Legislative Public Policy Conference
The NCSBA Legislative Public Policy Conference is scheduled for April 30/May 1 in Raleigh at the NCSBA building.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW CONFERENCE AGENDA
The registration rate is $325. Click here to register.
Senate Education Bills Filed This Week
Wednesday, April 3 was the Senate deadline to file statewide bills and resolutions. Below are several notable bills that were filed. Many of these bills have significant implications for the operations of school districts. It is critical that school board members become knowledgeable about how these bills will affect their respective school districts and begin communicating with their Senators about them.
SB 438: Excellent Public Schools Act of 2019 (Sen. Berger, R-Rockingham)
A 10-page bill that modifies the implementation of the State’s Read to Achieve program. For a summary of the bill refer to this EdNC article: https://www.ednc.org/2019/04/02/senate-proposes-read-to-achieve-changes-to-fix-plans-ineffectiveness/
SB 522: Various Changes to Charter School Laws (Sen. Tillman, R-Randolph)
- Section 1 would grant counties the authority to appropriate capital funds to charter schools.
- Section 2 would allow counties to use funds awarded from the Lottery’s Need-Based Public School Capital Fund for charter schools.
- Section 4 would change the academic standards for charter school renewals so that it must be renewed for 10 years unless the Proficiency of students in the charter school is at least 5% points lower than the LEA in which it is located.
- Section 6 would allow up to 50% of the charter’s enrollment to be children of permanent employees of a corporation or consortium of corporations that contributes $50,000 or more towards land, space, renovations, or technology.
- Section 7 would authorize the community college board of trustees to be initial authorizers of charters.
- Section 8 would remove the cap on enrollment growth for the two virtual charter schools.
SB 580: Classroom Supplies to Teachers (Sen. Wells, R-Catawba; Tillman, R-Randolph; Ballard, R-Watauga) would redirect approximately $37 million of the $47 million allotment for Classroom Materials/Instructional Supplies/Equipment. This $37 million would be used to reimburse teachers up to $400 for purchasing their own classroom supplies. At a press conference on Wednesday, Senator Wells accused “bureaucrats” of using “the money for other things on their to-do list and left teachers to pay for their own classroom supplies.” It is not clear what expenditures Senator Wells and his colleagues feel were not appropriate expenditures from the allotment. Based on a November 2018 report by the General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division, the following transfers in classroom supplies occurred in FY 2017-18:
- 70 LEAs transferred funds into classroom supplies
- 21 LEAs transferred funds out of classroom supplies
- 24 LEAs made no change to their classroom supply allotment
In summary, LEAs transferred $19,332,756 into classroom supplies in FY 2017-18.
It is important to note that in addition to classroom materials, instructional supplies, and equipment this allotment is to be used to pay for the PSAT for 8-10 graders. Under the proposal, as explained by Superintendent Mark Johnson, teachers would purchase materials and then submit them for reimbursement through the ClassWallet app. It is not clear how the use of ClassWallet would be paid for in the bill. A companion bill is expected to be filed in the House by Representatives Elmore (R-Wilkes) and Horn (R-Union) in the coming days.
The implications of this bill are huge. Some of the ramifications are likely to be:
- A loss of purchasing power as teachers buy supplies individually,
- Not enough funds to buy more expensive items (ex. science equipment),
- No system to identify true supply needs, and
- Potential fraud.
To read more about the press conference and reactions to the plan, including responses from the two most recent Teachers of the Year go to:
SB 609: K-12 Scholarship Changes (Senators Ballard, R-Watauga; Clark, D-Hoke; Johnson, R-Union) makes changes to the eligibility for the Special Education Scholarship, the Opportunity Scholarship, and the Education Savings Accounts.
- All three programs are changed so that students who do not meet the age eligibility for kindergarten but are at least 4 years old and “deemed by a non-public school to have the maturity to justify admission” may receive an award.
- Special Education Scholarship: Maintains the base requirements that the child have a disability, be school age, and not be placed in a private school or facility at public expense. It removes the eligibility that the child meets one of the following additional requirements:
- was enrolled in a NC public school or a DOD school,
- received special ed services through a NC public school as a preschooler,
- received a scholarship the year before,
- is identified as a child with a disability prior to the end of the year of initial enrollment,
- parent is on full time duty in the military,
- is in foster care,
- is a child with an adoption decree, or
- was enrolled in a nonpublic school the spring semester of the previous school year but was enrolled in a public school for the entire school year immediately preceding that.
