Rebekah Howard

NCSBA Legislative Update – May 14, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – May 14, 2021

 

Crossover week has come and gone for this legislative biennium. Voting sessions lasted for hours at a time but neither chamber had to stay late into the night, with the latest voting session ending at 10:00 pm. This is relatively early compared to past years when sessions would go well past midnight. What makes this year different is that we have been experiencing the urgency of crossover week for nearly a month. These past few weeks have been scheduled full of committee meetings and voting sessions. Many education-related bills passed out of their originating chamber this week, which we have listed below.

Bills that Passed the House

Statewide bills

  • HB 324: Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools (primary sponsors: Representatives Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; James Boles, R-Moore; Larry Yarborough, R-Person; John Torbett, R-Gaston)
    • Passed the House 66-48 along party lines
    • The original contents of this bill were replaced with a bill that prohibits public school units (PSUs) from promoting the following:
      • There are/were superior races or sexes
      • An individual, by virtue of his/her race or sex, should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress
      • An individual, by virtue of his/her race or sex, bears responsibility for past actions committed by members of the same race or sex
      • The belief that the U.S. is inherently racist or sexist or was created by racist or sexist members
    • Many Democrats spoke out against the bill, including Representative James Gailliard, D-Nash, who said it is a bill of hatred, privilege, and fragility. HB 324 received praise and approval from House Speaker Tim Moore and State Superintendent Catherine Truitt.
    • Click here and here for articles on HB 324
  • HB 729: Charter Schools Omnibus. (primary sponsors: Representatives Larry Yarborough, R-Person; Jon Hardister, R-Guilford; John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg; Mark Brody, R-Union)
    • Passed the House 63-52
    • This bill quickly passed through two committees and voting on the floor, with legislative leaders not allowing public comment in committee or debate on the House floor. NCSBA worked with a House Republican on an amendment to remove the section of the bill that authorizes counties to provide capital funds to charters. After House leadership learned about Republican support for this amendment, the bill was withdrawn from the calendar. On the following day, the bill was placed on the House calendar, but the proposed amendment was sponsored by a Democrat instead of a Republican. The amendment was tabled, meaning no one was allowed to vote on the amendment. All but one Democrat voted against the bill, as well as four Republicans.
    • HB 729 makes the following changes to charter school laws:
      • Allows charter schools to provide a combination of remote and in-person instruction
      • Authorizes counties to provide capital funds to charter schools
      • Expresses the General Assembly’s intent to ensure parity in funding of students in charter schools and other PSUs
      • Permits charter schoolteachers to receive residency licensure
  • HB 621: Increase Dropout Age/Completion Indicator. (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Charles Graham, D-Robeson; Mitchell Setzer, R-Catawba)
    • Passed the House 109-3
    • This bill raises the dropout age from 16 to 18 over a five-year period and establishes a completion rate indicator for school performance grades.
  • HB 794: Allow Schools in All Zoning Districts. (primary sponsors: Representatives Dean Arp, R-Union; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; Mark Brody, R-Union; John Torbett, R-Gaston)
    • Passed the House 109-3
    • This bill designates public schools as a permitted use in all zoning districts, which streamlines the process to build new schools, saving time and money.

Local bills:

Bills that Passed the Senate

  • SB 593: Special Education Due Process Hearings. (primary sponsors: Senators Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover)
    • Passed the Senate 33-16
    • This bill alters the appeals process for special education due process hearings by eliminating State Hearing Review Officers (SHROs). The SHROs currently review, upon the request of a party, the decisions made by administrative law judges. Under SB 593, such decisions would be appealed in state or federal court. School attorneys believe that this bill will likely violate federal regulations, which could put federal funds in jeopardy.
  • SB 668: Anti-Pension Spiking Amds & Litig. Moratorium (primary sponsor: Senator Jim Burgin, R-Harnett)
    • Passed the Senate 49-0
    • This bill does the following:
      • Adds another payment option: 12 years with no early pay-off penalty
      • In certain situations, two or more employers will share the liability
      • Creates a working group consisting of NCSBA and the State Treasurer’s office to develop recommendations to the General Assembly that will reduce pension spiking cases and lawsuits
      • Requires a pause on pension-spiking litigation until June 30, 2022, during which the working group will create its recommendations
        • As a result of this pause, the statute of limitations will be extended

Bill Removed from Calendar

  • SB 355: Government Transparency Act of 2021 (primary sponsors: Senators Norman Sanderson, R-Pamlico; Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick; Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth)
    • Was scheduled to be voted on by the Senate this week but was later removed from the calendar and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee
    • This bill requires local boards of education (as well as counties, municipalities, community colleges, State agencies, etc.) to not only maintain the date and general description of the reasons for each promotion, but also for each demotion, dismissal, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position. An employee can appeal to not have the date and description of their promotion, demotion, etc. disclosed if the information is protected by an applicable confidentiality law, like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    • There is still the possibility that the contents of SB 355 will get added to another bill that met the crossover deadline.

Budget Process

Legislative leaders have still not agreed on how much to spend on this year’s budget. House Speaker Tim Moore stated that the House wants to spend $500 million more than the Senate. Senate leader Phil Berger said that once an amount is agreed upon it will take up to three weeks for the Senate budget to be released. For comparison, in the past few years the first version of the budget was released in late April or early May. Click here for an article on the budget disagreements.

Bill Chart

Click here for a chart of all education-related bills that NCBSA is tracking.

 

This week the SBE held its Bi-Annual Planning and Work Session on Tuesday and Wednesday. Click here to see topics, presenters, and materials. On Thursday, the SBE held is monthly meeting and was presented with the following:

DHHS COVID-19 update: This week the FDA expanded authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to include 12–15-year-olds, followed by the CDC recommending that authorization. This announcement comes as already roughly 43,000 16- and 17-year-olds in the State have been vaccinated. Additional CDC guidance that was released on Thursday says that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most settings. This afternoon Governor Cooper announced the lifting of the statewide mask mandate in most settings, not including schools, as well as the lifting of all mass gathering and social distancing requirements. Regarding student metrics, DHHS staff pointed out that a majority of COVID-19 clusters in middle and high schools are linked to athletics. Screening testing continues to be available to schools at no cost for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year, and DHHS has submitted a funding request and plan to the CDC to receive additional funding for the next school year.

ABC Collaborative report: The SBE received its first report from the ABC Science Collaborative since the passage of SB 220: The Reopen Our Schools Act of 2021/SL 2021-4, which requires middle and high schools that are open under Plan A to partner with the Collaborative to collect data related to reopening schools. The report is based on data from April, which found that 99 LEAs and 20 charter schools are in Plan A. Cases of COVID-19 in schools consisted of 2,214 community acquired cases, but only 42 cases of within-school transmission. Based on data previously presented to the General Assembly about transmission between August 2020 and February 2021, within-school transmission appears to be similar whether schools are in Plan A or Plan B. This can be largely attributed to the continuous mask mandate. The presentation concluded with the statement that “There is no medical-safety reason to support Plan B compared to Plan A.”

Updated DHHS StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit: Last week DHHS updated its Toolkit to remove the mask mandate for outdoor settings at schools but still recommends wearing a mask outdoors when social distancing is difficult. When asked what conditions need to be present to lift the indoor mask mandate at schools, DHHS staff pointed to data presented by the ABC collaborative contributing low transmission rates to the wearing of masks. DHHS staff also stated that lifting the indoor mask mandate could look different for different grade levels, since students 12 and up can receive the vaccine but elementary age children cannot. SBE Chair Eric Davis presented a motion to approve the amendments to the Toolkit, provided that the amendments are not inconsistent with SB 220: The Reopen Our Schools Act of 2021/SL 2021-4. As we have noted before, SB 220 requires compliance with the Toolkit as that guidance existed on March 4, 2021.

ELISS Competitive Grant Program: HB 196: 2021 COVID-19 Response & Relief/SL 2021-3 appropriated $15 million from the 10% DPI reserve of the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund II (ESSER II) for the Extended Learning and Integrated Student Supports (ELISS) Competitive Grant Program. ELISS is designed to support at-risk students who have been negatively affected by COVID-19. Grants are to be awarded to new or existing programs operated by nonprofits working with LEAs. DPI staff stated that they will open the application process soon with a due date in August. Following application submissions, DPI will present funding recommendations to the SBE in October. For more on ELISS and its requirements, click here.

Click here to access all meeting materials.

Click here to access an article on the meeting and other legislative action this week.

 

The following education-related bills were filed this week.

Statewide Bills

 

Wednesday, May 19

10:00 am – Senate Redistricting and Elections – Legislative Offices Building, rm 544 (live stream)

Thursday, May 20

2:00 pm – Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, Subcommittee on Interscholastic Athletics – Legislative Building Auditorium (live stream)

 

 

 

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

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rbostic@ncsba.org

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

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – May 14, 2021
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NCSBA Legislative Update – May 7, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – May 7, 2021

 

This week at the legislature consisted of non-stop action as next week’s legislative deadlines quickly approach. The House public bill filing deadline is Tuesday, May 11 and the Crossover deadline is Thursday, May 13. As a reminder, Crossover is the deadline for bills to pass out of their originating chamber in order to remain eligible for the rest of the legislative biennium. Numerous House bills were filed, and important education bills passed both the House and Senate. Below you will find five sections of education-related bills based on their progress this week. Click here for an article summarizing legislative action this week.

Bills that Passed the Senate

SB 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions (primary sponsors: Senators Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Don Davis, D-Pitt; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) passed the Senate 49-0. NCSBA and the NC Association of School Administrators (NCASA) continued to work with Senators on this bill up until its passage. Prior to receiving Senate approval, a bill sponsor amendment was adopted that amends the virtual instruction sections of the bill. Now SB 654 allows the following virtual instruction for the 2021-2022 school year:

  • A public school unit (PSU) is required to submit a virtual instruction plan to DPI by June 1, 2021, in order to provide virtual instruction to students (with consent of parent or guardian) during the upcoming school year
  • PSUs with good cause waivers can 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
  • PSUs can provide remote instruction to address health and safety concerns related to COVID-19 during the upcoming school year
  • The State Superintendent must create a Working Group on Virtual Academies to make recommendations by January 15, 2022
  • The following language was removed by the amendment: LEAs assigned a school code to operate a virtual school by May 1, 2021, may continue to provide virtual school for the upcoming school year

Additionally, SB 654 does the following:

  • Waives school performance grades, report cards, and low-performing school identification for the upcoming school year based on 2020-2021 school year data
  • Continues the principal recruitment supplement for the 2021-2022 school year
  • Allows seniors to graduate in 2021 without completing CPR instruction
  • Extends exam requirements for teachers seeking a continuing professional license from June 30, 2021, to September 30, 2021
  • 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

SB 671: Changes to the K-12 Scholarship Programs (primary sponsors: Senators Michael Lee, R-New Hanover; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Amy Galey, R-Alamance) passed the Senate 29-20. Before the vote, which essentially spit along party lines, Senator Natasha Marcus, D-Mecklenburg, contested the bill saying that private schools are not held accountable when using public dollars. SB 671 bill does the following:

  • Opportunity Scholarships
    • Changes the amount paid per voucher from $4,200 to 90% of the average State per pupil allocation for average daily membership (ADM) in the prior fiscal year (average of $5,948 based on 2019-2020 school year data)
    • Expands eligibility to students who are at least four years old, if approved by the principal (currently at least five years old by August 31)
    • Increases income eligibility from 150% to 175% of the amount required for the student to qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program
    • Extends financial eligibility to include foster children
    • Allows students previously enrolled in Department of Defense Elementary and Secondary Schools to qualify for the scholarship
    • Authorizes up to $500,000 to promote the voucher program
  • Merges the Special Education Scholarships for Children with the Disabilities and Personal Education Savings Accounts into a new program called the Personal Education Student Accounts for Children with Disabilities (PESA-CWD)
    • Expands eligibility to students who are at least four years old, if approved by the principal (currently at least five years old by August 31)
    • Clarifies that students with certain disabilities would be eligible for scholarship funds up to $17,000 (this is the combined amount awarded in the previous two programs)
    • States that the total amount of funds carried forward for an eligible student in a personal education student account cannot exceed $30,000

SB 172: Additional 2021 COVID-19 Response & Relief (primary sponsors: Representatives Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston; Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell) passed the Senate 49-0. This bill appropriates COVID-19 relief funds, including $3.2 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III) funds included in the American Rescue Plan. This is the 90% of ESSER III funds that go directly to PSUs, while the other 10% goes to DPI. 20% of the PSU funds are required to address learning loss, and they expire on September 30, 2024.

