Senator Berger Press Conference
On Wednesday, Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, held a press conference addressing discrimination and indoctrination in school curriculum. He voiced opposition to critical race theory and called for a State constitutional amendment to be placed on the 2022 primary ballot that reaffirms the State’s commitment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Senate leader stated that he believes the “theology” of critical race theory is becoming more prevalent in the State and noted the importance of the Lieutenant Governor’s F.A.C.T.S. Task Force (Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students), which allows “the voices of concerned citizens to be heard regarding public K-12 education in North Carolina.”
Senate Education/Higher Education Committee Meeting
Much of what Senator Berger stated in his press conference was echoed in his presentation of HB 324: Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools to the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee. The Senate’s proposed committee substitute (PCS) of the bill was presented for discussion only. The PCS modifies the definition of promote as “compelling students, teachers, administrators, or other school employees to affirm…the concepts described” and provides six additional concepts that are prohibited from being promoted in public schools. The list of prohibited concepts now totals 13 and includes:
- One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex
- An individual should feel guilt because of his/her race or sex and responsibility for past actions of members of his/her race or sex
- The U.S. was created for the purpose of oppressing members of a race or sex
- Rule of law does not exist, but instead a series of power struggles among racial or other groups
The PCS also requires public school units (PSUs) to notify DPI and post to their website information about:
- Instruction regarding the concepts
- Contracting with or hiring of speakers or trainers for the purpose of discussing the concepts or who have advocated for the concepts
Senator Berger emphasized that teachers are still allowed to discuss and explore the concepts but are prohibited from promoting the concepts. Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson voiced his support for the bill to the Committee and said that his F.A.C.T.S. Task Force will be releasing some of its findings of indoctrination in K-12 public school classrooms within the next week. Committee discussion mostly consisted of Democrats questioning the reason for the bill, how the bill will be applied in classrooms, and voicing concerns that the bill would lead to censorship and limited student engagement when learning about the country’s history. It was not clear when HB 324 will be brought back before the Committee for a vote, but Senator Berger said that he does not expect it to happen in the next week. Click here for an article on Senate PCS changes to HB 324 and Committee discussion.
School Masks Bill
A Conference Committee was appointed for SB 173: Free the Smiles Act, which allows local school boards to determine the use of face masks for the 2021-2022 school year. It also permits the Governor to require masks for individual schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 but does not permit a statewide mask mandate for all schools.
NCSBA has been notified of a potential conference committee report to SB 173 that would add a section requiring parental consent for children to receive vaccines granted emergency use authorization and not fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (This report has not yet been publicly presented.) A specific concern to note about SB 173 is the short amount of time that local school boards could have to adhere to the requirement to vote on policy requiring mandatory masks in schools no later than August 1, 2021.
According to a news source, House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said that the House budget proposal is taking longer than expected. The House is hoping to release its proposal by the end of the month, but we might not see it until the first week of August. Speaker Moore references “a lot of money, and a lot of needs” as a reason for the delay, referring to federal COVID-19 funds and numerous project requests.
Public Meetings Bill
HB 812: Clarify Remote Meetings During Emergencies/SL 2021-35 (primary sponsors: Representatives Dean Arp, R-Union; Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck; Erin Pare, R-Wake; William Richardson, D-Cumberland) took effect on July 1, and we wanted to provide our members with an informative analysis by the UNC School of Government on how remote meeting laws will change when the statewide state of emergency is lifted.
Additional Bills in Conference
A Conference Committee was appointed for SB 450: Various Education Changes (primary sponsors: Senators Michael Lee, R-New Hanover; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Lisa Barnes, R-Nash), which requires the SBE to study the installation of carbon monoxide alarms and detection systems in existing public school buildings. The bill also includes provisions affecting charter and private schools.
A Conference Committee was appointed for HB 84: Sex Offender Premises Restrictions (primary sponsors: Representatives Harry Warren, R-Rowan; Allen McNeill, R-Randolph; Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance; Sarah Stevens, R-Surry), which extends premise restrictions for sex offenders to include those convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor.
Revisions to State Spending Plan
The US Department of Education told NC that it needs to revise its spending plan for federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III) funds. DPI received an email explaining the 10 revisions needed for the State to receive its remaining ESSER III funding. Click here for an article that includes a copy of the email.
FAQ for Full-Service Community Schools
The US Department of Education released a FAQ for using ESSER III funds to support full-service community schools and related strategies. Click here for the FAQ and click here for the ESSER III resources webpage.
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association