- Opportunity Scholarship: (1) Increases the income eligibility from 133% to 150% of the amount required to qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches, and (2) eliminates the restriction on the amount of total funding that can be awarded for K-1 students.
SB 639: Education Funding Transparency (Sen. Edwards, R-Henderson; Ballard, R-Watauga) would require a number of changes to budget submissions to county commissioners and annual audits. It is critical that school board members work with their superintendent and finance team to develop a clear picture as to what this will look like in your school system.
It is important to note that G.S. 115C-429(c) already requires local boards of education to provide, upon the request of county commissioners, “all books, records, audit reports and other information bearing on the financial operation” of the school district. It is not clear, given this statutory requirement, why most of this bill is necessary.
It should also be noted that Section 1111 of ESSA provides fiscal transparency by requiring States to include in the report cards “per-pupil expenditures of federal, state and local funds, including actual personnel expenditures and actual non-personnel expenditures of Federal, State and local funds, disaggregated by source of funds for each local education agency and each school in the State for the preceding year.” This new federal requirement will be implemented for the 2018-19 school year. Given this new requirement, it is not clear what additional information will be gleaned that will not already be available through the report card process.
Before addressing the specifics of the bill, it is important to understand the complications in developing school budgets in NC. School budgets are primarily comprised of three pots of funding: local, state, and federal. The federal fiscal year begins October 1, so school districts do not receive their federal funds until after that date. The State and local fiscal years both begin on July 1. However, since the General Assembly does not typically adopt the state budget until around July 1 (and in some years substantially later), school boards must develop their budget, which must be submitted to county commissioners by May 15, based upon planning allotments provided by the NC Department of Public Instruction.
Section 1: This section changes the standard uniform budget format provided by the State Board of Education and seeks to breakdown local funds for personnel and operating expenses by individual schools. Currently, school districts do not necessarily budget by school. Some functions within a school district do not lend themselves to being assigned to individual schools like transportation. Schools are typically allotted teaching positions but not specific dollars to go along with the position, since the state guarantees the state salary for a state paid teacher regardless of where they are on the salary schedule. Additionally, school districts may have several hundred unique local report codes that would need to be standardized across the state to comply with this section.
Section 2: This section requires the superintendent to “describe projected expenditures by program report code and object code” in the proposed budget. This requirement would impose a tremendous amount of detail on the budget process. The Uniform Chart of Accounts for state and federal funds lists 19,620 fields of information at the fund/purpose/program code/object code level. The CTE program (Purpose 5120), for example, has 38 program report codes (PRCs) and 727 potential fields. These numbers (19,620 and 727) do not include any of the hundreds if not thousands of local codes.
In many of our districts the finance team in the LEA is extremely small and may be as few as two people. It would be a tremendous amount of work to produce a budget request down to this level of detail. Additionally, given the likelihood of numerous changes after state and federal funds are approved, it does not appear to be a wise use of limited resources.
Section 3: The first part of this section would require that the budget submitted by the board of education to the county commission report “projected expenditures by program report code and object code.” This requirement would inundate commissioners with budget detail. Again, S. 115C-429 (c) already gives the county commission authority “to call for, and the board of education shall have the duty to make available to the board of county commissioners, upon request, all books, records, and other information bearing on the financial operation of the local school administrative unit.” Furthermore, under G.S. 115C-436(a)(4) the School Finance Officer is required to prepare and file a statement of the financial condition of the local school administrative unit as often as requested by the superintendent, and when requested in writing with a copy to the superintendent by the board of education or the board of county commissioners.” This section would require a level of budget specificity that most county commissions do not have the desire to get to, and for those that do, there are other mechanisms at their disposal.
The second part of this section expands the authority of county commissioners to appropriate funds by PRC. Currently, the county commission may appropriate funds at the purpose and function levels. The PRC is the next level of specificity. Coupled with the next section (see below), this could restrict school districts from being nimble and responsive to the needs of the district.