Bills that Passed the House

HB 644: Remote Academies. (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; John Torbett, R-Gaston) passed the House 95-22. This bill allows no more than 10% of total student enrollment in a LEA to be enrolled in a remote academy, beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. It also allows a LEA that is assigned a school code for virtual instruction by May 1, 2021 to continue to provide virtual instruction for the 2021-2022 school year.

HB 755: Academic Transparency. (primary sponsors: Representatives Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Jon Hardister, R-Guilford; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes) passed the House 66-50. This bill requires PSUs to post to their website a list of lesson plans, instructional materials, and procedures for approval of those materials used in the prior school year by June 30 annually. Title, author, brief description, and link (if publicly accessible) are required to be posted to the website for each instructional material. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 247: Standards of Student Conduct (primary sponsor: Representative John Torbett, R-Gaston) passed the House 66-49 along party lines. Before passing the House, an amendment to add previously removed language that provides examples of student conduct not deemed punishable by long-term suspension, including inappropriate language, dress code violations, minor physical altercations, and noncompliance, failed. This amendment was previously rejected in the House Education K-12 Committee. HB 247 requires PSU boards to do the following:

  • Consult with teachers, school-based administrators, parents, and local law enforcement when adopting discipline policies and student code of conduct
  • Consider existing federal guidance for disciplining students with disabilities, in addition to other school discipline guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education
  • Send most current discipline policies and student code of conduct to DPI by September 1 each year
  • Inform parents and guardians of the full range of responses to disciplinary violations at the beginning of each school year

Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 657: School Safety/Threat Assessment Teams. (primary sponsor: Representative John Torbett, R-Gaston) passed the House 92-25. This bill requires the establishment of threat assessment teams in PSUs to evaluate threatening behavior, determine the level of risk, and intervene when deemed necessary to protect students and staff. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 362: Revise Personal Leave Costs for Teachers. (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford; Rosa Gill, D-Wake) passed the House 112-0. This bill drops the requirement that teachers pay out of pocket for a substitute teacher when taking a personal leave day, as long as the teacher provides a reason for the leave. If a teacher does not provide a reason, the teacher will pay the full cost for a substitute teacher, rather than the currently mandated $50 deduction. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 428: Teacher Licensure/Retired Educator Program. (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Mark Brody, R-Union; Charles Miller, R-Brunswick; Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford) passed the House 117-0. This bill modifies a limited teacher license to be a three-year renewable license (was nonrenewable). The limited license can only be requested by the local school board employing or seeking to employ the individual and can only be used for employment in that LEA. HB 428 also extends and expands the program that allows retired teachers to work in high-need schools, now including principals and other instructional support personnel like psychologists and audiologists. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 390: School Calendar Flexibility/Certain Systems. (primary sponsors: Jake Johnson, R-Polk; Timothy Moffit, R-Henderson) passed the House on a voice vote. This bill allows public schools in Henderson, Polk, and Transylvania counties to open as early as August 15. This is the 13th school calendar bill to pass the House and be sent to the Senate.

HB 677: School Accountability Recommendation Comm. (primary sponsors: Representatives Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance; Rosa Gill, D-Wake)

HB 760: Opportunity Gap Task Force. (primary sponsors: Representatives Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke; Cecil Brockman, D-Guilford; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes)

HB 160: Retirement Service Purchase Rewrite Part II.-AB (primary sponsors: Representatives Allen McNeill, R-Randolph; Carson Smith, R-Pender)

HB 3: Craven Bd of Ed/Partisan Electoral Districts (primary sponsor: Representative Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort)

HB 85: Cleveland Cty Bd. of Ed Vacancies (primary sponsors: Representatives Kelly Hastings, R-Gaston; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln)

HB 400: Asheville City Sch. Bd. Elections. (primary sponsors: Representatives Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe; Brian Turner, D-Buncombe; John Ager, D-Buncombe)

Bills that Are Scheduled for a Senate Vote on Monday, May 10

SB 355: Government Transparency Act of 2021 (primary sponsors: Senators Norman Sanderson, R-Pamlico; Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick; Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth) requires local boards of education (as well as counties, municipalities, community colleges, State agencies, etc.) to not only maintain the date and general description of the reasons for each promotion, but also for each demotion, dismissal, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position. An employee can appeal to not have the date and description of their promotion, demotion, etc. disclosed if the information is protected by an applicable confidentiality law, like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or the American with Disabilities Act. Click here for an official bill summary. NCSBA opposes SB 355, and we are currently working with other employer groups on this issue.

SB 695: Statewide Medical Action Plan for Schools. (primary sponsors: Senators Steve Jarvis, R-Davidson; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga) requires medical condition action plans for certain public-school students. NCSBA does not support this bill because its requirements are already covered under other federal and state laws. We are working with DPI and the State Board of Education to address our mutual concerns.

SB 582: High School Adjunct Instructors/CC Prep. (primary sponsors: Senators Jim Burgin, R-Harnett; Kevin Corbin, R-Macon)

SB 450: Carbon Monoxide Detectors/School Bldgs. (primary sponsors: Senators Michael Lee, R-New Hanover; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Lisa Barnes, R-Nash)

Bills that Are Scheduled for a House Vote on Monday, May 10

HB 794: Allow Schools in All Zoning Districts. (primary sponsors: Representatives Dean Arp, R-Union; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; Mark Brody, R-Union; John Torbett, R-Gaston) was filed, approved by two committees, and scheduled for a House vote on Monday, May 10. This bill designates public schools as a permitted use in all zoning districts. NCSBA fully supports this bill because it streamlines the process to build new schools, which saves time and money. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 704: Local Option Sales Tax Flexibility. (primary sponsors: Representatives Julia Howard, R-Davie; Timothy Moffit, R-Henderson; Harry Warren, R-Rowan; Mitchell Setzer, R-Catawba)

HB 664: County Service Districts/Early Childhood Ed. (primary sponsors: Representatives Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Ray Pickett, R-Watauga; Brandon Lofton, D-Mecklenburg)

Bills that Were in Committee

SB 593: Special Education Due Process Hearings. (primary sponsors: Senators Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) was approved by two committees and will be heard in the Senate Rules Committee on Monday, May 10, at 5:30 pm. This bill alters the appeals process for special education due process hearings by eliminating State Hearing Review Officers (SHROs). The SHROs currently review, upon the request of a party, the decisions made by administrative law judges. Should SB 593 become law, such decisions would be appealed in state or federal court. Additionally, school attorneys believe that this bill will likely violate federal regulations as it is currently written, which could put federal funds in jeopardy. Click here for an official bill summary. Click here for an article on the bill.

SB 668: Anti-Pension Spiking Amds & Litig. Moratorium. (primary sponsor: Senator Jim Burgin, R-Harnett) was modified and approved by the Senate Pensions and Retirement Committee and will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, May 10, at 4:30 pm. This bill does the following:

  • Adds another payment option: 12 years with no early pay-off penalty
  • In certain situations, two or more employers will share the liability
  • Creates a working group consisting of NCSBA and the State Treasurer’s office to develop recommendations to the General Assembly that will reduce pension spiking cases and lawsuits
  • Requires a pause on pension-spiking litigation until June 30, 2022, during which the working group will create its recommendations
    • As a result of this pause, the statute of limitations will be extended

Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 508: Education Funding Transparency (primary sponsor: Representative Mike Clampitt, R-Swain), was heard by the House Education K-12 Committee but was removed from consideration after prominent Committee members voiced concerns. Prior to the meeting, NCSBA sent a letter to Committee members expressing opposition to HB 508 and Richard Bostic, NCSBA Assistant Director of Governmental Relations, testified against the bill in Committee. We would like to thank Representatives Frank Iler, R-Brunswick; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Charles Miller, R-Brunswick; and David Willis, R-Union, for their defense of local school boards, which led to the removal of the bill from consideration. HB 508 does the following:

  • Moves the date from May 1 to March 1 for submission of the budget from the superintendent to the school board and moves the date from May 15 to March 15 for submission of the budget to the county commissioners
  • Allows county commissioners to appropriate local funds at the program report code level
  • Requires local school boards to submit their annual budgets to county commissioners with detail on local funds down to the program report code level

HB 681: CCS/Teacher In-State Tuition Pilot. (primary sponsors: Representatives Steve Tyson, R-Craven; Phil Shepard, R-Onslow) was approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

HB 120: Restrict Local Sales Tax/School Construction. (primary sponsor: Representative Jon Hardister, R-Guilford) was approved by two committees.

HB 353: Winston-Salem/Forsyth Bd. of Ed./Stagger Term. (primary sponsors: Representatives Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Lee Zachary, R-Yadkin) was modified and approved by the House Local Government Committee and referred to the House Election Law Committee.

Bill Chart

Click here for a chart of all education-related bills that NCBSA is tracking.

 

On Wednesday, May 5, DHHS released an updated version of its StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12). The Toolkit updates follow Governor Cooper’s executive order that took effect on April 30 and will expire on June 1. The executive order does the following:

  • Removes the mask mandate in outdoor settings but still recommends wearing a mask outdoors when social distancing is difficult
  • Increases mass gathering capacity limits from 50 to 100 indoors and 100 to 200 outdoors

Because of this executive order, the Toolkit now states that masks are not mandated to be worn outdoors at schools but are still mandated to be worn inside school buildings. The Toolkit provides examples of when it is recommended that masks be worn outdoors:

  • When individuals who are not fully vaccinated cannot maintain at least 6 feet social distancing
  • When individuals who are both vaccinated and unvaccinated are in crowded, dense areas and in situations where social distancing is difficult or not possible

As a reminder, on April 8 the State Board of Education approved the then current version of the Toolkit (updated on March 24, 2021) as official guidance for in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, unless otherwise extended or modified. The Board’s motion to approve the Toolkit included language saying that the Board’s approval does not override the requirements of SB 220: The Reopen Our Schools Act of 2021/SL 2021-4, which requires compliance with the Toolkit as that guidance existed on March 4, 2021. The SBE, DPI, and NCSBA have tried working with legislators to modify the language in SB 220, but no progress has been made.

 

The following additional education-related bills were filed this week.

Statewide Bills

 

Monday, May 10

12:00 pm – House Local Government – Legislative Building, rm 1228/1327 (live stream)

4:30 pm – Senate Judiciary – Legislative Offices Building, rm 544 (live stream)

5:30 pm – Senate Rules – Legislative Building, rm 1027/1128 (live stream)

Tuesday, May 11

10:00 am – House Transportation – Legislative Building, rm 1228/1327 (live stream)

1:00 pm – House Education K-12 – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

3:00 pm – House Families, Children, and Aging Policy – Legislative Offices Building, rm 415 (live stream)

Wednesday, May 12

11:00 am – House State Government – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

 

 

 

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

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rbostic@ncsba.org

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

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – May 7, 2021
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NCSBA Legislative Update – April 30, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – April 30, 2021

 

Notable Bills with Action This Week

HB 284: Repeal Right of Actions/Capital Outlay Fund (primary sponsors, which are all former county commissioners: Representatives Larry Potts, R-Davidson; Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck; Ben Moss, R-Richmond; Mark Pless, R-Haywood) was heard in its first committee on Wednesday and failed to be approved on a 5-4 vote. Bruce Mildwurf, NCSBA Director of Governmental Relations, testified in the House State Government Committee against the bill in hopes of saving local school boards’ seat at the school capital negotiation table. As a reminder, HB 284 removes local school boards’ ability to take county commissioners to court if capital funding disputes are not resolved in mediation. House State Government Committee Chairman Representative John Torbett, R-Gaston, stated that though the motion failed, the bill remains on the calendar, which means it could be heard in committee again. We appreciate the efforts of our members who reached out to their representatives expressing opposition to HB 284.

