SB 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions
After months of being in conference, a conference committee report for SB 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions (primary sponsors: Senators Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Don Davis, D-Pitt; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) was presented and passed by both chambers (102-1 in the House and 44-0 in the Senate). The bill is now awaiting the Governor’s signature. SB 654 does the following.
- Requires public school nits (PSUs) to submit a virtual instruction plan to DPI by October 1, 2021, in order to provide virtual instruction to students (with consent of parent or guardian) during the 2021-2022 school year
- Prohibits virtual instruction after June 30, 2022, except if a LEA was assigned a school code to operate a virtual academy by May 1, 2021
- Allows PSUs with good-cause waivers to 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
- Allows PSUs to provide remote instruction to address health and safety concerns related to COVID-19 for the 2021-2022 school year
- Requires the State Superintendent to create a Working Group on Virtual Academies to make recommendations to the General Assembly by March 15, 2022
- Waives school performance grades and low-performing school identification for the 2021-2022 school year based on 2020-2021 school year data
- Annual report cards for the 2021-2022 school year, based on data from the 2020-2021 school year, will be produced to comply with federal requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
- Allows seniors to graduate in 2021 without completing CPR instruction
- Temporarily waives certain driving eligibility requirements and restores certain driving permits and provisional licenses that were revoked due to certificate ineligibility
- For the 2021-2022 school year, requires all PSUs to adopt a face mask policy for employees and students and to vote at least once a month on if the policy should be modified (similar to SB 173)
- Extends exam requirements for teachers seeking a continuing professional license from June 30, 2021, to December 31, 2021 (was September 30, 2021, in previous versions)
- Allows individuals to receive a residency teacher license if they have a bachelor’s or advanced degree, or both (current law only includes bachelor’s degree)
Principal recruitment supplement:
- Continues the principal recruitment supplement for the 2021-2022 school year
- 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 (only impacts Wake County)
- Modifies one of the definitions of a year-round school by requiring students to attend four quarters of between 43 and 47 instructional days (was 45) each school year, with 14 to 18 vacation days (was 15) between each quarter (requested by NCSBA)
Provisions that were removed from SB 654:
- Delays the implementation of social studies standard course of study changes by one year (the House’s version of the budget delays by two years)
- Modifies the implementation of kindergarten class size requirements for the 2021-2022 school year (included in the House’s version of the budget)
- Directs the use of the $360 million 10% DPI reserve in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III) funds (different allocations included in each chamber’s version of the budget)
Click here for an official bill summary.
HB 324: Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools
The modified version of HB 324: Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools that Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, introduced last month for discussion only (NCSBA wrote about the bill version in previous legislative updates) finally passed out of the Senate Education/Higher Education and Senate Rules committees and passed the Senate on a 25-17 party-line vote. Now the bill will be sent to the House for a concurrence vote. HB 324 now defines “promote” as “compelling students, teachers, administrators, or other school employees to affirm or profess belief in the concepts described”. Listed below are six additional concepts, bringing the total to 13 that are prohibited from being promoted in public schools.
- The U.S. government should be violently overthrown
- Particular character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs should be ascribed to a race or sex or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex
- The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups
- All Americans are not created equal and are not endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
- Governments should deny to any person within the government’s jurisdiction the equal protection of the law
- The United States was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex.
HB 324 also requires public schools to notify DPI and post to their website information about:
- Instruction regarding the concepts
- Contracting with, hiring, or otherwise engaging speakers, consultants, diversity trainers, and other persons for the purpose of discussing the 13 concepts
- Contracting with, hiring, or otherwise engaging speakers, consultants, diversity trainers, and other persons who have previously advocated for the 13 concepts
The controversial bill stirred up debate and received many public comments in both committees. Additionally, during the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee meeting, Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson announced that his F.A.C.T.S. Task Force released a report on indoctrination in the State’s public-school classrooms. Click here for an official bill summary.
Other Education-Related Bills with Action This Week
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) was signed into SL 2021-115. The bill does the following:
- Extends premise restrictions for sex offenders to include those convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor
- Clarifies that a registered sex offender is prohibited from knowingly residing within 1,000 feet of any property line on which a school or childcare center is located (language from SB 52)
HB 91: Accountability and Fair Play in Athletics, the bill proposing to abolish the NC High School Athletic Association was sent back to the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee a month after it was approved by that same Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. The Committee passed an amendment that essentially rewrote HB 91. The previous version of the bill replaced the NC High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) with a new commission. This latest version of HB 91 requires the State Board of Education (SBE) to either enter into a memorandum of understanding with a nonprofit to administer high school interscholastic athletics (which could be NCHSAA but does not have to be) or assign administration to DPI. Click here for an official bill summary that outlines all the new requirements for the SBE, PSUs, and NCHSAA.
During the Committee meeting, numerous members and employees of NCHSAA, including Commissioner Que Tucker, spoke in opposition of a majority of the bill’s contents, but agreed on the need for more transparency and collaboration. Bill presenters continued to explain that their motivation behind HB 91 is the result of an ongoing examination into the NCHSAA that has spanned over 22 months.
HB 729: Charter Schools Omnibus (primary sponsors: Representatives Larry Yarborough, R-Person; Jon Hardister, R-Guilford; John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg; Mark Brody, R-Union) was vetoed by the Governor who stated: “The State Board of Education is constitutionally and statutorily charged with administering children’s education in state public schools, including charter schools. It is critical that the Board have both of their appointments to the Charter School Advisory Board to carry out its constitutional duties.” In addition to removing one of the SBE’s appointments to the Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB), HB 729 requires the State Superintendent (or designee) to be the secretary of CSAB and permits charter school teachers to receive residency licensure.
HB 3: Craven Bd of Ed/Partisan Electoral Districts (primary sponsor: Representative Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort) was approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee and referred to the Senate Rules Committee. Click here for an official bill summary.
HB 400: Modify Asheville/Buncombe Sch. Bd. Elect. (primary sponsors: Representatives Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe; Brian Turner, D-Buncombe; John Ager, D-Buncombe) was amended upon the request of Senator Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson, in the Senate State and Local Government Committee. The amendment changed the election method for the six Buncombe County Board of Education members that run from districts. Instead of being elected by voters from across Buncombe County, board members will be elected by voters residing in their districts. HB 400 has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee. Click here for an official bill summary.
Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, was quoted last week saying he expected negotiations to wrap up in early September. This week he was quoted by the media as saying “At this point, I would say we’re not making much progress.”
NCSBA has created a chart tracking local school boards’ policies/resolutions on school mask requirements. Click here to access the chart. As of August 27, 91 school districts require students and staff to wear masks on school property (up from 80 last Friday). For a majority of students, the school year started on Monday, August 23. As your school district finalizes its mask policy, please email information to Richard Bostic at email@example.com, as well as any corrections to the chart.
As of 1:00 pm on Friday, August 27, no education-related meetings were scheduled for next week.
Additional Education-Related Meeting
The State Board of Education will have its monthly meeting on Wednesday, September 1, and Thursday, September 2.
NCSBA’s Legal/Policy Team was kind enough to create a Q&A addressing vaccinations, mask resolutions/policies, and general COVID-19 issues. The Legal/Policy Team compiled a list based on questions and concerns posed by school districts as the new school year begins. Answers were drawn from various sources. The document, which may be updated periodically, is posted to the NCSBA website here.
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