NCSBA Legislative Update – February 19, 2021

 

Reopening of Schools

Following conferee negotiations over the weekend, the conference report (compromised bill) for SB 37: In-Person Learning Choice for Families (primary sponsors: Senators Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover; Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell) passed through the Senate (31-16) and the House (77-42) and was presented to the Governor on Wednesday. Conferees only modified the requirement that reasonable work accommodations be provided for certain classroom teachers in accordance with the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit.

Governor Cooper has not said if he plans to veto the bill, but he released a statement on Wednesday before the House vote explaining that he will not sign SB 37 unless it’s modified. Cooper added that the compromise bill fails to adhere to DHHS health and safety guidance and fails to protect the ability of State and local leaders to respond to emergencies. On Thursday, Cooper stated that he will continue to discuss new school reopening legislation options with General Assembly leaders prior to taking action on SB 37. He now has eight days until the bill will become law without his signature. State Superintendent Truitt also released a statement on Wednesday commending the General Assembly for SB 37 and its alignment with DHHS health and safety guidance. Based on this week’s vote counts, both chambers have the numbers to override a veto. However, there have been times when members voted one way on a bill and voted differently on an override vote.

In addition to the conference report change, SB 37 does the following:

  • Requires local school boards to provide:
    • An in-person Plan A option for ALL students who have an IEP or a 504 Plan
    • An in-person Plan A or Plan B option for all other students in grades K-12 (boards may opt for all Plan A, all Plan B, or a combination thereof)
    • A remote option for families that wish to have this option
  • Allows local school boards to shift individual schools or classrooms to remote learning due to COVID-19 exposures that result in insufficient staff or required student quarantines
  • Requires that the bill be implemented on the first workday that occurs 15 days after becoming law

Click here for an article on SB 37.

Following last week’s announcement that anyone working in childcare or PreK-12 schools will be eligible to start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on February 24, superintendents across the State received a letter from DPI and DHHS about new guidance on vaccine operations for schools. This guidance clarifies which K-12 school employees have vaccine prioritization and how superintendents can encourage their staff to get vaccinated.

Summer Learning Bill

On Monday, House Speaker Tim Moore filed HB 82: Summer Learning Choice for NC Families to address pandemic learning loss (primary sponsors: Representatives Tim Moore, R-Cleveland; Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; John Torbett, R-Gaston; Jeff Zenger, R-Forsyth). The bill in its current form is structured as follows:

  • Mandates that LEAs must provide the program
  • Enrollment priority will be given to at-risk students
  • The program will be funded by the LEA’s existing funds, including the recently appropriated COVID-19 funds, at-risk funds, and fiscal year 2020-2021 reading camp funds
  • Requires each LEA to submit a plan for its summer 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 five hours a day, five days per week for six weeks (NCSBA has learned that this requirement will likely be modified to 150 hours)
    2. Lunch
    3. A physical activity period each day
    4. Grade level course offerings
    5. Transportation
    6. Voluntary student participation (kindergarten students participating in the program are exempt from retention for the 2021-2022 school year and all other at-risk students who participate in the program will receive a reassessment of promotion eligibility for the 2021-2022 school year)
    7. Opportunity for other students to participate within the space available
    8. Outreach to increase program participation
  • Requires local school boards to employ teachers and school personnel on temporary contracts
  • Directs the SBE to require LEAs to implement innovative benchmark assessments in certain grades and core subjects beginning with the 2021-2022 school year

So far, HB 82 has only been heard in the House Education K-12 Committee for discussion, during which concerns were expressed regarding the program budget, teacher availability, teacher pay, and local flexibility. The House Education K-12 Committee will revisit the bill next week for amendments and voting. The bill sponsors acknowledged their willingness to amend the bill next week. Click here for an article on HB 82.

Bills Filed

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

Statewide Bills

  • HB 84: Sex Offender Premises Restrictions (primary sponsors: Representatives Harry Warren, R-Rowan; Allen McNeill, R-Moore; Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance; Sarah Stevens, R-Alleghany)
  • HB 112: A Safe Return for In-Person Learning (primary sponsors: Representatives Rosa Gill, D-Wake; Brian Farkas, D-Pitt; Raymond Smith, D-Sampson)
    • This is a companion bill of SB 78: A Safe Return for In-Person Learning (primary sponsors: Senators Don Davis, D-Pitt; Dan Blue, D-Wake) that would allow elementary schools to reopen under Plan A or B, but middle and high schools could only reopen under Plan B. This bill will most likely not be heard in committee, as the majority party is pushing for school reopening with SB 37.

Local Bills

  • HB 90: In-Person Learning (primary sponsor: Representative Pat McElraft, R-Carteret)
    • This is a local bill that would require all public schools in Asheboro City, Carteret County, Haywood County, Randolph County, and Yancey County to open under Plan A. This bill was filed in case SB 37 does not become law.

Local Bill Filing Deadline

The local bill filing deadline is quickly approaching – next week in the Senate and two weeks in the House. If a local bill is needed this legislative session, the proposed bill must be submitted to legislative staff for drafting by:

  • Thursday, February 25 in the Senate
  • Wednesday, March 3 in the House

A legislator must file a local bill by:

  • Thursday, March 11 in the Senate
  • Thursday, March 25 in the House

Bill Chart

Click here for a chart of all education-related bills filed so far during the 2021 legislative session, including NCSBA’s stance on each bill.

 

The 2021 NCSBA Legislative Agenda was approved by the NCSBA Delegate Assembly on Thursday, January 7. Following the approval of the agenda, the NCSBA Governmental Relations Team created issue briefs on each agenda item. See links for all issue briefs below.

 

On Friday, February 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released science-based recommendations on the reopening of schools. The U.S. Department of Education also released its ED COVID-19 Handbook, which utilizes CDC guidance to provide best practices and safety considerations for the education community.

 

The Governmental Relations Team will be leading NCSBA’s first round of regional conversations on Thursday, February 25. We will be providing an update on current legislative activity, followed by time for you to connect with fellow regional school board members. Click here for times and registration. We look forward to seeing you next week!

 

Monday, February 22

5:00 pm – Senate Rules Committee – Legislative Offices Building, rm 544 (live stream)

Tuesday, February 23

8:30 am – Joint House and Senate Education Appropriations Committees – Legislative Building, rm 1027/1288 (live stream)

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

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

 

 

 

Bruce Mildwurf
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
bmildwurf@ncsba.org
(919) 747-6692

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rbostic@ncsba.org
(919) 747-6677

Rebekah Howard
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association
rhoward@ncsba.org
(919) 747-6688

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – February 19, 2021