SB 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions (primary sponsors: Senators Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Don Davis, D-Pitt; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) was approved by two committees and is scheduled for a Senate vote on Tuesday, May 4. The original version of the bill did not allow virtual instruction for the 2021-2022 school year other than up to 5 days or 30 hours for severe weather or other emergencies. After NCSBA and other education groups expressed significant concerns, a modified version now provides the following exceptions:

  • LEAs can provide remote instruction to address health and safety concerns related to COVID-19 during the upcoming school year – participation is subject to written consent of the student’s parent or legal guardian
  • LEAs assigned a school code to operate a virtual school by May 1, 2021 may continue to provide virtual school for the upcoming school year
  • The State Superintendent must create a Working Group on Virtual Academies to make recommendations by January 15, 2022

NCSBA and other education groups are seeking further changes to this bill’s virtual instruction section that would simply allow a school to provide virtual instruction for families that want that option. Additionally, SB 654 does the following:

  • Waives school performance grades, report cards, and low-performing school identification for the upcoming school year based on 2020-2021 school year data
  • Continues the principal recruitment supplement for the 2021-2022 school year
  • Allows seniors to graduate in 2021 without completing CRP instruction
  • Extends exam requirements for teachers seeking a continuing professional license from June 30, 2021 to September 30, 2021
  • 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

SB 671: Changes to the K-12 Scholarship Programs (primary sponsors: Senators Michael Lee, R-New Hanover; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Amy Galey, R-Alamance) was modified and approved by two committees and is scheduled for a Senate vote on Tuesday, May 4. Changes to the bill include:

  • Extends financial eligibility for opportunity scholarships to include foster children
  • Changes the amount paid per voucher from $4,200 to 90% of the average State per pupil allocation for average daily membership (ADM) in the prior fiscal year (average of $5,948 based on 2019-2020 school year data)
    • Previous version of the bill changed the amount to what the State pays per charter school student (average was $6,451 in the 2019-2020 school year)
    • HB 32 (House’s voucher bill) changes the amount to 80% of the average State per pupil allocation (average of $5,287 based on 2019-2020 school year data)

For a more thorough summary of SB 671, click here to access last week’s Legislative Update (under Notable Bills in Committee Next Week).

SB 668: Anti-Pension Spiking Amds & Litig. Moratorium (primary sponsor: Senator Jim Burgin, R-Harnett) was heard in the House Pensions and Retirement Committee for discussion only. This bill does the following:

  • Adds another payment option: 12 years with no early pay-off penalty
  • In certain situations, two or more employers will share the liability
  • Creates a working group consisting of NCSBA and the State Treasurer’s office to develop recommendations to the General Assembly that will reduce pension spiking cases and lawsuits
  • Requires a pause on pension-spiking litigation until June 30, 2022, during which the working group will create its recommendations

HB 486: Replace EOC with National Assessment (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; John Bell, R-Wayne; Kyle Hall, R-Stokes; John Torbett, R-Gaston) passed the House and was sent to the Senate. This bill replaces high school end-of-course tests (EOCs) with a nationally recognized assessment of high school achievement and college readiness and establishes a new career readiness indicator for school performance grades.

HB 428: Teacher Licensure/Retired Educator Program (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Mark Brody, R-Union; Charles Miller, R-Brunswick; Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford) was modified and approved by the House Pensions Committee and referred to the House Rules Committee. This bill modifies a limited teacher license to be a three-year renewable license (was nonrenewable). The limited license can only be requested by the local school board employing or seeking to employ the individual and can only be used for employment in that LEA. HB 428 also extends and expands the program that allows retired teachers to work in high-need schools, now including principals and other instructional support personnel like psychologists and audiologists.

HB 657: School Safety/Threat Assessment Teams (primary sponsor: Representative John Torbett, R-Gaston) was modified and approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Rules Committee. This bill requires the establishment of threat assessment teams at public school units (PSUs) to evaluate threatening behavior, determine the level of risk, and intervene when deemed necessary to protect students and staff. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 362: Revise Personal Leave Costs for Teachers  (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford; Rosa Gill, D-Wake) was approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and will be heard in the House State Personnel Committee on Wednesday, May 5 at 11:00 am. This bill drops the requirement that teachers pay out of pocket for a substitute teacher when taking a personal leave day, as long as the teacher provides a reason for the leave. If a teacher does not provide a reason, the teacher will pay the full cost for a substitute teacher, rather than the currently mandated $50 deduction.

School Calendar Flexibility Bills

This week eight local school calendar flexibility bills passed the House and were sent to the Senate:

These eight bills make a total of 12 school calendar bills that have passed the House and are now in the Senate. One of the bills is statewide, and the 11 local bills affect a total of 34 districts. Based on past inaction, these school calendar flexibility bills are not expected to be heard in the Senate.

Notable Bills Filed This Week

HB 729: Charter Schools Omnibus (primary sponsors: Representatives Larry Yarborough, R-Person; Jon Hardister, R-Guilford; John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg; Mark Brody, R-Union) makes the following changes to charter school laws:

  • Allows charter schools to provide a combination of remote and in-person instruction
  • Requires charter schools to only provide demographic information for verification that an enrolled student resides in the LEA
  • Authorizes counties to provide capital funds to charter schools
  • Expresses the General Assembly’s intent to ensure parity in funding of students in charter schools and other PSUs
  • Permits charter school teachers to receive residency licensure

NCSBA expects legislators, on behalf of the charter school community, to add more to this bill that will most likely be extremely hard for LEAs to swallow.

HB 755: Academic Transparency (primary sponsors: Representatives Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Jon Hardister, R-Guilford; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes) requires PSUs to post to their website a list of instructional materials, activities, and any procedures for approval of those materials. The language of this bill mirrors that of Section 2 in SB 700: Balanced Political Discussion in Classrooms (primary sponsors: Senators Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson; Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth; Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell), with the exception that SB 700 does not apply to charter schools and HB 755 applies to all PSUs.

Gut and Amend Bills in Committee This Week

SB 172: Additional 2021 COVID-19 Response & Relief (primary sponsors: Representatives Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston; Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell) was modified in the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee and referred to the Senate Rules Committee. The new version of this bill appropriates COVID-19 relief funds, including $3.2 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III) funds included in the American Rescue Plan. This is the 90% of ESSER III funds that go directly to PSUs, while the other 10% goes to DPI. 20% of the PSU funds are required to address learning loss, and they expire on September 30, 2024.

HB 240: Criminal Background Checks/Schools (primary sponsor: Representative John Torbett, R-Gaston) was modified and approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Finance Committee. The new version of this bill requires criminal background checks for school personnel who are obtaining, renewing, or reinstating a license. It gives local school boards the authority to determine whether the licensure applicant or the LEA will pay for the background check. It also allows local school boards to conduct periodic background checks of school personnel but the board cannot charge personnel for those checks.

State of the State Address

This week at the legislature began with Governor Roy Cooper delivering his State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate on Monday night. The Governor centered his address on building back from the negative impacts of COVID-19. The Governor referenced components of his budget recommendations, and stated that he wants “to see a budget that has three signatures: Speaker Moore’s, Senator Berger’s, and mine.” Among education-related issues, Governor Cooper emphasized the State’s constitutional obligation of providing every student with the opportunity to a sound basic education. Additionally, he called for teacher raises and a school capital bond. Click here for more on the education-related parts of the address.

Bill Chart

Click here for a chart of all education-related bills that NCBSA is tracking.

 

The following additional education-related bills were filed this week.

Statewide Bills

 

Wednesday, May 5

11:00 am – House State Personnel – Legislative Offices Building, rm 415 (live stream)

 

 

 

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

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rbostic@ncsba.org

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

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – April 30, 2021
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NCSBA Legislative Update – April 23, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – April 23, 2021

 

The deadline for bills to pass out of their originating chamber in order to “remain eligible” for the rest of the legislative biennium (also known as Crossover) is less than three weeks away. This is why we are starting to see more bills being scheduled for committee hearings. Below we have outlined five important education bills being heard in committee next week, four of which are controversial: HB 284, SB 654, SB 671, and SB 593. We encourage you to reach out to committee members if you have concerns about any of these bills.

Notable Bills in Committee Next Week

HB 284: Repeal Right of Actions/Capital Outlay Fund (primary sponsors, which are all former county commissioners: Representatives Larry Potts, R-Davidson; Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck; Ben Moss, R-Richmond; Mark Pless, R-Haywood) will be heard in the House State Government Committee meeting at 11:00 am on Wednesday, April 28. This bill removes local school boards’ ability to take county commissioners to court if capital funding disputes are not resolved in mediation. If you have concerns about HB 284, we urge you to contact Committee members as soon as possible. This bill is currently scheduled to be heard in three more committees before going to the House floor for a vote. To date, there has not been a lawsuit filed exclusively over capital.

SB 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions (primary sponsors: Senators Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Don Davis, D-Pitt; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) will be heard in the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee meeting at 11:00 am on Wednesday, April 28. This bill provides statewide waivers of school performance grades, annual report cards, and low-performing school identification based on 2020-2021 school year data. SB 654 also includes language that would not permit the use of virtual academies for the 2021-2022 school year. It allows public school units to use up to 5 remote instruction days when schools cannot open due to severe weather or other emergency situations but does NOT allow additional remote instruction days to be used to satisfy the minimum number of instructional days for the school year.

This contrasts with a bill that was filed this week in the House that authorizes the use of remote academies by LEAs. HB 644: Remote Academies (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; John Torbett, R-Gaston) allows no more than 10% of total student enrollment in the LEA to be enrolled in a remote academy and applies beginning with the 2021-2022 school year (does not include an end date).

SB 671: Changes to the K-12 Scholarship Programs (primary sponsors: Senators Michael Lee, R-New Hanover; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Amy Galey, R-Alamance) will be heard in the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee meeting at 11:00 am on Wednesday, April 28. Some of the bill’s key points are as follows:

  • Opportunity Scholarships
    • Expands eligibility to students who are at least four years old, if approved by the principal (currently at least five years old by August 31)
    • Increases income eligibility from 150% to 175% of the amount required for the student to qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program
    • Allows students previously enrolled in Department of Defense Elementary and Secondary Schools to qualify for the scholarship
    • Changes the amount paid per voucher from $4,200 to the amount the State pays per charter school student (average was $6,451 in the 2019-2020 school year)
    • Authorizes up to $500,000 to promote the voucher program
  • Merges the Special Education Scholarships for Children with the Disabilities and Personal Education Savings Accounts into a new program called the Personal Education Student Accounts for Children with Disabilities (PESA-CWD)
    • Expands eligibility to students who are at least four years old, if approved by the principal (currently at least five years old by August 31)
    • Clarifies that students with certain disabilities would be eligible for scholarship funds up to $17,000 (this is the combined amount awarded in the previous two programs)
    • States that the total amount of funds carried forward for an eligible student in a personal education student account cannot exceed $30,000

SB 593: Special Education Due Process Hearings (primary sponsors: Senators Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) will be heard in the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee meeting at 11:00 am on Wednesday, April 28. While this bill will be for discussion only and will not be voted on in the meeting, it is important because it alters the appeals process for special education due process hearings by eliminating State Hearing Review Officers (SHRO). The SHROs currently review, upon the request of a party, the decisions made by administrative law judges. Should SB 593 become law, such decisions would be appealed in state or federal court.

HB 428: Teacher Licensure/Retired Education Program (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Mark Brody, R-Union; Charles Miller, R-Brunswick; Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford) was approved by the House Education K-12 Committee this week and will be heard in the House Pensions and Retirement Committee meeting at 2:00 pm on Tuesday, April 27. This bill modifies a limited teacher license to be a three-year renewable license (was nonrenewable). The limited license can only be requested by the local school board employing or seeking to employ the individual and can only be used for employment in that LEA. This bill also extends and expands the program that allows retired teachers to work in high-need schools.

School Calendar Flexibility Bills

This week two school calendar flexibility bills passed the House and were sent to the Senate:

  • HB 376: School Calendar Flexibility (primary sponsors: Representatives Phil Shephard, R-Onslow; George Cleveland, R-Onslow; Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin) is a statewide bill that permits schools to open no earlier than the Monday closest to August 19 (currently August 26). HB 376 passed 114-1.
  • HB 202: School Calendar Flexibility/Certain Counties (primary sponsor: Representative Howard Penny, R-Harnett) provides full calendar flexibility to schools in Harnett, Jackson, and Swain counties. HB 202 passed on a voice vote.

