This Week at the Legislature
In just over 24 hours, State legislators reconvened, passed a roughly $1 billion spending bill, and adjourned until January 2021. HB 1105: Coronavirus Relief Act 3.0 passed the Senate 44-5 on Wednesday and passed the House 104-10 on Thursday. The Governor can either sign the bill into law, veto the bill, or if he takes no action, the bill will automatically become law after 30 days without his signature.
While legislators were hoping to receive more spending flexibility from Congress for the federal CARES Act funds, that flexibility was not granted prior to this week’s session. This prompted State lawmakers to spend the remaining $903 million of CARES Act funds prior to the allocation deadline of December 30, 2020. Click here to read more about legislative debate leading up to the passage of HB 1105, much of which included the bill’s lack of Medicaid expansion.
Click here to access NCSBA’s summary of HB 1105: Coronavirus Relief Act 3.0. The following are highlights of the bill’s K-12 education sections:
- ADM hold harmless (Section 3.1): For the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the SBE shall determine the allocations for average daily membership (ADM) to applicable public school units by using the higher of the actual or anticipated (allotted) ADM. After funding adjustments are made, the SBE shall not reduce allotments for local school administrative units due to the difference between actual and anticipated (allotted) ADM.
- Principal pay hold harmless (Section 3.1A): The ADM of a principal’s school is determined by using the school’s ADM from the 2019-2020 school year. If the school did not have an ADM in the 2019-2020 school year, the school’s projected ADM for the 2020-2021 school year must be used.
- Increase funding for public schools (Section 1.2):
- $10 million for internet connectivity
- $20 million for personal protective equipment
- $17 million for in-person services for exceptional children
- Opportunity Scholarship changes (Section 3.3): Removes the K-1 grade cap on scholarship grant applications. Increases the household income eligibility level from 133% to 150% of the amount required for the student to qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program.
- Increase virtual charter enrollment (Section 3.2): Increases NC Cyber Academy by 1,000 students and increases NC Virtual Academy by 2,800 students. This overrides the State Board of Education’s recent denial of a request to increase enrollment. This could impact school districts’ budgets if additional students from your area enroll in one of the virtual charters.
Last week Governor Cooper released his budget request calling for teacher bonuses, higher funding levels, and a school construction bond, none of which were included in HB 1105. Click here to view the budget request.
The General Assembly will reconvene for the 2021 legislative session on Wednesday, January 13. Legislators could possibly return prior to the 2021 session for either a veto override vote or a budget session called by the Governor.
Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee
The Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee held a meeting on Tuesday, September 1. Committee members heard the following presentations:
- myFutureNC progress report
- Performance audit of the NC Virtual Public School (click here for the audit)
- SBE/DPI’s response to the performance audit of the NC Virtual Public school
State Board of Education
September Monthly Meeting
The SBE met for their monthly meeting on Wednesday, September 2, and Thursday, September 3. Board members addressed the following:
- Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund
- Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund
- Transportation allotment policy provision
- DHHS COVID-19 Update
ESSER Fund: Board members were presented with DPI division action plans for the use of the 10% reserve of federal ESSER funds (authorized by the CARES Act) that the SBE previously approved at the July monthly meeting to be reserved for state level initiatives (9.5%) and administrative services (0.5%). Board members were also presented with and approved allocations for two of these action plans:
- $2.2 million for public school unit supplemental funds (PRC 164)
- $4.5 million for partnerships with community organizations (PRC 168)
It was stated that the Board will be presented with and vote on additional action plans and allocations of ESSER funds soon.
GEER Fund: The GEER Fund is included in the CARES Act and is intended to provide emergency support to school districts, higher education institutions, or other education-related entities. Governor Cooper is directing:
- $40 million to hire additional school nurses, counselors, social workers, and psychologists
- $20 million to support academic needs of at-risk students and students with disabilities
Transportation allotment policy provision: Current SBE transportation allotment policy requires that the use of these funds be used only for the transportation of K-12 students to, from, and between schools for instructional programs. The Board approved a provision to the allotment policy that would allow funds to also be used “to support yellow school bus operations for purposes which support students’ nutrition or instruction in any state of disaster or local state of emergency declared under 166A of the General Statutes.”