Section 4: If there is an increase or decrease of 25% or more within any PRC this section would require that the county commissioners would need to approve such a change. Under current law this requirement is only if the change is at 25% or more at the purpose or function level. School boards would first have to approve the budget transfer and then get approval by the county commissioners. Dependent upon the timing of the county commission meeting schedule, this could tie the hands of the school board from making necessary and time sensitive decisions that impact the operations of a school or school system.
Sections 5 and 6: These sections make significant changes to the school district audits. There are already very strict auditing standards for public bodies put in place across the nation that are approved by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). The requirement that the audit be performed to the object code level would substantially increase the expense and time required to complete the audit.
Section 6 also requires the local board to provide a copy of the audit to the State Board of Education within 60 days and that the Department of Public Instruction post it on its website.
In summary, this bill would create a substantial increase in cost and workload for an already taxed central office finance department. As a duly elected governing body, school boards need to be able to act nimbly to be able to address the financial needs within a school district to best serve the needs of the students in the community. New federal reporting requirements should provide additional transparency. If and when there is a need for additional information by county commissioners, a sufficient mechanism is already statutorily in place.
School Calendar Bill
An amendment was added by Senator Ballard (R-Watauga) to SB 343: Changes to Education Reports requiring LEAs to report the start and end dates for the instructional calendar by April 1 of each year. If a school is starting earlier than August 26, the local board must report the statutory exception authorizing the start date. This bill is on the Senate calendar for Monday night, April 8.
Now Senator Ballard has filed SB 613: School Calendar Accommodation/Statewide, which would move the start date for public schools from the Monday closest to August 26 to August 16. If August 16 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then schools could start the preceding Friday or the Monday after. The school year would need to end no later than June 1, unless that day is a Saturday or Sunday in which case the school year could end on Friday or Monday. Weather waivers would move from August 16 to August 9.
NCSBA’s current position, along with the position of L.O.C.A.L. (see below), is one of “cannot support.” While this bill provides some limited relief, the bill does not provide enough. School districts would be required to have unequal semesters in order to get exams in before the winter break, and the bill does not address the issues of summer learning loss at all. It is our firm belief that if this bill passes there will be a limited chance for many, many years to come to rectify these important educational issues. The synergy around the issue will dissipate, legislators will not want to deal with it again, and the tourism lobby will say they have already compromised. While we do not oppose the legislation, it is important that we be able to advocate for additional changes in the future.
L.O.C.A.L. (Let Our Calendar Authority be Local) is a coalition of organizations that has worked on school legislation for the past four legislative sessions. The member groups include, NCSBA, NCASA, NCAE, NCPTA, Freedom Works, the John Locke Foundation, the NC Justice Center, the Association of County Commissioners, and the Wake Education Partnership.
Education Bills Passed by House and Sent to Senate
HB 107: PED Oversight/EPP Changes
- Primary Sponsors: Representatives Horn, R-Union; Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson; Lucas, D-Cumberland
- This bill would makes change to the Educator Preparation Program, including adding consideration of the two-year retention rate for individuals who completed an EPP and became licensed and employed in a NC public school to the list of performance standards.
- Passed 111-1
HB184: Study State Health Plan Design
- Primary Sponsors: Representatives Dobson, R-McDowell; Howard, R-Davie; Brisson, D-Bladen; Adcock, D-Wake
- This bill would create the Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Sustainability of the North Carolina State Health Plan to examine the needs and concerns of recipients of the state health plan for teachers and state employees and adopt new practices that promote health and incentivize participation.
- Passed 75-36
HB 315: Instructional Material Selection
- Primary Sponsors: Representatives Elmore, R-Wilkes; Arp, R-Union; Johnson, R-Cabarrus
- This bill would transfer the adoption of school textbooks from the State to the LEAs, as well as provide guidance in the selection, adoption, and evaluation of instructional and supplemental materials.
- Passed 63-51
HB 330: Efficient Government Buildings & Savings Act
- Primary Sponsors: Representatives Szoka, R-Cumberland; Arp, R-Union; Humphrey, R-Lenoir; Ross, R-Alamance
- This bill would require public school buildings, as well as other public buildings, to reduce energy consumption per gross square foot. Starting in 2002-03, energy consumption was to be reduced by 20% by 2010, 30% by 2015, and now 40% by 2025.