Also this week, the House Local Government Committee approved nine local school calendar bills affecting 21 school districts, and the House State Government Committee approved a modified version of HB 12: Address Pandemic Learning Loss/Counties. HB 12 now gives Alamance-Burlington Schools and Guilford County Schools local control of the school calendar for two years. All 10 local bills have been referred to the House Rules Committee, which is the last stop before a vote on the House floor. Last week two local school calendar flexibility bills passed the House and were sent to the Senate but neither have seen any action: HB 125 and HB 201. All local school calendar flexibility bills affect a total of 45 school districts.

Other Education Bills with Action This Week

HB 545: Mandatory Training Contributing to CEUs (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford; John Torbett, R-Gaston) passed the House 115-0 and was sent to the Senate. This bill allows teachers to receive continuing education credits for completing mandatory trainings and modifies the digital teaching and learning renewal requirements for professional educators.

HB 256: Smart Sch. Bus Safety Pilot/Certain Counties (primary sponsors: Representatives Larry Strickland, R-Harnett; John Bell, R-Greene; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Destin Hall, R-Caldwell) was modified and approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Appropriations Committee. This bill establishes the Smart School Bus Safety Pilot Program in 21 LEAs with the goal of modernizing student transportation through technology in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds are appropriated to each participating LEA and the program is set to begin in the 2021-2022 school year and end by January 1, 2025.

Bill Chart

Click here for a chart of all education-related bills that NCBSA is tracking.

 

The State Board of Education met for a called meeting on Monday and approved:

HB 82: Summer Learning Choice for NC Families/SL 2021-7 requires LEAs to provide a voluntary summer learning program for at-risk students (allows for additional students to participate within space available). The SBE approved guidance for the program, as well as a definition of competency-based assessment. SL 2021-7 requires DPI to provide LEAs with a single competency-based assessment tool that will be used to evaluate students’ progression in the program and retention rates for the upcoming school year. DPI is recommending iReady as the assessment tool because it is already widely used in the State, but LEAs may use an alternative assessment tool with approval of DPI’s Office of Learning Recovery.

LEAs are required to identify at-risk students and notify parents or guardians about a student’s eligibility for the summer learning program. Although attendance to the program is optional, LEAs have the authority to retain students who are at-risk and do not participate in the program. With the end of the 2020-2021 school year quickly approaching, it is important to note that LEAs are required to submit a plan for their summer learning program no later than 30 days prior to the last instructional day of this school year. The following are helpful links as districts prepare their plan for the program:

The Board also approved budget considerations for the 10% DPI reserve of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III funding. Budget considerations include:

  • Extended learning recovery after-school enrichment ($50,000,000)
  • Social-emotional learning resources and programs ($10,000,000)
  • High-impact tutoring ($30,000,000)
  • Cybersecurity ($10,000,000)

There is a total of 17 budget considerations that add up to $248 million. The next step is SBE approval of DPI’s fully developed plans for each budget consideration and policy recommendations. Following Board approval, these budget considerations will need to be appropriated by the General Assembly. Click here to access DPI’s ESSER III budget considerations presentation.

Click here to access all meeting materials.

 

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that child nutrition waivers will be extended through the 2021-2022 school year as the nation continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously the waivers were only extended through September 30, 2021. These waivers allow meals to continue being free for all children and support flexibilities in serving meals while practicing social distancing. Additionally, the USDA’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option will be available through the school year. Click here for a USDA press release, and click here for a USDA message to child nutrition leaders.

 

On Wednesday, Governor Roy Cooper announced his plans to lift mandatory social distancing, capacity, and mass gathering restrictions by June 1. These plans are contingent upon continued stable trends and vaccination success. Additionally, the mask mandate would remain in place. Should the capacity and mass gathering restrictions be lifted, this will allow more flexibility for spring graduation ceremonies and what is left of the spring sports season. The Governor will be issuing a new executive order next week outlining safety restrictions for May.

 

The DRIVE (Developing a Representative and Inclusive Vision for Education) Task Force met on Tuesday to discuss its next steps in implementing and advocating for the recommendations and strategies included in the DRIVE Report that was presented to the Governor on January 1, 2021. Task Force members were presented with initiatives, pending legislation, and nonprofit work that relates to the recommendations in the report. The purpose of the Task Force is to improve equity and inclusion in the teacher workforce, with the ultimate goal of improving student success. To read more about the meeting and the Task Force’s report recommendations click here.

 

The following additional education-related bills were filed this week.

Statewide Bills

 

Monday, April 26

7:00 pm – State of the State Address (live stream)

  • Governor Roy Cooper will report on the state of North Carolina and his priorities for the next two years to a joint session of the House and Senate

Tuesday, April 27

10:00 am – House Health Committee – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

1:00 pm – House Education K-12 – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

1:00 pm – House Local Government – Legislative Building, rm 1228/1327 (live stream)

2:00 pm – House Pensions and Retirement – Legislative Offices Building, rm 415 (live stream)

Wednesday, April 28

11:00 am – Senate Education/Higher Education – Legislative Offices Building, rm 544 (live stream)

11:00 am – House State Government – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

 

 

 

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

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rbostic@ncsba.org

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

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – April 23, 2021
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NCSBA Legislative Update – April 16, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – April 16, 2021

 

Voucher Bill

On Wednesday HB 32: Equity in Opportunity Act (primary sponsors: Representatives Dean Arp, R-Union; Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln) passed the House along party lines (69-49), with all Republicans voting yes and all Democrats voting no. Before passing the House, an amendment submitted by Representative Rachel Hunt, D-Mecklenburg, that would have required students in the voucher program to take a common exam to evaluate the effectiveness of the program was voted down. HB 32 in its current state does not include any measurements of student achievement or success. The failed amendment was put into its own bill that was filed on Thursday (see more about HB 569 below). The following are key features of the 15-page bill:

Part I. Opportunity Scholarship Grant Program

  • Expands the definition of eligible beginning student from those entering grades K-1 to students entering grades K-2, beginning spring semester 2021-2022. Added to eligible students are four-year-olds with birthdays on or before April 16 that a school principal deems to be gifted or mature enough for school admittance (currently at least five years old by August 31).
  • Expands eligibility to include students whose parents are honorably discharged from the Armed Services in the past 18 months (income eligibility must be met).
  • Expands financial eligibility to include all foster children.
  • The scholarship grant cap increases from a fixed amount of $4,200 to 70% of the average State per pupil allocation beginning in the 2022-2023 school year. Based on last year’s numbers, the scholarship would increase to $4,646. The formula increases from 70% to 80% in the 2023-2024 school year.

Part II. Personal Education Savings Accounts

  • Merges the Personal Education Savings Accounts program and the Special Education Scholarships for Children with Disabilities program to form the Personal Education Student Accounts for Children with Disabilities.
  • Expands eligibility of students to four-year-olds with birthdays on or before April 16 that a school principal deems to be gifted or mature enough for school admittance (currently at least 5 years old by August 31).
  • Modifies the maximum scholarship amount per eligible student to be based on a percentage formula, rather than a fixed amount. Using last year’s numbers, the maximum amount per scholarship would increase from $9,000 to $10,091.
  • Creates a 10-year funding reserve similar to the voucher program and appropriates money for that reserve.

Part III. Local Funds to Supplement K-12 Scholarships

  • Authorizes the use of county property taxes for supplemental funds for students receiving K-12 scholarships for educational purposes.
  • Beginning in fiscal year 2021-2022, authorizes counties to appropriate up to $1,000 per child who lives in the county and receives a grant from one of the following: Special Education Scholarships for Children with Disabilities, Opportunity Scholarship Grant, and Personal Education Savings Account.

As a reminder, the Senate recently filed a similar version of the House’s voucher bill last week (SB 671). We outlined the major differences between the two bills in last week’s Legislative Update (second bill under Notable Bills Filed This Week).

School Calendar Flexibility Bills

On Tuesday, the House Education K-12 Committee approved 16 local school calendar flexibility bills, as well as one statewide bill. On Wednesday, two of the local bills passed the House and are now in the Senate:

  • HB 125: School Calendar Flexibility/Lenoir County (primary sponsor: Chris Humphrey, R-Lenoir) allows local school boards in Cumberland County, Franklin County, Lenoir County, Nash County, and Pitt County to determine schools’ opening and closing dates.
  • HB 201: Academic Alignment/Certain School Units (primary sponsors: Dean Arp, R-Union; Sarah Stevens, R-Alleghany; Mark Brody, R-Union; David Willis, R-Union) allows school calendar flexibility in Chatham County, Edgecombe County, Elkin City, Martin County, Mount Airy City, Surry County, and Union County if a school is year-round or if a school’s calendar is aligned with the opening date of the local community college.

All 16 local bills affect a total of 37 school districts, and many of the bills were presented as a means to address COVID-19 learning loss. Based on past Senate inaction and Senate Leader Phil Berger being quoted saying “I don’t know that the appetite for school calendar bills has changed”, we are unsure if the bills will be considered in the Senate. 10 of the local bills are scheduled to be heard in the House Local Government Committee meeting next Tuesday, April 20 at 11:00 am (see list of bills under April 19-23 Legislative Meeting Calendar). HB 12, a local bill affecting Alamance-Burlington Schools, and HB 376, a statewide bill, will be heard in the House State Government Committee meeting next Wednesday, April 21 at 11:00 am. For an article covering the progress of these school calendar flexibility bills, as well as other legislative action, click here.

Notable Bills Filed This Week

HB 579: School Self-Defense Act (primary sponsors: Representatives Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus; Mark Brody, R-Union; Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort) was filed on Wednesday and authorizes certain school personnel to carry a handgun on school grounds to use in response to an act of violence or an imminent threat of violence. The bill sets forth requirements for these “volunteer school faculty guardians” and also clarifies that local school boards have the authority to prohibit the possession of a handgun on school grounds.

HB 569: Enabling Opportunity Scholarship Reporting (primary sponsors: Representatives Cynthia Ball, D-Wake; Rachel Hunt, D-Mecklenburg; Amos Quick, D-Guilford; Graig Meyer, D-Orange) was filed on Wednesday and includes the contents of the amendment to HB 32 (mentioned above) that was voted down on the House floor by the majority party. The bill requires the administration of a common exam to nonpublic and public-school students as a means to measure student achievement in the opportunity scholarship grant program. The bill provides appropriations for the selection of an independent organization to conduct research and report its evaluations.

For a list of other education-related bills filed this week look under Bills Filed near the end of the Update.

Bill Chart

Click here for a chart of all education-related bills that NCBSA is tracking.

 

On Tuesday, the Joint Legislative Committee on Governmental Operations, which is chaired by Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, voted to launch an investigation into the NC High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA). The investigation comes as lawmakers say that the NCHSAA, a nonprofit organization that receives state tax dollars, has accumulated too much money compared to other state associations. Tuesday’s meeting was followed by appointments to the Subcommittee on Interscholastic Athletics, which had their first meeting on Thursday. The Thursday meeting consisted of discussion and questioning of NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker about the Association’s total assets of more than $40 million, the competitive imbalance in 1A athletics, and the Association’s service to its member schools. Tucker stated that these concerns will be the focus of the next NCHSAA board meeting in May. Click here to access an article on the Thursday meeting.

Additionally, SB 548: Interscholastic Athletics (primary sponsors: Senators Todd Johnson, R-Union; Tom McInnis, R-Richmond; Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell), which was filed last week, authorizes the State Auditor to conduct an audit of the NCHSAA’s finances.

 

During a hearing this week on the decades-long Leandro case, Judge David Lee stated that rather than telling the legislature how much money they need to spend, he wants “this to be a cooperative effort with everyone having the same goal in mind.” This hearing follows the State Board of Education’s and DPI’s submission of their Comprehensive Remedial Plan on Monday, March 15, which currently calls for State spending of $5.6 billion over the next eight years. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the necessary motion that would turn this remedial plan into a legal requirement of the State to abide by its constitutional obligation of providing every student with the opportunity to a sound, basic education. For more on the hearing, click here.

 

NC families have another chance to receive $335 in coronavirus relief through the 2020 NC Extra Credit Grant. The NC Department of Health and Human Services is working with the NC Department of Revenue to share information that explains if an individual with a dependent child who was 16 or younger at the end of 2019 is eligible for the $335 extra credit grant. If families with children did not receive this coronavirus relief payment last fall, click here for another chance to apply through May 31, 2021. Click here for a video that explains eligibility and the application process.

