NCSBA Legislative Update – August 6, 2021

 

House Education Budget

The headliner from the General Assembly this week comes from the lower chamber. On Thursday, the House publicly released part of its State budget proposal. We will have to wait until Monday to learn about salary increases and some other big-ticket items. However, the House Education Appropriations Committee released 233 pages of education provisions. The following are some of the provisions that the Committee voted to approve:

  • Allow LEAs to offer virtual instruction
  • Provide a bit of flexibility for single-track year-round schools
  • Increase funding for broadband access for K-12 schools
  • Create a new Public School Building Repair and Renovation Fund that provides $500,000 annually to each county

Pretty good, right? Unfortunately, there are plenty of bad provisions as well. We have provided brief summaries for the good, the bad, and the ugly. More than a dozen of the provisions come from bills that we have previously written about.

As for the rest of the budget timeline, the House will release its full budget on Monday, August 9. The House Finance Committee will be reviewing the budget on Monday, and the full House Appropriations Committee plans to hold an all-day meeting on Tuesday. Floor votes are expected next Wednesday and Thursday. Then negotiations on a House/Senate budget compromise will begin in earnest. The Governor could possibly receive a budget around Labor Day.

Be sure to contact your House member and let them know which provisions you support and which ones are cause for concern. In our summary that is linked below, we put an * next to the provisions that we believe could have a negative impact on.

  • Click here for NCSBA’s summaries of many of the House budget education provisions
  • Click here for the House budget education provisions
  • Click here for the House budget education money report
  • Click here for an article on the House budget education provisions

Education-Related Bills with Action This Week

Statewide Bills

HB 729: Charter Schools Omnibus (primary sponsors: Representatives Larry Yarborough, R-Person; Jon Hardister, R-Guilford; John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg; Mark Brody, R-Union) was modified and approved by the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee and then approved by the Senate Rules Committee. NCSBA had several concerns with this bill, and we worked very closely with the NC Association of County Commissioners to have it amended. Ultimately, three of the four sections were removed, including a section that would authorize counties to provide capital funds to charter schools.

House conferees were appointed for HB 64: Government Transparency Act of 2021, but we are still waiting for Senate conferees to be named. 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, transfer, suspension, separation, or dismissal. 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. We urge school board members and superintendents to contact House conferees with concerns about HB 64. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 96: Allow Pharmacists to Admin. Injectable Drugs (primary sponsors: Representatives Wayne Sasser, R-Stanly; Mitchell Setzer, R-Catawba; Donna White, R-Johnston; Gale Adcock, D-Wake) passed the Senate, concurred in the House, and will be sent to the Governor. This bill includes a section that requires parental consent for children to receive vaccines granted emergency use authorization and not fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Local Bill

HB 244: Lincoln Co. Bd. of Ed./Partisan Election (primary sponsor: Representative Jason Saine, R-Lincoln) passed the Senate and was ratified into SL 2021-99. This bill changes the election method for the Lincoln County Board of Education from nonpartisan to partisan.

 

NCSBA has created a chart tracking local school boards’ policies/resolutions on school mask requirements. Click here to access the chart. As your school district finalizes its plans for this upcoming school year, please email information to Richard Bostic at rbostic@ncsba.org, as well as any corrections to the chart.

 

The Board met for its monthly meeting this week and heard presentations on the following:

DHHS COVID-19 update: The Board was presented with COVID-19 data trends, which show that cases are rapidly increasing, the number of people being hospitalized has doubled since July 9, and the Delta variant is the most common variant in NC. Key changes to the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit were also presented:

  • Strongly advises all K-12 schools to require all students and staff to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status
  • Says that students do not need to quarantine if exposed as a close contact in K-12 settings if (i) both students consistently and correctly wore face masks at the time of exposure and (ii) other K-12 prevention strategies were in place
    • This does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults
  • Removes numerous requirements, including:
    • Conduct daily symptom screening
    • Provide remote learning options for students unable to be at school due to illness or exposure
  • Adds information on offering and promoting the COVID-19 vaccine

The Board voted 9-2 to approve the revised Toolkit. Jill Camnitz and James Ford were the two
“no” votes, with Ford explaining that he cannot approve the Toolkit because it does not require masks in schools.

Read to Achieve contract and policy amendments: The Board was presented with amendments to its Read to Achieve (RtA) policy, based on SB 387: Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021/SL 2021-8. The policy amendments provide a RtA implementation guide for school districts, including a science of reading overview, educator preparation and professional development, and literacy curriculum and instruction. The Board approved sections I, II, III, and IX of the implementation guide, which can be found in this document. The remaining sections will be presented for approval as they are developed. The Board was also presented with a three-year $49.7 million contract with Voyager Sopris Learning, Inc., to provide Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) training to teachers. Since the contract process is not yet complete, the Board will have a called meeting to approve the contract.

ESSER III plan update: The Board was presented with an update on the State’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III) plan that was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education (Department) in June. As a reminder, NC has received two-thirds of its $3.6 billion in ESSER III funds, with the last third being subject to an application process. Since the State’s first submission of its ESSER III plan, it has received two sets of feedback from the Department about necessary revisions to the plan. Click here to read about DPI’s revisions and next steps. DPI staff stated that NC is not an outlier in this approval process, as only 17 states have received the Department’s approval so far.

Draft NC Standard Course of Study Procedures Manual: At July’s Board meeting, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt expressed concern about the development of the NC Standard Course of Study (NCSCOS) and told the Board that she would present proposed changes to the process at this month’s meeting. The Board was presented with a historical overview of the Procedures Manual used to develop the NCSCOS, an update on the draft Manual, and issues with the Manual. Board members agreed that many school districts lack substantial resources needed to create curricula from the NCSCOS. Superintendent Truitt recommended that until there are equitable resources in districts, DPI should help districts understand how to develop curricula and provide optional materials. Following Board discussion, the Board approved DPI’s request to complete the draft Manual that will ensure consistent, coherent, and equitable standards for teachers.

Click here for an article on the meeting.

Click here to access all meeting materials.

 

This week the U.S. Department of Education released its Return to School Roadmap, which supports the safe, healthy return of students to in-person learning this fall.

  • fact sheet for schools, families, and communities that reviews the Return to School Roadmap priorities
  • guide for schools and districts that outlines what schools can do to protect the health and safety of students
  • checklist that parents can use to prepare themselves and their children for a safe return to in-person learning this fall

 

Monday, August 9

2:30 pm – House Finance – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

Tuesday, August 10

9:00 am – House Appropriations – Legislative Offices Building, rm 643 (live stream)

Wednesday, August 11

8:30 am – House Pensions and Retirement – 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 – August 6, 2021