by May 1, 2021 to continue to provide virtual instruction for the 2021-2022 school year.

HB 755: Academic Transparency. (primary sponsors: Representatives Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Jon Hardister, R-Guilford; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes) passed the House 66-50. This bill requires PSUs to post to their website a list of lesson plans, instructional materials, and procedures for approval of those materials used in the prior school year by June 30 annually. Title, author, brief description, and link (if publicly accessible) are required to be posted to the website for each instructional material. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 247: Standards of Student Conduct (primary sponsor: Representative John Torbett, R-Gaston) passed the House 66-49 along party lines. Before passing the House, an amendment to add previously removed 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, failed. This amendment was previously rejected in the House Education K-12 Committee. HB 247 requires PSU boards to do the following:

  • Consult with teachers, school-based administrators, parents, and local law enforcement when 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

Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 657: School Safety/Threat Assessment Teams. (primary sponsor: Representative John Torbett, R-Gaston) passed the House 92-25. This bill requires the establishment of threat assessment teams in PSUs to evaluate threatening behavior, determine the level of risk, and intervene when deemed necessary to protect students and staff. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 362: Revise Personal Leave Costs for Teachers. (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford; Rosa Gill, D-Wake) passed the House 112-0. This bill drops the requirement that teachers pay out of pocket for a substitute teacher when taking a personal leave day, as long as the teacher provides a reason for the leave. If a teacher does not provide a reason, the teacher will pay the full cost for a substitute teacher, rather than the currently mandated $50 deduction. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 428: Teacher Licensure/Retired Educator Program. (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Mark Brody, R-Union; Charles Miller, R-Brunswick; Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford) passed the House 117-0. 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. HB 428 also extends and expands the program that allows retired teachers to work in high-need schools, now including principals and other instructional support personnel like psychologists and audiologists. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 390: School Calendar Flexibility/Certain Systems. (primary sponsors: Jake Johnson, R-Polk; Timothy Moffit, R-Henderson) passed the House on a voice vote. This bill allows public schools in Henderson, Polk, and Transylvania counties to open as early as August 15. This is the 13th school calendar bill to pass the House and be sent to the Senate.

HB 677: School Accountability Recommendation Comm. (primary sponsors: Representatives Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance; Rosa Gill, D-Wake)

HB 760: Opportunity Gap Task Force. (primary sponsors: Representatives Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke; Cecil Brockman, D-Guilford; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes)

HB 160: Retirement Service Purchase Rewrite Part II.-AB (primary sponsors: Representatives Allen McNeill, R-Randolph; Carson Smith, R-Pender)

HB 3: Craven Bd of Ed/Partisan Electoral Districts (primary sponsor: Representative Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort)

HB 85: Cleveland Cty Bd. of Ed Vacancies (primary sponsors: Representatives Kelly Hastings, R-Gaston; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln)

HB 400: Asheville City Sch. Bd. Elections. (primary sponsors: Representatives Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe; Brian Turner, D-Buncombe; John Ager, D-Buncombe)

Bills that Are Scheduled for a Senate Vote on Monday, May 10

SB 355: Government Transparency Act of 2021 (primary sponsors: Senators Norman Sanderson, R-Pamlico; Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick; Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth) requires local boards of education (as well as counties, municipalities, community colleges, State agencies, etc.) to not only maintain the date and general description of the reasons for each promotion, but also for each demotion, dismissal, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position. An employee can appeal to not have the date and description of their promotion, demotion, etc. disclosed if the information is protected by an applicable confidentiality law, like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or the American with Disabilities Act. Click here for an official bill summary. NCSBA opposes SB 355, and we are currently working with other employer groups on this issue.

SB 695: Statewide Medical Action Plan for Schools. (primary sponsors: Senators Steve Jarvis, R-Davidson; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga) requires medical condition action plans for certain public-school students. NCSBA does not support this bill because its requirements are already covered under other federal and state laws. We are working with DPI and the State Board of Education to address our mutual concerns.

SB 582: High School Adjunct Instructors/CC Prep. (primary sponsors: Senators Jim Burgin, R-Harnett; Kevin Corbin, R-Macon)

SB 450: Carbon Monoxide Detectors/School Bldgs. (primary sponsors: Senators Michael Lee, R-New Hanover; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Lisa Barnes, R-Nash)

Bills that Are Scheduled for a House Vote on Monday, May 10

HB 794: Allow Schools in All Zoning Districts. (primary sponsors: Representatives Dean Arp, R-Union; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; Mark Brody, R-Union; John Torbett, R-Gaston) was filed, approved by two committees, and scheduled for a House vote on Monday, May 10. This bill designates public schools as a permitted use in all zoning districts. NCSBA fully supports this bill because it streamlines the process to build new schools, which saves time and money. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 704: Local Option Sales Tax Flexibility. (primary sponsors: Representatives Julia Howard, R-Davie; Timothy Moffit, R-Henderson; Harry Warren, R-Rowan; Mitchell Setzer, R-Catawba)