 

On Wednesday, a press conference led by SAS CEO Jim Goodnight reiterated business leaders’ plea to address and improve early literacy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The press conference included eight business leaders, as well as State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis, and UNC System Senior Vice President for Strategy and Policy Andrew Kelly. The business leaders expressed support for SB 387: Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021/SL 2021-8 and called on the State to more adequately fund NC Pre-K and science of reading training. To read more about the press conference, click here.

 

This week Governor Cooper announced new appointments and nominations to North Carolina boards and commissions. The following individuals were nominated to serve on the State Board of Education:

  • Eric Davis as a representative for the 6th educational district, who currently serves as the Board Chair
    • Currently serves as a member at-large
  • Alan Duncan as a representative for the 5th educational district, who currently serves as the Board Vice Chair
  • Melody Chalmers McClain as a representative for the 4th educational district
    • Replacing Dr. Olivia Oxendine
  • Ronald Hargrave as a member at-large
    • Replacing J.B. Buxton who left the Board to serve as the President of Durham Technical Community College

 

The following additional education-related bills were filed this week.

Statewide Bills

  • HB 545: Mandatory Training Contributing to CEUs (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Ashton Clemmons; D-Guilford; John Torbett, R-Gaston)
    • CEUs stands for continuing education units
  • HB 550: Free Breakfast & Lunch in Pub. Sch. Units (primary sponsors: Representatives Cecil Brockman, D-Guilford; Amos Quick, D-Guilford; John Autry, D-Mecklenburg; Rosa Gill, D-Wake)
  • HB 555: 2021 Governor’s Budget (primary sponsors: Representatives Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Dean Arp, R-Union; John Faircloth, R-Guilford)
    • This bill contains the Governor’s budget recommendations that were released on Wednesday, March 24
    • Companion bill to SB 622
  • HB 558: Prohibit Mandatory CV19 Vaccinations (primary sponsors: Representatives Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus; Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort)
    • This bill makes it unlawful to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine in NC, to require proof of vaccination, to discriminate in public spaces or employment based on vaccine status, to mandate vaccine tracking, and to require the waiving of privacy rights to obtain a vaccine
  • HB 567: 2021 Youth END Act (primary sponsors: Representatives Gale Adcock, D-Wake; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg; Cynthia Ball, D-Wake)
  • HB 568: Youth Mentoring Services Act (primary sponsors: Representatives Graig Meyer, D-Orange; Jon Hardister, R-Guilford; Ricky Hurtado, D-Alamance)
  • HB 576: Marijuana Justice and Reinvestment Act (primary sponsors: Representatives Graig Meyer, D-Orange; Raymond Smith, D-Sampson; John Ager, D-Buncombe; Terry Brown, D-Mecklenburg)
    • Companion bill to SB 646
    • See page 16, lines 1-4
  • HB 580: My Body, My Choice Medical Privacy Act (primary sponsors: Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort; Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck; Edward Goodwin, R-Bertie)
  • HB 586: Allow Public Employee Collective Bargaining (primary sponsors: Representatives Terry Brown, D-Mecklenburg; Zack Hawkins, D-Durham; John Autry, D-Mecklenburg; Vernetta Alston, D-Durham)
  • HB 591: Fines and Forfeitures/Payments to Schools (primary sponsor: Representative James Galliard, D-Nash)
    • This bill directs excess receipts in the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund to be transferred to the School Technology Fund in the same fiscal year and any capital funds for school technology to be used toward the payment of the $730 million in school technology funding owed to public schools, per a 2008 court judgment
  • HB 592: Remove Restriction on Public School Cap. Fund (primary sponsor: Representative James Galliard, D-Nash)
  • SB 717: Taxpayer Bill of Rights (primary sponsors: Senators Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus; Warren Daniel, R-Burke; Bill Rabon, R-Bladen)
    • One of the many things that this bill requires is that voters approve all local tax changes

Local Bill

 

Tuesday, April 20

11:00 am – House Local Government – Legislative Offices Building, rm 415 (live stream)

2:00 pm – House Pensions and Retirement – Legislative Offices Building, rm 415 (live stream)

4:00 pm – House Education K-12 – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

Wednesday, April 21

11:00 am – House State Government – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

The following are two additional meetings being held next week:

 

 

 

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

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rbostic@ncsba.org

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

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – April 16, 2021
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NCSBA Legislative Update – April 9, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – April 9, 2021

 

Despite the legislature not holding session or committee meetings this week due to their spring break, a whopping 248 bills were filed. This is compared to most weeks which average around 100 bills filed. Most bills were filed by Senators prior to the Senate public bill filing deadline on Wednesday. The House still has until May 4 to file public bills and May 11 to file public money bills. Of the 248 bills filed this week, 38 are education-related (see list below). We have provided summaries of some of the filed bills. Bill content ranges from teacher pay increases to school capital to early education.

Today the Governor signed the following education bills into law:

For summaries of these bills, click here to access last week’s Legislative Update.

Notable Bills Filed This Week

SB 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions (primary sponsors: Senators Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Don Davis, D-Pitt; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover)

  • Waives the reporting of school performance grades, annual report cards, and low performing school identification based on 2020-2021 school year data
  • Provides remote instruction guidance, clarification on principal recruitment supplements, and context on teacher performance/effectiveness data for the 2021-2022 school year

SB 671: Changes to the K-12 Scholarship Programs (primary sponsors: Senators Michael Lee, R-New Hanover; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Amy Galey, R-Alamance) has many similarities to HB 32: Equity in Opportunity Act (primary sponsors: Representatives Dean Arp, R-Union; Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln), but also has the following major differences:

  • Does not include a 10-year appropriated reserve for education savings accounts
  • Does not allow counties to fund vouchers
  • Increases income eligibility from 150% to 175% of the amount required for the student to qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program
  • Changes the amount paid per voucher from $4,200 to the amount the State pays per charter school student
    • HB 32 increases the voucher from $4,200 to 70% of the average State per pupil allocation beginning in the 2022-2023 school year and further increases to 80% in the 2023-2024 school year

HB 497: Support Veteran Teachers (primary sponsor: Representative Brenden Jones, R-Columbus)/SB 551: Support Veteran Teachers (primary sponsor: Senator Danny Britt, R-Robeson)

  • Raises base salaries for teachers with 15-24 years of experience from $5,000 to $5,250 per month and for teachers with 25 or more years of experience from $5,200 to $5,460

SB 700: Balanced Political Discussion in Classrooms (primary sponsors: Senators Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson; Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth; Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell)

  • Applies to all public school units (PSUs), except charter schools
  • Requires curriculum, professional development, and teaching standards used in public school classrooms to reflect balanced political viewpoints
  • When the viewpoint of one of the two major political parties is presented by whatever means in a classroom or other area of the school, the viewpoint of the alternative political party must also be presented and given equal weight during the same instructional unit
  • Requires applicable PSUs to post to their website a list of instructional materials, activities, and any procedures for approval of those materials
    • Applicable PSUs with less than 500 students are not required to comply with this requirement

SB 514: Youth Health Protection Act (primary sponsors: Senators Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell; Warren Daniel, R-Caldwell; Norman Sanderson, R-Carteret)

  • Requires school personnel that notice a student demonstrating gender dysphoria or nonconformity to immediately notify, in writing, each of the student’s parents or guardians and specifically describe the circumstances
  • States that school personnel will be disciplined if they withhold information or coerce a student to withhold information from their parents regarding the student’s physical and mental health

Attention School Board Attorneys

SB 593: Special Education Due Process Hearings (primary sponsors: Senators Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover), which was filed on Tuesday, alters the appeals process for special education due process hearings by eliminating State Hearing Review Officers (SHRO). The SHROs currently review, upon the request of a party, the decisions made by administrative law judges. Should the bill become law, such decisions would be appealed in state or federal court.

We are asking school board attorneys to review SB 593 and provide any concerns or feedback to Bruce Mildwurf, Director of Governmental Relations, at bmildwurf@ncsba.org.

Attention School Finance Officers

HB 159: Education Law Changes (primary sponsors: Representatives John Torbett, R-Gaston; Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke), which passed the House last week and is now in the Senate, contains a school nutrition section that we would like to bring to the attention of school finance officers and others involved in this area. This bill prohibits public school units from assessing indirect costs to a school nutrition program unless the program has a minimum of three month’s operating balance (currently is one month). Additionally, the bill adds a new requirement prohibiting public school units from assessing indirect costs that are more than 8% of a school nutrition program’s annual budget per fiscal year. If this provision is a concern for your district, please contact your State Senator and the House bill sponsors, as well as Bruce Mildwurf, Director of Governmental Relations, at bmildwurf@ncsba.org.

Attention School Finance Officers and Superintendents

HB 508: Education Funding Transparency (primary sponsor: Representative Mike Clampitt, R-Swain), which was filed this week, contains local school board budget reporting requirements that we would like to bring to the attention of school finance officers and superintendents. HB 508 is a companion bill of SB 406: Education Funding Transparency (primary sponsors: Senators Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson; Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell; Kevin Corbin, R-Macon). The bills do the following:

  • Require reporting on local education expenditures and annual independent audits of LEA accounts to include program report code and object code
  • Require local school boards to submit their annual budgets to county commissioners with detail on local funds down to the program report code and object code level
  • Allow county commissioners to appropriate local funds at the program report code level

Next Week

The legislative meeting calendar is quickly filling up for next week, most notably in the House Education K-12 Committee meeting on Tuesday, April 13 at 1:00 pm (live stream). The Committee’s agenda currently includes 13 local school calendar flexibility bills that affect a total of 19 counties. Some bills are focused on combatting pandemic learning loss and expire within the next few school years, while others do not include a sunset date. See the April 12-16 Legislative Meeting Calendar section at the end of the Update for the list of bills, including links.

Bill Chart

Click here for a chart of all education-related bills that NCBSA is tracking.

 

The SBE met for their monthly meeting on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Board members were presented with the following:

Testing and accountability updates: The State’s federal waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education was approved on March 26 and waives the State from accountability measures, school identification, and some reporting requirements for the 2020-2021 school year. Despite this waiver, national assessments are still required and will be administered in-person. These assessments include grades 3-8 reading and math, grades 5 and 8 science, and high school end-of-course tests (EOCs). State Superintendent Catherine Truitt stated that her team will provide recommendations on how much end-of-grade tests (EOGs) and EOCs will count towards students’ grades. Following the approval of the federal waiver, the next step is to submit a waiver request from State accountability measures to the General Assembly, which was previously approved by the SBE. DPI presenters said that they will be tracking SB 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions, which was filed by Senate leadership on Tuesday and would waive school performance grades, annual report cards, and low-performing school identification based 2020-2021 school year data.

ESSER III application, draft allotments, and allotment policy: Board members approved the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III) funding application, draft allotments, and allotment policy. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides NC with $3.6 billion in ESSER III funds, $3.2 billion (90%) of which will go directly to public school units (PSUs). The following are ESSER III funding requirements for PSUs:

  • At least 20% must be used to address learning loss
  • PSUs must create a safe return to in-person instruction plan
  • PSUs must maintain equity in high-poverty schools (funding levels cannot be disproportionately lowered)

Like ESSER II, PSUs are required to apply for funding. DPI plans to open the application on April 12 and expects to receive submitted applications by May 7 in order to process them during this current fiscal year. DPI staff also provided an informative presentation on ESSER I, II, and III allotment policies, which includes total funds, funding uses, and expiration dates.

StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit: The Board voted to approve the current version of the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit (updated on March 24, 2021) as official guidance for in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, unless otherwise extended or modified. The motion to approve the Toolkit included language saying that the Board’s approval does not override the requirements of SB 220: The Reopen Our Schools Act of 2021/SL 2021-4, which requires compliance with the Toolkit as that guidance existed on March 4, 2021. The SBE, DPI, and NCSBA have been trying to work with legislators to modify the language in SB 220. To date, legislative leaders have not been willing to do so. We will continue our efforts next week as legislators return from their weeklong vacation.

DHHS COVID-19 update: DHHS staff presented updates to the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit, including the recommendation that school entry screenings are no longer necessary. DHHS still recommends testing as a component of mitigation strategies in K-12 schools, and these tests will continue to be offered at no cost to schools for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. Staff added that they are submitting a funding request and plan to the CDC for a statewide vendor to support screening testing in schools. Additionally, students who are 16 or older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The presentation concluded with joint DHHS/DPI guidance on prom and graduation, which includes compliance with current capacity limits, requirement of face coverings, and utilization of rapid tests. Click here to access the DHHS presentation that includes data, resources, and guidance.