- Passed 111-2
HB 377: Reduce Testing
- Primary Sponsors: Representatives Elmore, R-Wilkes; K. Hall, R-Stokes; Bell, R-Wayne
- This bill would eliminate the NC Final Exam as a way to assess teacher performance and growth, replace EOGs with a through-grade assessment model, replace EOCs with the ACT or another nationally recognized assessment of high school achievement, prohibit standardized testing by LEAs except when required by the State Board, and prohibit graduation projects as a condition of graduation.
- Passed 110-2
Action on Bills
Other Bill on NCSBA’s Agenda
SB 520: School Ethics Training & Finance Officers
Primary Sponsors: Ballard, R-Watauga; Edwards, R-Henderson; Britt, R-Robeson
This bill (identical to HB 430) would require school administrators to receive at least two hours of ethics training. The training will:
- be required once in every odd-numbered year,
- be required of employees making/administering contracts within 90 days of assuming responsibility
- include position-specific education, and
- be provided by NC Association of School Administrators, NCSBA, School of Government at UNC CH, or other qualified sources.
The bill would also give school finance officers the same terms and conditions of employment as assistant and associate superintendents, as outlined in subsections (b) and (c) of G.S. 115C-278.
Read our issue briefs on Ethics Training for School Administrators (click here) and School Finance Officers (click here).
Other Bill of Note
SB 399: Rehire High-Need Teachers
Primary Sponsors: Senators Horner, R-Wilson; Berger, R-Rockingham; Chaudhuri, D-Wake
This bill would allow retired teachers to work in Title I schools or schools with D or F grades without risking impact on their retired teachers’ benefits. The contract between the LEA and the high-need teacher would last no longer than one school year, and the teacher would make an annual salary of $35,000-$40,000.
Education Budget Target
On April 2, the House Appropriations Committee on Education issued its Target and Budget Guidance. The Education Committee target appropriation for FY 2019-20 is $13.94 billion or $94.6 million above the base budget. The FY 2020-21 target appropriation is $14.13 billion or $208.8 million above the base budget. From this target, the Committee has to fully fund enrollment growth (K-12, Community Colleges, and UNC), Opportunity Scholarships annual statutory increases, and Program Enhancement/class size positions. After deducting mandatory expenses, the Committee has only $45 million in FY 2019-20 and $75 million in FY 2020-21 to spend on expansion requests.
It should be noted that the following major expenses will be handled by the Full Chairs of the Appropriations Committee:
- Salary and benefits
- School Safety issues
- Lottery, escheats, and fines and forfeitures spending
The House Appropriations Committee on Education must follow the following guidance:
- the Committee must have a balanced budget
- management flexibility cuts are not allowed
- no substantive, non-budget related policy is allowed
- provisions may not include “shall not revert” or carry forward language
The Chairs of the House Appropriations Committee on Education will report their budget decisions to the Full Chairs on April 8. The Education Appropriations chairs will present their money and provision reports to the Full Chairs on April 11. The Full Chairs will make final decisions on the Education budget report by April 17. The Education Appropriations Committee will meet on April 25 to consider and adopt the budget report.
State Board of Education Meeting – April 3 & 4
This month the State Board of Education covered numerous topics including revising standards for K-12 social studies, elimination of select NC final exams, and licensing out-of-state teachers. The majority of discussion occurred during the presentation of the legislative update and Senate Bill 580. This bill would reimburse teachers up to $400 for the purchase of classroom supplies. While Superintendent Johnson expressed his support of the bill, many board members and advisors disagreed and emphasized that this bill would be taking $37 million away from LEAs. Freebird McKinney and Lisa Godwin, both previous teachers of the year, expressed their concern that the bill offers no additional funding to school districts. While Chairman Davis and Dr. Oxendine did not express direct support for the bill, both commended the NC General Assembly for recognizing LEAs need for sufficient classroom supplies.
April 8-11 Legislative Meeting Calendar
Monday, April 8
3:00 pm – House: Rules, Calendar, and Operations – Legislative Building, rm 1228/1327 (audio)
7:00 pm – Senate Session – Legislative Building, Senate Chamber (audio)
Wednesday, April 10
11:00 am – Senate: Education/Higher Education – Legislative Building, rm 1027/1128 (audio)
House deadline to file statewide bills and resolutions (not including appropriations or finance) is Tuesday, April 16.
Leanne E. Winner
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Associate 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