Charter Advocates Continue to Push HB 539
The charter school community is continuing to push strongly for the House to concur with HB 539. While it remains important that you maintain contact with your House member(s) in opposition, it is also critical to be making local contacts to develop grassroots opposition to HB 539 within your communities. Reach out to local PTAs and other community groups that support public education, make sure they understand what is at stake with HB 539, and get them involved in spreading the word to parents and concerned citizens. These types of efforts are happening on the charter side. For example, proponents of HB 539 are spreading their message of “fair funding” on social media using the hashtag #fairfundsnc. Charter schools are also sending to their parents call to action messages such as this (click here). School districts need to be countering these efforts. Remember that HB 539 could come up at any time.
Resources & Points to Remember
Below are materials and informational items to circulate in your communities.
*A one-page sheet with talking points on HB 539 can be found here.
*A short video on this issue can be found here. Make sure to continue sharing this video on social media and encourage others to do so.
*A longer Myth/Fact sheet on the issue can be found here.
*Legislators and others need to understand the pots of monies that school districts would have to transfer if HB 539 becomes law (reimbursements, gifts, federal grants, etc.). A review of the types of monies at risk can be found here.
*Charter schools can already seek out many of the monies at issue in HB 539 without having to take them from school districts. For example, school districts would have to transfer E-rate reimbursements under HB 539 but charters already have the ability to seek out E-Rate reimbursements if they so choose.
*There are policies and laws that limit how federal grants and reimbursements are used and which students may be served. Charters continue to claim that despite these policies and laws, they should be entitled to a share of federal grants and reimbursements that a school district receives.
*Charters continue to claim that charter students receive only 75 cents for every dollar provided to LEAs. This is a flawed calculation based on factors unrelated to per-pupil funding and reflects an apples-to-oranges comparison of district and charter funding.
House Budget Approved-Senate Moves Next
The House passed its version of the 2016-17 budget this week. Including compensation increases, the House budget increases appropriations for K-12 public schools by 4.4% above the original spending target for 2016-17. Teachers with 5-25 years of experience receive an average 4.1% salary increase, with the largest increases going to mid-career teachers. Other teachers will get a one-time $1,000 bonus. Most school administrators will get an average 2% increase (with some receiving a $500 bonus). Non-certified and central office staff will get a 2% raise and a one-time $500 bonus. Click here to read the Money Report. See below for more details on the House budget and what happened as it moved through the chamber this week.
On the Senate side, budget writers have said that their budget is not likely to be very different from that of the House except on salaries. The biggest difference between the House and Senate budgets is expected to be on salaries for teachers, school employees, and State employees. It is expected that the Senate will turn its budget around within two weeks. One thing to watch for in the Senate budgetis whether it includes the language from SB 862- Opp. Scholarships Forward Funding, a bill filed by Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake). It would significantly increase funding for the Opportunity Scholarship voucher program. A reserve fund would be created and there would be an automatic transfer of funds from the General Fund to this reserve fund to be used to award new vouchers. Funding for the program would be increased from $17.6 million to $44.8 million for the 2018-19 school year. This number would rise by $10 million each year thereafter until it reaches $134.8 million in the 2027-28 school year.
House Budget Process
Several amendments were offered and passed in both the House Appropriations Committee and on the House floor throughout the week as the budget was developed. The most notable amendments for K-12 public schools dealt with virtual charters and the Opportunity Scholarship school voucher program.
Rep. James Langdon (R-Johnston) ran an amendment touching on the virtual charter pilot language. A provision had been included in the K-12 education section that allowed the two virtual charter pilot schools to have a higher withdrawal rate than the original virtual charter legislation allowed. The same provision would also legislatively mandate that several types of students are to be excluded from the withdrawal rate, making it easier for the virtual charters to stay below the higher withdrawal rate caps. Rep. Langdon’s amendment attempted to remove this provision and return to the original virtual charter language, which set a 25% cap and allowed the State Board of Education to determine what types of students should and should not be counted in the withdrawal rate. This amendment passed 59-56.
About an hour later, Rep. Rob Bryan (R-Mecklenburg) successfully ran an amendment that undid most of the Langdon amendment. Under the Bryan amendment, the rate cap stays at 25% (the existing level) but the State Board would still be directed to exclude five categories of students from the calculation of the withdrawal rate. The State Board, not the General Assembly, should determine how to calculate a fair withdrawal rate for these schools, as they are the body in charge of overseeing these programs and receiving periodic updates on how they are doing. Another troubling provision in the virtual charter language would increase the portion of virtual charter teachers who can be non-NC residents from 10% to 20%.
An amendment from Rep. Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes) in the House Appropriations Committee modified the proposed changes to the school voucher program. The current law allows vouchers to be awarded to kindergarten and grade 1 students even if they have not previously been enrolled in a public school, but caps the portion of newly awarded vouchers they can receive at 35%. Under the original House budget language, Grade 1 students would have been removed from this cap, meaning that there would be no limit on how many new vouchers they could receive. Rep. Elmore’s amendment changed this so that grade 1 students go back to being subject to the cap, but the cap itself would go up from 35% to 40%.
Other Notable House Budget Provisions
Vouchers. There is an increase of $5.8 million to the special education voucher program.
ADM Growth. Public school ADM growth is fully funded ($46.8 million).
Literacy Coaches. There is an appropriation of $25 million to put K-3 Literacy Coaches in the lowest performing 20% of elementary schools across the state. This would be the first State appropriation for literacy coaches in any public schools since the line-item was zeroed out in 2009.
Advanced Teaching Roles/Elevating Educators Act. Modified language from last session’s Elevating Educators Act is included in the subcommittee’s approved budget. This provision establishes a three-year pilot program where 10 LEAs would experiment with models of differentiated pay for teachers linked to advanced teaching roles (new or additional roles and responsibilities). There would be a $1 million set aside for this pilot.
A-F School Performance Grades. The formula for calculating A-F letter grades for schools is changed from 80% assessment scores 20% growth to a 50-50 split between the two components. The 15-point scale is also made permanent (it is scheduled to end with this year’s set of grades).
Read to Achieve. Like last year’s House budget, this year’s House budgets contains several provisions to improve the Read to Achieve program. Among these would be a requirement for the SBE to expand the types of diagnostic and formative assessments school districts could use to measure reading progress in grades K-3.
Other Funding Increases. Digital Learning Plan ($9.4 million); Textbooks/Digital Resources ($11.7 million)
Achievement School District
There are lots of conversations happening on House side about the Achievement School District issue and bill. Be sure to watch your email closely for updates and notable developments on this.
Click here for the NCSBA issue brief on this.
Union School Boards/County Comm Funding Lawsuit Moratorium
A bill was filed this week by Sen. Tommy Tucker (R-Union) to prohibit the Union school board from initiating a legal challenge over the sufficiency of local funding from their county commissioners in the 2016-17 school year. The bill is SB 881.
New Bills: Click here for a list of new bills filed this week that NCSBA is tracking.
Upcoming Legislative Meetings and Events
Monday, May 23
The Senate will convene for session.
The House will convene for session.
Tuesday, May 24
Wednesday, May 25
Thursday, May 26