Click here to access all meeting materials.

Click here for an article summarizing the meeting.

The following additional education-related bills were filed this week.

Statewide Bills

Local Bills

 

Tuesday, April 13

1:00 pm – House Local Government – Legislative Building, rm 1228/1327 (live stream)

1:00 pm – House Education K-12 – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

Wednesday, April 14

12:00 pm – House Judiciary – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

 

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

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rbostic@ncsba.org

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

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – April 9, 2021
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NCSBA Legislative Update – April 1, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – April 1, 2021

 

Legislators wasted no time moving along many significant education bills before both chambers take a spring break next week. Bills were passing out of one chamber and being heard in the next chamber’s committee meeting within minutes, making it feel much more like the end of session rather than early April. A bill sponsored by Senate Leader Phil Berger and a bill sponsored by House Speaker Tim Moore are now awaiting the Governor’s signature. SB 387: Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021 (primary sponsors: Senators Phil Berger, R-Rockingham; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover), which modifies the State’s Read to Achieve program, was filed on Monday and quickly sped through the legislative process. HB 82: Summer Learning Choice for NC Families (primary sponsors: Representatives Tim Moore, R-Cleveland; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Jeff Zenger, R-Forsyth), which mandates that each LEA provide a voluntary summer learning program for at-risk students, passed the Senate and concurred in the House. See more about each of these bills below.

Read to Achieve Bill

A bill modifying the State’s Read to Achieve program was filed on Monday, passed the Senate 48-0, passed the House 113-5, and was sent to the Governor. Bill sponsors and State Superintendent Catherine Truitt held a press conference announcing the filing of SB 387: Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021 (primary sponsors: Senators Phil Berger, R-Rockingham; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover), emphasizing its implementation of the science of reading into early childhood literacy. Before passing the Senate, an amendment was approved that sets a minimum $1,200 signing bonus for teachers who (i) work in reading camps, (ii) are associated with high growth in reading based on EVAAS data, and (iii) were previously awarded a reading performance bonus by DPI. The amendment also sets a performance bonus for teachers of at least $150 for each of their third-grade students who becomes proficient in reading by the end of the reading camp. Additionally, SB 387 does the following:

  • Defines the science of reading as “evidenced-based reading instruction practices that address the acquisition of language, phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics and spelling, fluency, vocabulary, oral language, and comprehension that can be differentiated to meet the needs of individual students.”
  • Bill sponsors mentioned Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) as the training program to be used for science of reading training for teachers working with NC Pre-K and K-5 students
    • HB 196/SL 2021-3 appropriates $12 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to contract with Voyager Sopris Learning, Inc. to provide LETRS training for teachers.
  • Establishes the Early Literacy Program within DPI (and in collaboration with DHHS) to facilitate the implementation of the science of reading into the NC Pre-K program
    • Requires an assessment of each child at the end of NC Pre-K to determine kindergarten readiness and share the results with the child’s kindergarten teacher
  • Requires Education Preparation Programs (EPPs) seeking approval or renewal on or after July 1, 2022 to include science of reading coursework
  • Requires LEAs to align literacy instruction with science of reading standards and an implementation plan developed by the State Board of Education (SBE) and DPI by the beginning of the 2024-2025 school year
  • Incorporates the science of reading into literacy interventions and reading camps
    • Requires LEAs to offer reading camps to third grade students who do not demonstrate reading proficiency and second grade students who demonstrate difficulty with reading development, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year
    • Allows LEAs to offer reading camps to first grade students who demonstrate difficulty with reading development, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year
    • Requires LEAs to submit a plan to DPI annually by October 1 describing literacy interventions that will be offered during the next school year, including reading camps, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year
  • Requires the development of an Individualized Reading Plan (IRP) for K-3 students demonstrating difficulty with reading development, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year
  • Establishes a Digital Children’s Reading Initiative that requires DPI to provide links to high-quality resources for families based on the science of reading and categorized by skill deficiency and grade level
  • Requires the SBE to approve one alternative reading comprehension assessment for use, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year
  • Requires DPI to create a uniform reporting structure for Read to Achieve data, beginning with 2021-2022 school year

Click here for an article on SB 387.

Summer Learning Bill

After a month of waiting to be heard in the Senate, HB 82: Summer Learning Choice for NC Families (primary sponsors: Representatives Tim Moore, R-Cleveland; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Jeff Zenger, R-Forsyth) passed the Senate 48-0, concurred in the House 119-0, and was sent to the Governor. This bill mandates that each LEA provide a voluntary summer learning program for at-risk students (allows for additional students to participate within space available). Changes to the bill include:

  • Clarifies that year-round schools may offer the program during vacation periods through October 1, 2021
  • Allows LEAs to offer courses to high school students through the NC Virtual Public School
  • Clarifies that transportation to the program must be aligned with the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) as of March 24, 2021
  • Requires a student who was retained for the 2021-2022 school year to be reassessed by their principal upon completion of the program (was “students who are at-risk of grade retention”)
  • Requires LEAs to provide teacher bonuses:
    • A minimum $1,200 signing bonus for teachers who have previously received a reading performance bonus or hold National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification
    • A minimum $150 performance bonus to teachers for each third-grade student who becomes proficient in reading by the end of the program
  • Extends the expiration of temporary contracts for all school personnel hired under this program from August 1, 2021 to October 1, 2021
  • Removes language that would have removed K-3 class size limits for the program
  • Clarifies that reading camp funds must only be used to support K-3 reading instruction in the program
  • Removes language that would have allowed students not enrolled in the LEA to participate in the program (enrolling those students was optional)
  • Removes language that would have directed the SBE to require LEAs to implement innovative benchmark assessments in certain grades and core subjects, beginning with the 2021-2022 school year
  • Requires the SBE to provide LEAs with an assessment per grade and subject for K-8 students to be taken at the beginning and end of the program
  • Changes the student academic performance reporting requirement date for LEAs to DPI from September 1, 2021 to October 15, 2021 (DPI will report to the legislature)

Additionally, HB 82 does the following:

  • Requires each LEA to submit a plan for its program to DPI no later than 30 days prior to the last instructional day of the 2020-2021 school year, and the plans must include:
    1. Instruction for at least 150 hours or 30 days
    2. Meal service each day
    3. A physical activity period each day
    4. Grade level course offerings
    5. Transportation in accordance with Plan A
    6. Time in the instructional day for teachers to provide individual or small group instruction to at-risk students
    7. Voluntary student participation (kindergarten students participating in the program are exempt from retention for the 2021-2022 school year and all other students who were retained for the 2021-2022 school year who participate in the program will receive a reassessment of promotion eligibility)
    8. Outreach to increase program participation
  • Allows retired teachers (retired by March 1) to be hired after one month separation (normally six months)
  • Requires schools to provide in-person social and emotional learning supports for students
  • Expresses intent to use federal COVID-19 funds directed to DPI for the program
  • Clarifies that the program will be funded by the LEA’s existing funds, including the recently appropriated federal COVID-19 funds, fiscal year 2020-2021 reading camp funds, and at-risk funds

Charter School Payment Bill

Following intense and lengthy negotiations between NCSBA, the NC Association of School Administrators, and the NC Coalition for Charter Schools, a much-improved bill was presented to the House Education K-12 and House Rules Committees and passed the House on a 117-2 vote. Changes to HB 335: Timely Local Payments to Charter Schools (primary sponsors: Representatives John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg; Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance; Jon Hardister, R-Guilford; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln) include:

  • Requires that the 30-day clock for an LEA to submit payment to a charter school begin after the LEA is in receipt of both a charter school invoice and the monies into the local current expense fund (originally, the 30-day clock started after the LEA received a charter school invoice)
  • Requires an LEA to submit a payment to a charter school for the undisputed amount within the 30-day period
  • Requires an LEA to pay a 5% late fee only if both of the following occur:
    • A charter school provides written notice to the LEA’s superintendent and school finance officer after the 30-day period stating that the payment was not received
    • Electronic payment is not transferred within 15 days of that notice, or if mailed, not postmarked within 15 days of that notice (originally, the bill included an 8% late fee on day 31)
  • If the late fee is triggered, requires interest to accrue at a rate of 8% annually until the payment is received by the charter school
  • Requires the State Superintendent, in consultation with LEAs and charter schools, to create:
    • A standardized enrollment verification and transfer request document used by charter schools to request the per pupil share of the local current expense fund
    • A standardized procedure that LEAs must use when transferring the per pupil share of the local current expense fund

NCSBA does not support a late fee for LEAs but given the procedures and timeframes in the newly compromised bill, it is our hope that the penalty will never come into play.

Status of Other Notable Bills

HB 53: Educ. Changes for Military-Connected Students (primary sponsors: Representatives George Cleveland, R-Onslow; John Bell, R-Greene; Grier Martin, D-Wake) passed the Senate, concurred in the House, and was sent to the Governor. This bill would allow students of active-duty military parents who live out-of-state to attend school in NC if the student lives with a caregiver who lives in-state.

HB 18: Local School Administrative Unit Cash Management (primary sponsor: Representative Ted Davis, R-New Hanover) passed the House and was sent to the Senate. This bill authorizes public school units to hold State funds in local bank accounts for up to three business days after the date of drawing on the State funds, before making a final disbursement to the ultimate payee. This is a departure from the current cash management statute that requires the State Treasurer to keep money on deposit until final disbursement to the ultimate payee.

In 2020, the State Treasurer’s office identified a problem during the pilot testing for the DPI School Business Modernization Development Process software implementation. Without the change in HB 18, the new software could potentially make public school units out of compliance with the State Controller’s cash management statute.

HB 159: Education Law Changes (primary sponsors: Representatives John Torbett, R-Gaston; Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke) was approved by the House Rules Committee and passed the House. Highlights of the bill include:

  • Allows LEAs to use a payroll deduction plan to pay teachers in 12 monthly installments, regardless of
    • When the request is made (currently must be made on or before the first day of the school year)
    • If they are employed for less than 12 months
  • Requires the State Board of Education to follow the rulemaking process (G.S.150B) when adopting course standards

NCSBA is continuing to work with DPI and legislators to ensure that the payroll deduction plan is available to school employees paid on an hourly or other basis.

HB 32: Equity in Opportunity Act (three of the four primary sponsors are former school board members: Representatives Dean Arp, R-Union; Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln) was approved by the House Education Appropriations Committee and referred to the House Rules Committee. This bill does the following:

  • Expands eligibility even further for recipients of opportunity scholarships and personal education savings accounts
  • Increases the opportunity scholarship grant cap by an estimated $446 in the 2022-2023 school year, with an additional increase in the 2023-2024 school year
  • Increases the maximum personal education savings account amount per eligible student by an estimated $1,091 in the 2023-2024 school year
  • Authorizes counties to appropriate local funds toward these scholarships, beginning with the 2021-2022 fiscal year

The bill does not include measures of educational attainment and success of private school scholarship recipients. Click here to access the General Assembly’s summary of HB 32.

HB 285: ENS Railroad Train/Driver Ed Curriculum (primary sponsors: Representatives Howard Penny, R-Harnett; Mike Clampitt, R-Swain) was approved by the House Transportation and Education K-12 Committees and referred to the House Rules Committee. This bill requires driver education curriculum to include instruction on the Emergency Notification System for railroad train emergencies.

Bill Chart

Click here for a chart of all education-related bills that NCBSA is tracking.

 

Last week’s Legislative Update summarized the Governor’s recommended budget, including a $4.7 billion bond referendum for November 2021, which would provide $2.5 billion for school capital projects. Click here to see the LEA allocation list for the recommended bond. As a reminder, following the release of the Govenor’s budget recommendations, a Governor’s budget bill will be filed. The Senate is continuing to work on its budget bill to be released in the coming weeks.

 

Statewide Bills

Local Bill

 

A new NC teacher’s group called the Carolina Teachers Alliance was recently formed, and you may be hearing more about them in the coming weeks. According to news reports, the Alliance was created by conservative activists who are “focused on traditional education.” Amy Marshall, the Alliance’s president, is a former Wake County teacher and leader of the Wake Conservative Parents Alliance. To read more about the Carolina Teachers Alliance, click here.

