This week we saw our first real glimpse that this legislative short session might be nearing an end. When the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee met on Wednesday, committee chair Senator Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga, said that it could be the last meeting of that committee during this session.
Additionally, on Tuesday, Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, stated that the goal is for the House and Senate to reach a budget agreement by next Friday, June 17. Once a budget agreement is met, House and Senate budget leaders plan to include Governor Roy Cooper in negotiations before publicly releasing the budget. As a reminder, the budget will be introduced in a conference report, meaning that the budget could not be amended once it is released. Senior budget writers have kept a tight lid on budget details, even from other legislators, but we anticipate it will address pay increases, school safety, and capital projects.
Virtual Instruction Bill
SB 671: Virtual Educ./Remote Acad./Virtual Charters (sponsored by Representative Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes) was introduced this week, passed the House 73-22, and has been sent to the Senate for a concurrence vote. The original contents of the bill were replaced with following:
- Allows public school units (PSUs) to continue providing remote instruction for severe weather and other emergencies (removes June 30, 2022, expiration date)
- For the 2022-2023 school year,
- Allows PSUs assigned a separate school code by May 1, 2021, to continue providing virtual instruction
- Allows PSUs that submitted a virtual instruction plan to DPI for the 2021-2022 school year to continue providing virtual instruction according to that plan (removes June 30, 2022, expiration date)
- Beginning with the 2023-2024 school year, requires all PSUs to provide virtual/remote instruction through a new type of remote academy
- Each approved remote academy will receive a separate school code
- LEAs cannot enroll more than 15% of the total student enrollment in remote academies
- Students can only be accepted with parental consent
- Lists requirements for these remote academies and the remote academy plans that must be approved by the State Board of Education
- Allows charter school applications to include a request to be a remote academy and allows existing charter schools to convert to remote academies
- Ends the pilot program for the State’s two virtual charter schools at the end of this 2021-2022 school year
- Transitions each of them to a five-year contract, with eligibility for a 10-year renewal
- Allows each school to increase enrollment up to 20%
Overall concerns about SB 671 include its lack of flexibility and optionality for LEAs to operate remote academies. It is also unclear why there is a 15% student enrollment cap on LEAs when parental consent for enrollment is required. Click here more on NCSBA’s stance on this issue.
Additional Education Bills
HB 159: Education Law Changes (sponsored by Senator Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) was introduced during the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee meeting on Wednesday. The previous contents of the bill were replaced with a bill that makes various “technical” changes to education laws, including extending the principal licensure waiver from August 31, 2022, to August 31, 2024. This extension was a request of DPI based on a 2021 session law that provided this waiver for certain individuals in the process of becoming a licensed principal and exempted principals granted a license for any school year from 2010-2011 to 2020-2021 from certain statutory licensure requirements.
HB 79: Clarify HS Insurance (sponsored by Senator Vicky Sawyer, R-Iredell) was also introduced during the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee meeting on Wednesday. The previous contents of the bill were replaced with a bill that clarifies that public school units (PSUs) must purchase catastrophic insurance for high school athletics. PSUs have the option (instead of the requirement) to purchase this catastrophic insurance from the Commissioner of Insurance. The bill requires the Commissioner of Insurance to also offer accident insurance to PSUs. Click here for an official bill summary.
Parents’ Bill of Rights
HB 755: Parents’ Bill of Rights (sponsored by Senators Phil Berger, R-Rockingham; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) was sent to the House for a concurrence vote last week after passing the Senate on a 28-18 party-line vote. There has been no action on the bill this week.
NCSBA Bill Tracking Chart
Click here for a list of education-related bills that NCSBA is tracking for this legislative biennium.
Tuesday, June 14
9:30 am – Senate Rules Committee – Legislative Building, rm 1027/1128 (livestream)
1:00 pm – House Local Government Committee – Legislative Building, rm 1228/1327 (livestream)
Thursday, June 16
9:00 am – Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, Subcommittee on Interscholastic Athletics – Auditorium, Legislative Building (livestream)
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association