NCSBA Legislative Update – January 6, 2023

NCSBA Legislative Update – January 6, 2023

 

The State Board of Education (SBE) met this week on January 4 and 5 for its monthly meeting. Board members were presented with the following:

 

New State Health Plan administrator: State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who is a member of the SBE, notified the Board that Aetna won the contract to administer NC’s health coverage plan for State employees, starting in January 2025. The State Health Plan covers nearly 740,000 people, including teachers. Aetna will replace Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC, which has been the administrator for over 40 years. Blue Cross reportedly said it was “deeply disappointed” by this decision and that the company will pursue a formal appeal.

Treasurer Folwell said the Aetna contract could create $140 million in cost savings over five years. He added, “A change of this magnitude is a great opportunity for a fresh perspective, and we look forward to working closely with Aetna to create new ways to provide price transparency, increase access and quality while lowering the cost of health care for those who teach, protect and serve, and taxpayers like them.”

Budget requests for 2023 legislative long session: The Board approved the DPI/SBE budget requests for the upcoming 2023 legislative long session. Requests include the following:

  • $5 million in recurring funds for a school psychologist internship program
  • $10 million in recurring funds for master’s level pay for school social workers
  • $100 million in recurring funds for a school nurse and school social worker application program to help tier one and tier two districts hire those personnel
  • $5 million in recurring funds to eliminate student co-pay for reduced-price meals
  • Continuation of non-recurring General Assembly initiatives
    • Needs-Based Capital Grants – totaled more than $800 million over the past two fiscal years
    • School Safety Grants – totaled $41.7 million in FY 2022-23
      • These grants support students in crisis, school safety training, and school safety equipment

Additionally, the Board approved a motion requesting support from the General Assembly and Governor for full implementation of the Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Plan (see next section for most recent Leandro updates), approval of the Board’s 2023 budget requests, and approval of pilot implementation of the new teacher licensure/salary model once dollar amounts are provided (see below for most recent update). Click here for the presentation that includes all budget requests.

Teacher licensure/salary model blueprint for action update: The Board was presented with statutory, rule, and policy changes that would need to be made to establish a pilot program of the teacher licensure/salary model blueprint. The presentation given by SBE General Counsel Allison Schafer includes general recommended changes that will be more narrowly tailored when DPI’s Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC) establishes specifics of the model. PESPC is scheduled to present recommendations for the pilot at the Board’s March meeting. Board Chair Eric Davis reminded the Board that the current plan is to potentially begin pilot implementation in fall 2023, which would require legislative approval. Click here for the presentation, which includes legislative changes needed for pilot implementation on slides 21-31

As a reminder, PEPSC is developing this model, which would pay teachers based on performance, effectiveness, and years of experience, rather than exclusively on years of experience. The model is expected to provide higher salaries for most, if not all, teachers.

K-3 literacy data: State Superintendent Catherine Truitt presented K-3 literacy data from the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, which shows improvement at each grade level. For example, at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, 45% of third graders were ready for core literacy instruction compared to 51% at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. The data also shows that NC students had higher percentages of growth compared to other states using the same assessment. Click here to access DPI’s press release on this K-3 literacy data. The press release says, “State education leaders are encouraged by the latest assessment outcomes, which they say indicate that schools across the state are implementing science of reading-based practices even as many teachers are still learning about the instructional approach…”

2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data: The Board was presented with 2021 YRBS data. DPI deploys the survey in every odd numbered year to help assess youth behaviors that impact their health now and in the future. This was the first YRBS since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. This data was presented in December at a meeting of the Child Fatality Task Force, and we included data points in our December 16, 2022, Legislative Update. In case you missed it, here are some data points for high school students.

  • 49% of students reported feeling good about themselves, compared to 60% in 2019
  • 43% of students reported feeling sad or hopeless, compared to 36% in 2019
  • 34% of students reported being physically active at least one hour per day, compared to 38% in 2019
  • 30% of females reported they seriously considered suicide, compared to 14% of males
  • 21% of gay, lesbian, or bisexual students reported they attempted suicide during the past year, compared to 6% of heterosexual students
  • 42% of students reported their teachers really care about them and give them encouragement, compared to 51% in 2019
  • 60% of students reported there is at least one teacher or adult in their school they can talk to if they have a problem

Click here for the presentation that includes more YRBS data (slides 15-35), as well as data from the 2021 Healthy Active Children Policy Report (slides 3-11).

Following Board member discussion, DPI staff said they will work on comparing social media use with mental health issues that have increased among students. Chair Davis noted the need for more mental health support personnel in schools and referenced the Board’s legislative budget priorities that aim to fill those positions (see above). Additionally, on Wednesday, DPI announced the State was awarded approximately $17 million in federal grant funding to increase mental health support in public schools. Click here to access DPI’s press release.