DHHS COVD-19 Update: The COVID-19 presentation from DHHS staff covered K-12 school reopening updates. As of September 1, there have been six total confirmed clusters in K-12 schools, of which most cases were among staff. DHHS defines a COVID-19 cluster in a school setting as “a minimum of five laboratory-confirmed cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiologic linkage between cases.” K-12 school reopening survey results found that 51% of traditional public schools are operating in Plan B and 49% in Plan C. For more on this presentation, click here.
In addition to this month’s regular agenda items, the Board unanimously voted to reelect Eric Davis as chairman and Alan Duncan as vice chairman of the State Board of Education for the next two years.
August 14 Called Meeting
During the Friday, August 14 meeting, the SBE addressed increasing enrollment for the State’s two virtual charter schools for the 2020-2021 school year. This agenda item was initially presented during the August monthly meeting when Board members were presented with a request from the Office of Charter Schools to increase enrollment above the statutory maximum for NC Cyber Academy (formerly NC Connections Academy) and NC Virtual Academy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The request was for a 1,000-student enrollment increase for NC Cyber Academy and a 2,800-student enrollment increase for NC Virtual Academy. Board members and advisors were also presented with the impact that this late increase to virtual charter school enrollment would have on LEA funding, which included the example of Cumberland County Schools seeing a reduction of up to $2.7 million this school year.
Following lengthy discussion among Board members, advisors, and staff, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest proposed an alternate motion. This motion would add the requirement of a weighted lottery with preference to students without access to full-time virtual school or without home computer or internet access. The Board’s attorney stated this proposed motion would be in violation of the statute that requires charter schools to be open to all students. Board members eventually voted 7-5 in opposition of the initial motion. Click here to access an article covering the Board’s decision.
Although the SBE voted against these enrollment increases, HB 1105, which is now awaiting the Governor’s signature, includes a section increasing enrollment in the State’s two virtual charter schools for the 2020-2021 school year.
USDA Extends Meal Delivery Program
This week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that is has extended the meal delivery program until either December 31, 2020, or until the money for the program runs out. Click here to access the USDA press release for more details.
On Tuesday, September 1, Judge David Lee signed a consent order that calls for spending $426.9 million on the public-school system in 2021. This would be the first step of an eight-year plan to uphold by the State’s constitutional obligation of providing each student with the opportunity to a sound basic education. The approval of this plan follows the release of an August 26 interview with Judge Howard Manning who previously presided over the Leandro case for almost two decades.
Governor’s Recommended Budget Adjustments
On Wednesday, August 26, Governor Cooper presented his $25 billion budget recommendation, which includes the following:
- $50 million for ensuring the opportunity to a sound basic education (Leandro)
- $230 million for teacher and principal bonuses
- $50 million for noncertified personnel bonuses
House Select Committee on COVID-19 Education Working Group
The House Select Committee on COVID-19 Education Working Group held a meeting on Tuesday, August 25. The SBE and DPI presented on K-12 education needs and challenges for the 2020-2021 school year. The presentation requested that legislators hold harmless ADM funding and principal pay (which is based on ADM) for the 2020-2021 school year. The following were also highlighted as top priorities:
- $44.5 million for personal protective equipment, including disposable face coverings, hand sanitizer, facial tissues, and disposable gloves/gowns for school nurses
- $18 million to continue using yellow school buses to deliver meals and instructional resources and to provide mobile hot spots
- $15 million to increase student access to internet connectivity/broadband service
Reopening of Public Schools
NCSBA has been maintaining a chart containing each LEA’s reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year. Click here to access the chart.
2020-2021 Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund
Application forms and guidance for the 2020-2021 NBPSCF Capital Construction Grants are available on the DPI School Planning website. The deadline to submit applications and supporting materials is September 15, 2020. Questions about the NBPSCF Grant program should be directed to Nathan Maune, AIA (School Planning Section Chief) via email: email@example.com.
2020 Statewide Facility Needs Survey
Every five years school districts are required to submit their Facility Needs Survey. The survey and guidance are available on the DPI School Planning website. The deadline to submit the completed survey is January 8, 2021. Questions about the 2020 FNS should be directed to Nathan Maune, AIA (School Planning Section Chief), via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leanne E. Winner
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Associate Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association