 

 

 

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

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rbostic@ncsba.org

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

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – April 1, 2021
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NCSBA Legislative Update – March 26, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – March 26, 2021

 

On Wednesday, the Governor released his recommended budget, which includes $11.1 billion in FY 2021-2022 (11.1% increase from the base budget) and $11.7 billion in FY 2022-2023 (16.3% increase from the base budget) for K-12 public education. The following are highlights from the K-12 education section of the budget:

  • Provides bonuses for teachers, principals, and all other school personnel
    • $2,000 bonus in May 2021
    • $1,000 bonus in each year of the biennium
  • Includes pay increases over the biennium
    • 10% average pay increase for teachers, principals, assistant principals, and instructional support personnel
    • 5% pay increase for noncertified personnel and central office staff
  • Requires all noncertified personnel to be paid at least $15/hour and provides funds to districts to cover noncertified personnel salaries paid with local dollars
  • Restores master’s pay for teachers whose advanced degrees are in the subjects they teach
  • Starting in FY 2022-2023, restores annual State funding to fully fund the cost for up to 1,000 teachers to become National Board Certified
  • Proposes a $4.7 billion statewide bond referendum for November 2021, including $2.5 billion for school capital projects
  • Provides $120 million over the biennium for approximately 1,000 full-time school counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists
  • Creates a new professional development allotment of $30 million over the biennium for teachers and school leaders in areas such as digital literacy and personalized learning
  • Provides $50 million over the biennium in additional teacher assistant funding to support K-3 literacy
  • Provides $4 million in nonrecurring funds in FY 2022-2023 (in addition to the $12 million in federal ESSER funds) to support early literacy instruction based on the science of reading
  • Removes funding caps and increases funding for
    • Children with Disabilities allotments ($40M in FY 21-22/$70M in FY 22-23)
    • Limited English Proficiency allotments ($10M in FY 21-22/$20M in FY 22-23)
  • Increases funding for
    • Disadvantaged Student Supplemental funding ($35M in FY 21-22/$70M in FY 22-23)
    • Low Wealth allotments ($20M in FY 21-22/$40M in FY 22-23)

The Governor’s budget also invests roughly $78 million in early education, with the goal of enrolling more children in the NC Pre-K program. Additionally, the Opportunity Scholarship Program would gradually be eliminated under the budget plan. Governor’s budget links:

Following the release of the Governor’s budget recommendations, a Governor’s budget bill will be filed, including more details on the salary schedule. The Senate is now working on its budget bill to be released in the coming weeks. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, stated in Thursday’s House session that there has already been some discussion between the Governor and legislative leaders on areas of agreement and disagreement of budget priorities, hopefully leading to “a good result this year”. (Note that the Governor’s recommended budget does not include appropriations of the federal funds included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Appropriations of those federal funds are forthcoming.)

 

This week NCSBA released the inaugural episode of our new podcast The Board Table. In this episode NCSBA Director of Governmental Relations, Bruce Mildwurf, talks with Governor Cooper’s Education Advisor, Geoff Coltrane, about the Governor’s education budget proposals. Click here to listen to the podcast!

T

Status of Notable Bills

HB 136: Encourage Healthy NC Food in Schools (primary sponsors: Representatives Julia Howard, R-Davie; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Mitchell Setzer, R-Catawba; Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin) passed the House on a 91-22 vote and is now in the Senate. This bill requires public schools to ensure that 100% muscadine grape juice is available to students in all schools. It does not include an appropriation.

HB 205: Abuse & Neglect Resources in Public Schools (primary sponsors: Representatives Ted Davis, R-New Hanover; Donna White, R-Johnston; Kelly Hastings, R-Gaston; Pat Hurley, R-Randolph) unanimously passed the House on Thursday and was sent to the Senate. This bill requires public schools to provide students in grades 6-12 with information and resources on child abuse (including sexual abuse) and neglect. The information and resources must be distributed to students in a document at the beginning of each school year, displayed on a poster, and include warning signs of abuse and how to report it. It does not include an appropriation.

HB 32: Equity in Opportunity Act (three of the four primary sponsors are former school board members: Representatives Dean Arp, R-Union; Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln) was amended and approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Appropriations Committee. Changes to the bill include:

  • Allows eligibility for opportunity scholarships for students whose parents are honorably discharged from the Armed Services in the past 18 months (income eligibility must be met)
  • Allows financial eligibility for opportunity scholarships for all foster children

Additionally, the bill does the following:

  • Expands eligibility even further for other recipients of opportunity scholarships and personal education savings accounts (click here for a bill summary with more details)
  • Increases the opportunity scholarship grant cap by an estimated $446 in the 2022-2023 school year, with an additional increase in the 2023-2024 school year
  • Increases the maximum personal education savings account amount per eligible student by an estimated $1,091
  • Authorizes counties to appropriate local funds toward these scholarships, beginning with the 2021-2022 fiscal year

With the goal of improving the bill, the NCSBA Governmental Relations Team expressed concerns about HB 32 to the bill’s sponsors and Committee members, but the Committee ultimately rejected an amendment along party lines that would have measured educational attainment and success of private school scholarship recipients. For a more thorough bill summary, click here to access a previous Legislative Update.

HB 247: Standards of Student Conduct (primary sponsor: Representative John Torbett, R-Gaston) was amended and approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Rules Committee. This bill requires public school unit boards (local boards of education and charter school boards) to do the following:

  • Consult with teachers, school-based administrators, parents, and local law enforcement before adopting discipline policies and student code of conduct
  • Consider existing federal guidance for disciplining students with disabilities, in addition to other school discipline guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education
  • Send most current discipline policies and student code of conduct to DPI by September 1 each year
  • Inform parents and guardians of the full range of responses to disciplinary violations at the beginning of each school year

A major point of Committee member disagreement was the removal of language that provides examples of student conduct not deemed punishable by long-term suspension, including inappropriate language, dress code violations, minor physical altercations, and noncompliance. An amendment that would have restored the language was rejected in Committee.

HB 69: Education on the Holocaust and Genocide (primary sponsors: Representatives Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Julia Howard, R-Davie; Wayne Sasser, R-Cabarrus; Robert Reives, D-Chatham) was amended and approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Appropriations Committee. This bill requires the integration of education on the Holocaust and genocide into the standard course of study.

HB 335: Timely Local Payments to Charter Schools (primary sponsors: Representatives John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg; Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance; Jon Hardister, R-Guilford; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln) will be heard in the House Education K-12 Committee next Tuesday, March 30, at 1:00 pm. This bill increases the amount that a LEA must transfer to a charter school by 8%, plus accrued interest, if the LEA does not transfer funds to the charter school within 30 days of receiving a written request from the charter school. Charter schools receive funds equal to the per pupil share of the local current expense fund.

Athletics Attendance Bills

This week two local athletics attendance bills passed the Senate and were sent the House: SB 232 and SB 256. Both bills allow up to 50% occupancy at outdoor sporting events in a total of 23 counties. Also this week, Governor Cooper announced an increase in capacity limits for indoor and outdoor sports arenas and fields from 30% to 50%, which means that the bills in their current state may no longer be needed.

Bill Chart

Click here for a chart of all education-related bills that NCBSA is tracking.

 

This week DHHS updated its StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit in response to NC’s improved COVID-19 metrics and the CDC’s updated guidance regarding physical distancing of at least 3 feet between students in K-12 schools. DHHS Toolkit updates include:

  • Allows middle and high schools to operate under Plan A
    • Recommends at least 3 feet of physical distance between students
    • Recommends at least 6 feet of physical distance between adults (school employees) and students and adults
  • Daily symptom screenings are no longer required, but are still recommended for employees
  • Regular disinfection of playgrounds is no longer required
  • Physical barriers are no longer recommended
  • Recommends that fully vaccinated and asymptomatic individuals who are identified as close contacts do not need to quarantine

Click here to access the DHHS Toolkit.

Click here to access the DHHS webpage with additional K-12 school resources.

 

The SBE met for a called meeting on Thursday to approve a contract with the ABC Science Collaborative of the Duke University School of Medicine and updates to DPI’s Lighting Our Way Forward guidance for reopening K-12 public schools. The $500,000 ABC Collaborative contract is required by SB 220: The Reopen Our Schools Act of 2021/SL 2021-4. The bill requires middle and high schools that open under Plan A to partner with the ABC Collaborative to collect and analyze data related to reopening schools, followed by a report to the General Assembly, DPI, SBE, DHHS, and the Governor. The contract begins today, March 26, 2021, and ends no later than September 15, 2021.

DPI’s Lighting Our Way Forward guidance was updated to reflect the newly released CDC guidance regarding physical distancing of at least 3 feet between students in K-12 schools. DPI’s guidance operationalizes DHHS’s StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit, which was also updated this week in accordance with CDC guidance. Because of the updated DHHS Toolkit, the DPI guidance now includes allowing all grades in charter schools to operate under Plan A.

 

Statewide Bills

Local Bills

 

10:00 am – House Transportation – Legislative Building, rm 1228/1327 (live stream)

1:00 pm – House Education K-12 – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

1:00 pm – House Local Government – Legislative Building, rm 1228/1327 (live stream)

3:00 pm – Senate Education/Higher Education – Legislative Offices Building, rm 544 (live stream)

 

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

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rbostic@ncsba.org

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

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – March 26, 2021
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NCSBA Legislative Update – March 19, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – March 19, 2021

 

Status of Notable Bills

HB 32: Equity in Opportunity Act (three of the four primary sponsors are former school board members: Representatives Dean Arp, R-Union; Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln) will be heard in the House Education K-12 Committee next Tuesday, March 23, at 1:00 pm. The bill does the following:

  • Expands eligibility for recipients of opportunity scholarships and personal education savings accounts
  • Increases the opportunity scholarship grant cap by an estimated $446 in the 2022-2023 school year, with an additional increase in the 2023-2024 school year
  • Increases the maximum personal education savings account amount per eligible student by an estimated $1,091
  • Authorizes counties to appropriate local funds toward these scholarships, beginning with the 2021-2022 fiscal year

HB 32 does not include a method of measuring educational attainment or success when using these public tax dollars. If you have concerns about the bill, please contact Committee members prior to the Tuesday meeting. For a more thorough bill summary, click here to access a previous Legislative Update.

HB 335: Timely Local Payments to Charter Schools (primary sponsors: Representatives John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg; Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance; Jon Hardister, R-Guilford; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln), which was filed this week, enforces a financial penalty on LEAs that do not transfer funds to a charter school within 30 days of receiving a written request from the charter school. The bill increases the amount that a LEA must transfer to a charter school by 8%, plus accrued interest, if the LEA fails to meet its 30-day deadline. Charter schools receive funds equal to the per pupil share of the local current expense fund. Charter school advocates say that HB 335 is necessary because some LEAs do not transfer funds on-time, and it can sometimes take several months before funds are received.

HB 205: Abuse & Neglect Resources in Public Schools (primary sponsors: Representatives Ted Davis, R-New Hanover; Donna White, R-Johnston; Kelly Hastings, R-Gaston; Pat Hurley, R-Randolph) was approved by the House Committee on Families, Children, and Aging Policy and will be heard in the House Education K-12 Committee next Tuesday, March 23, at 1:00 pm. This bill requires public schools to provide students in grades 6-12 with information and resources on child abuse (including sexual abuse) and neglect. The information and resources must be distributed to students in a document at the beginning of each school year, displayed on a poster, and include warning signs of abuse and how to report it.

HB 136: Encourage Healthy NC Food in Schools (primary sponsors: Representatives Julia Howard, R-Davie; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Mitchell Setzer, R-Catawba; Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin) was approved by the House Agriculture Committee and referred to the House Rules Committee, which is the last stop before a House vote. The bill requires public schools to ensure that 100% muscadine grape juice is available to students in all schools. It does not include an appropriation.

HB 284: Repeal Right of Action/Capital Outlay Fund (primary sponsors: Representatives Larry Potts, R-Davidson; Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck; Ben Moss, R-Richmond; Mark Pless, R-Haywood), which removes local school boards’ ability to take county commissioners to court if capital funding disputes are not resolved in mediation, is currently scheduled to pass through four different committees before going to the House floor for a vote.