Impact of COVID on absences, grades, and grade retention: The Board was presented with results of a State-funded study assessing the impact of COVID on student attendance and grades. The report found, “In 2020-21, students had more absences and lower course grades, were more likely to be chronically absent, to fail at least one course, and to be retained in grade.” Those most impacted by chronic absenteeism include students in the lowest quartile of prior achievement (42.4%), economically disadvantaged students (35.6%), black students (33.3%), and English learners (32.9%). In the 2020-21 school year, 39.6% of middle school students failed at least one course, compared to 15.5% pre-pandemic, and 34.9% of high school students failed at least one course, compared to 21.7% pre-pandemic. Regarding students who enrolled in summer 2021 programs, the study found that enrollees were less likely to repeat failed courses. Click here to access the presentation, which includes more disaggregated data.

New Local School Board Advisor: At this month’s meeting, Chair Davis recognized Henry Mercer of Wilson County Schools as the new Local School Board Advisor. Mr. Mercer is the 2022-23 recipient of the Raleigh Dingman Award for Outstanding Boardsmanship.

Click here to access all meeting materials. Click here to access an article on the meeting.

 

The decades-old Leandro case has a new presiding judge. On December 29, 2022, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby reassigned the case to Superior Court Judge James Ammons of Cumberland County. This follows Superior Court Judge Michael Robinson’s November 30, 2022, letter to Chief Justice Newby requesting the case be reassigned to another judge because of Robinson’s workload and demands on his docket as a Business Court Judge.

The following is a recent timeline leading up to the reassignment of the Leandro case to Judge Ammons.

  • On November 4, 2022, the State Supreme Court ruled that certain State officials must transfer funds necessary to comply with years two and three of the Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Plan. Prior to that transfer, the Court required the trial court to recalculate the transfer amount based on what was accounted for in the 2022 State budget.
  • On December 12, 2022, a report was filed with the court that includes the following timeline:
    • “On or before 19 December 2022, Defendant State of North Carolina shall file with the Court an accounting showing the recalculations, if any, of the amount of funds to be transferred in light of the State’s 2022 Budget.
    • “On or before 20 January 2023, Plaintiff Parties and any other party shall respond.”
    • The report also says the State Controller opposes the proposed timeline because “additional procedures are needed to assure an accurate and responsible handling of any money which the Controller authorizes.”
  • On December 19, 2022, an affidavit was filed by the Office of State Budget and Management that says, “The analysis reveals that 63% of the Year Two Action Items of the Comprehensive Remedial Plan, and 60% of the Year Three Items of the Comprehensive Remedial Plan have been funded. This means that approximately $257,679,390 of Year Two Action Items remain unfunded, while $420,121,777 of Year Three Action Items remain unfunded.”

Click here for an article with more information on these Leandro updates.

 

JROTC programs across North Carolina (and the country) won an important victory just before the New Year as Congress passed and President Biden signed legislation to ease the requirements on the type of military personnel that can be hired as instructors for the program. Previously, those instructors were limited to retired military. Under the new law, active reservists and the honorably discharged with at least eight years of service may now be employed as instructors. This makes it much easier for schools with JROTC programs to staff the instructor positions.

The legislation passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. NCSBA alerted districts across the State to contact their members of Congress and urge support of the bill. One of the early leaders in the fight was William “Bill” Sharpe, Nash County Board of Education Chair. Sharpe worked with Senator Thom Tillis’ office to monitor the legislation as it progressed through both chambers of Congress.

“This is a great victory for districts across North Carolina,” said Sharpe. “JROTC programs have benefitted so many students by not only teaching them leadership but providing them with real career opportunities. The challenge has been to keep the instructor positions staffed and with this important legislation passing, that task is much easier. I’m thankful to all the other districts who contacted their member of Congress and told them how important this was.”

 

The following is the Consortium of State School Boards Association’s (COSSBA) most recent federal education report.

December 19, 2022, Weekly Report

Headlines for this edition include:

  • National Center for Education Statistics Releases Results from National Teacher and Principal Survey
    • The survey produced four reports centered on reported characteristics of teachers, principals, schools, and the impact of COVID on public and private education. The teacher report notes that K-12 instructors are putting in 13 more hours per week on average than their contracts require. The principals’ report noted similar long hours.
  • Congress Passes Omnibus Spending Bill for Fiscal Year 2023
    • On December 23, 2022, President Biden signed the omnibus spending bill for the 2023 fiscal year. The legislation contains important education-related items including:
      • Title 1 increases of $850 million to a total of $18.39 billion, assisting more than half the nation’s public schools.
      • A 100% increase for Full Service Community Schools, which went from $75 million to $150 million.
    • For a more detailed analysis of the education-related items in the omnibus spending bill, click here.

 

The 2023 legislative long session kicks off with a ceremonial day on Wednesday, January 11. Legislators will then have a two-week break, and return to Raleigh on Wednesday, January 25 to begin their work. Unlike the circus we’ve been seeing in the US House these past few days, we expect House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, to easily be reelected into their leadership positions next Wednesday.

 

 

 

Bruce Mildwurf
Director of Governmental Relations
NC School Boards Association
bmildwurf@ncsba.org

Rebekah Howard
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
NC School Boards Association
rhoward@ncsba.org

Madison Skeens
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
mskeens@ncsba.org

Rob Black
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rblack@ncsba.org

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – January 6, 2023