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