HB 664: County Service Districts/Early Childhood Ed. (primary sponsors: Representatives Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Ray Pickett, R-Watauga; Brandon Lofton, D-Mecklenburg)

Bills that Were in Committee

SB 593: Special Education Due Process Hearings. (primary sponsors: Senators Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) was approved by two committees and will be heard in the Senate Rules Committee on Monday, May 10, at 5:30 pm. This bill alters the appeals process for special education due process hearings by eliminating State Hearing Review Officers (SHROs). 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. Additionally, school attorneys believe that this bill will likely violate federal regulations as it is currently written, which could put federal funds in jeopardy. Click here for an official bill summary. Click here for an article on the bill.

SB 668: Anti-Pension Spiking Amds & Litig. Moratorium. (primary sponsor: Senator Jim Burgin, R-Harnett) was modified and approved by the Senate Pensions and Retirement Committee and will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, May 10, at 4:30 pm. This bill does the following:

  • Adds another payment option: 12 years with no early pay-off penalty
  • In certain situations, two or more employers will share the liability
  • Creates a working group consisting of NCSBA and the State Treasurer’s office to develop recommendations to the General Assembly that will reduce pension spiking cases and lawsuits
  • Requires a pause on pension-spiking litigation until June 30, 2022, during which the working group will create its recommendations
    • As a result of this pause, the statute of limitations will be extended

Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 508: Education Funding Transparency (primary sponsor: Representative Mike Clampitt, R-Swain), was heard by the House Education K-12 Committee but was removed from consideration after prominent Committee members voiced concerns. Prior to the meeting, NCSBA sent a letter to Committee members expressing opposition to HB 508 and Richard Bostic, NCSBA Assistant Director of Governmental Relations, testified against the bill in Committee. We would like to thank Representatives Frank Iler, R-Brunswick; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Charles Miller, R-Brunswick; and David Willis, R-Union, for their defense of local school boards, which led to the removal of the bill from consideration. HB 508 does the following:

  • Moves the date from May 1 to March 1 for submission of the budget from the superintendent to the school board and moves the date from May 15 to March 15 for submission of the budget to the county commissioners
  • Allows county commissioners to appropriate local funds at the program report code level
  • Requires local school boards to submit their annual budgets to county commissioners with detail on local funds down to the program report code level

HB 681: CCS/Teacher In-State Tuition Pilot. (primary sponsors: Representatives Steve Tyson, R-Craven; Phil Shepard, R-Onslow) was approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

HB 120: Restrict Local Sales Tax/School Construction. (primary sponsor: Representative Jon Hardister, R-Guilford) was approved by two committees.

HB 353: Winston-Salem/Forsyth Bd. of Ed./Stagger Term. (primary sponsors: Representatives Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Lee Zachary, R-Yadkin) was modified and approved by the House Local Government Committee and referred to the House Election Law Committee.

Bill Chart

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

 

On Wednesday, May 5, DHHS released an updated version of its StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12). The Toolkit updates follow Governor Cooper’s executive order that took effect on April 30 and will expire on June 1. The executive order does the following:

  • Removes the mask mandate in outdoor settings but still recommends wearing a mask outdoors when social distancing is difficult
  • Increases mass gathering capacity limits from 50 to 100 indoors and 100 to 200 outdoors

Because of this executive order, the Toolkit now states that masks are not mandated to be worn outdoors at schools but are still mandated to be worn inside school buildings. The Toolkit provides examples of when it is recommended that masks be worn outdoors:

  • When individuals who are not fully vaccinated cannot maintain at least 6 feet social distancing
  • When individuals who are both vaccinated and unvaccinated are in crowded, dense areas and in situations where social distancing is difficult or not possible

As a reminder, on April 8 the State Board of Education approved the then current version of the 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 Board’s 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 tried working with legislators to modify the language in SB 220, but no progress has been made.

 

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

Statewide Bills

 

Monday, May 10

12:00 pm – House Local Government – Legislative Building, rm 1228/1327 (live stream)

4:30 pm – Senate Judiciary – Legislative Offices Building, rm 544 (live stream)

5:30 pm – Senate Rules – Legislative Building, rm 1027/1128 (live stream)

Tuesday, May 11

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)

3:00 pm – House Families, Children, and Aging Policy – Legislative Offices Building, rm 415 (live stream)

Wednesday, May 12

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 – May 7, 2021