Athletics Attendance Bills

This week SB 170: Students, Parents, Community Rights Act (primary sponsors: Senators Kevin Corbin, R-Macon; Ted Alexander, R-Cleveland; Dean Proctor, R-Catawba) passed the Senate and was referred to the House Rules Committee. This bill allows up to 50% occupancy at outdoor sporting events in 11 counties.

In addition to SB 170, five other local athletics attendance bills have been filed since the beginning of session (HB 118, HB 129, SB 115, SB 232, SB 256), and two have passed their originating chambers (HB 118 and SB 115). SB 232 and SB 256 are on Monday’s Senate calendar for a potential vote. Two statewide athletics attendance bills have also passed their originating chambers but have not seen action since the beginning of March (SB 116 and HB 128, which includes graduation ceremonies and other outdoor events). All six local bills affect a total of 47 counties and would not require the Governor’s approval. All the athletics attendance bills exceed the Governor’s current 30% capacity limit at sports arenas and fields, which expires on March 26.

Budget Process

Joint appropriations committees will wrap up their meetings next week, which will be followed by the start of the Senate budget process. We have heard that the Governor plans to release his budget next Wednesday, which will be presented to the full Joint Appropriations Committee next Thursday. Dependent upon this schedule, we will provide highlights of the Governor’s budget in next week’s Legislative Update.

Bill Chart

Click here for a chart of all education-related bills that NCBSA is tracking.

 

Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its physical distancing guidance between students in schools to be at least 3 feet instead of the previously recommended 6 feet:

  • Students in elementary schools “should be at least 3 feet apart.”
  • Middle and high school students “should be at least 3 feet apart in areas of low, moderate or substantial community transmission”, but “in areas of high community transmission…should be 6 feet apart.”

Masks remain mandatory, and 6 feet of distance should still be maintained:

  • Between adults (school staff)
  • Between adults and students
  • When masks cannot be worn, like when eating
  • During indoor activities, like band and sports
  • In common areas

This updated CDC guidance follows a study published last week that found similar rates of COVID-19 transmission in schools with 6 feet of physical distancing and schools with 3 feet of physical distancing.

 

On Monday, the State Board of Education and DPI submitted a 52-page Comprehensive Remedial Plan for the decades-long Leandro court case that addresses how the State can abide by its constitutional obligation to provide every student the opportunity to a sound, basic education. The plan currently costs $5.6 billion and addresses the seven key areas outlined in the Superior Court’s January 2020 Consent Order and the WestEd report that was released in December 2019:

  1. A high-quality teacher in each classroom
  2. A high-quality principal in each school
  3. A finance system that provides adequate, equitable, and predictable funding to school districts
  4. An accountability system that reliably assesses multiple measures of student performance
  5. An assistance and turnaround function to provide support to low-performing schools and districts
  6. A system of early education to ensure that all students enter kindergarten on track for school success
  7. Alignment of high school to postsecondary and career expectations

The long-term plan outlines actions aligned with the seven key areas that the State plans to achieve by 2028. The appendix includes costs tables for the Plan, with some items not yet including cost totals. In addition to the SBE and DPI, the Plan includes the General Assembly and the Governor as responsible parties for carrying out the Plan’s goal. The Plan was submitted to Superior Court Judge David Lee, who needs to sign off on it. A court hearing has not yet been scheduled. For more background on the Leandro case, click here.

 

The SBE met for a called meeting on Monday to approve the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund II (ESSER II) application and DPI’s Lighting Our Way Forward amended guidance for reopening K-12 public schools. Federal law dictates that at least 90% ($1.44 billion) of the ESSER II funds be distributed directly to public school units, with the remaining 10% ($161.3 million) being reserved for DPI. The ESSER II application lists allowable uses of the funds, including:

  • Addressing learning loss
  • Sanitizing and cleaning supplies
  • Mental health services

DPI staff added that teacher bonuses are an allowable use of the federal funds. The ESSER II application is scheduled to open on April 1 and DPI hopes to have all submissions by May 31. Click here to access the ESSER II draft allotments for each public-school unit. ESSER II funds are available through September 30, 2023.

DPI’s Lighting Our Way Forward guidance operationalizes DHHS’s StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit. With the recent updates to the Toolkit and the passage of SB 220: The Reopen Our Schools Act of 2021 (SL 2021-4), DPI amended its guidance to include the following:

  • K-5 students are required to be in school at least four days a week under Plan A
  • Students in grades 6-12 are required to be in school either in Plan A at least four days a week or Plan B to the maximum extent possible
  • Plan C is not an option unless it is needed to ensure the health and safety of students in a specific school or district

DPI staff stated that because charter schools were not included in SB 220, they do not have the authority to require more than what is included in the Toolkit, which allows elementary schools to be in Plan A and middle and high schools to be in Plan B. (This week HB 324: Plan A for Charter Schools was filed, which allows K-12 charter schools to return to school under Plan A.) The DPI guidance takes effect on April 1.

Click here to access all meeting materials.

 

This week Republican Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson announced the creation of the FACTS Task Force: Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students. “The primary goal of this task force is to allow the voices of concerned citizens to be heard regarding public K-12 education in North Carolina.” The task force seems to be in response to the State Board of Education’s (SBE) recent 7-5 approval of new K-12 social studies standards, which the Lieutenant Governor voted against citing the more than 30,000 people that signed his online petition stating their concern about the content of the standards. The task force’s webpage allows people to submit concerns to the Lieutenant Governor’s office, which will use the submissions to “hold the system accountable.” Members of the task force include NC Senator Kevin Corbin, R-Macon, who is a former local school board member; NC Representative David Willis, R-Union; SBE Member Olivia Oxendine; Lindalyn Kakadelis, who is a charter school advocate; Dr. Terry Stoops with the John Locke Foundation; Union County School Board Member Melissa Merrell; Onslow County School Board Member Melissa Oakley; and Judy Henion with the Classroom Teachers Association of NC. The Lieutenant Governor’s Office has not officially released the task force’s full membership. For an article covering the announcement of the task force, click here.

 

The following education-related bills were filed this week:

Statewide Bills

Local Bill

 

Tuesday, March 23

1:00 pm – House Education K-12 – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

2:00 pm – House Pensions and Retirement – Legislative Offices Building, rm 423 (live stream)

Wednesday, March 24

11:00 am – House State Government – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

 

 

 

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

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rbostic@ncsba.org

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

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – March 19, 2021
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NCSBA Legislative Update – March 12, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – March 12, 2021

 

Reopening Schools Bills

A compromise bill to reopen schools fast-tracked through the legislature and was signed into session law in just two days. SB 220: The Reopen Our Schools Act of 2021/SL 2021-4 (primary sponsors: Senators Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover; Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell) was introduced at a press conference of State leaders on Wednesday afternoon and took the “gut and amend” route through the legislature, replacing the bill’s original CPR graduation requirements. The unanimously approved bill does the following:

  • Requires all elementary schools to open under Plan A
  • Allows middle and high schools to open under Plan A or Plan B (Plan C is not an option)
  • Requires middle and high schools that open under Plan A to notify DHHS and describe their plan to open safely (DHHS does not have the authority to veto a plan)
  • Becomes effective 21 days after the bill becomes law (April 1)
    • Districts ready to open sooner do not have to wait the 21 days
    • School districts may add teacher workdays between the time the bill becomes law and schools reopen
  • Requires students with an IEP or 504 plan to have the option of Plan A, at the discretion of the student’s parent or guardian
  • Maintains the Governor’s authority to close schools on a district-by-district basis
  • Gives local districts authority to close a school due to an outbreak or quarantine
  • Requires middle and high schools that open under Plan A to partner with the ABC Science Collaborative to collect data related to reopening schools
    • Allocates $500,000 from the 10% DPI reserve of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief II (ESSER II) funds for this study
  • Requires a virtual instruction option to be provided to families

As a reminder (DHHS Toolkit):

  • Plan A is all in-person instruction with minimal social distancing
  • Plan B is a combination of in-person and virtual instruction with six feet social distancing
  • Plan C is all virtual instruction

SB 220 only applies to traditional public schools and does not include charter schools. Senate Leader Berger stated that SB 220 makes the previously vetoed school reopening bill (SB 37) moot.

One day before the announcement of the compromise, the House Education K-12 Committee approved HB 90: In-Person Learning (primary sponsor: Representative Pat McElraft, R-Carteret). This is a local bill that gives 14 counties the option to provide full-time in-person instruction five days a week for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, while continuing to provide a remote instruction option. With the passage of SB 220, it is unlikely that HB 90 will continue to progress through the legislature.

COVID-19 Relief Bill

On Thursday Governor Cooper signed the $1.7 billion COVID-19 relief bill into session law. HB 196: 2021 COVID-19 Response & Relief/SL 2021-3 (primary sponsors: Representatives John Faircloth, R-Guilford; Dana Bumgardner, R-Gaston; Kyle Hall, R-Rockingham; Larry Strickland, R-Harnett) allocates $145.3 million for K-12 public education from the 10% DPI reserve of the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund II (ESSER II), including:

  • $40 million reserve for in-person summer programs to address learning loss (HB 82)
  • $26 million reserve to address COVID-19 related needs in public school units
  • $12 million to contract with Voyager Sopris Learning, Inc. to improve student literacy
  • Up to $10 million to bring public school units up to $180.00 per pupil in ESSER II funds
  • $10 million for additional physical and mental health support services for students
  • $10 million for federal school nutrition programs
  • $10 million to improve the cybersecurity infrastructure of public schools
  • $15 million for extended learning and integrated student support for at-risk students

HB 196 requires public school units to provide quarterly reports to DPI on the use of these federal funds. Additionally, the bill extends the provision that allowed increased virtual charter school enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year through the 2021-2022 school year.

Capital Disputes Bill

A bill that removes local school boards’ ability to take county commissioners to court if capital funding disputes are not resolved in mediation was filed on Thursday. HB 284: Repeal Right of Action/Capital Outlay Fund (primary sponsors: Representatives Larry Potts, R-Davidson; Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck; Ben Moss, R-Richmond; Mark Pless, R-Haywood) prohibits local school boards from filing “any legal action challenging the sufficiency of the funds appropriated by the…county commissioners to the capital outlay fund.” If this bill becomes law, it will eliminate any meaningful negotiation because the bill states that “the decision of the county commissioners is final.” We have no knowledge of a lawsuit being filed solely on capital funding.

Status of Other Notable Bills

HB 82: Summer Learning Choice for NC Families (primary sponsors: Representatives Tim Moore, R-Cleveland; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Jeff Zenger, R-Forsyth), which requires LEAs to provide a voluntary summer learning program for at-risk students, was referred to the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee with no additional action in the Senate.

HB 159: Education Law Changes (primary sponsors: Representatives John Torbett, R-Gaston; Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke) was approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Appropriations Committee. Highlights of the bill include:

  • Allows teachers and school employees to be paid in 12 monthly installments regardless of when the request is made (currently must be made on or before the first day of the school year)
  • Allows teachers employed for less than 10 months to receive their salaries in 12 monthly installments
  • Requires the State Board of Education to follow the rulemaking process (S.150B) when adopting course standards

HB 136: Encourage Healthy NC Food in Schools (primary sponsors: Representatives Julia Howard, R-Davie; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; Mitchell Setzer, R-Catawba; Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin) requires public schools to ensure that 100% muscadine grape juice is available to all students beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, and appropriations are not included. The bill was approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and referred to the House Agriculture Committee.

Bill Chart

Click here for a chart of all education-related bills that NCBSA is tracking.

 

The nearly $1.9 trillion federal pandemic recovery bill passed the U.S. House and was signed by President Biden this week. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) includes roughly $122 billion for K-12 public schools, of which NC will receive $3.6 billion. Click here for a summary of the bill by the National School Boards Association.

 

The following additional education-related bills were filed this week:

Statewide Bills

Local Bills

 

Tuesday, March 16

1:00 pm – House Local Government Committee – Legislative Building, rm 1228/1327 (live stream)

3:00 pm – House Families, Children, and Aging Policy Committee – Legislative Offices Building, rm 423 (live stream)

Wednesday, March 17

11:00 am – House State Personnel Committee – Legislative Offices Building, rm 415 (live stream)

2:00 pm – Senate State and Local Government Committee – Legislative Offices Building, rm 544 (live stream)

 

 

 

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

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rbostic@ncsba.org

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

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – March 12, 2021
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