According to a news source, Senate leader Phil Berger stated that he does not expect the budget compromise to be done before the end of the month, while House Speaker Tim Moore said that he expects it to be done by mid-September. Either way, we are over two months into the new fiscal year and still operating on the 2018 State budget (plus mini budget bills). As the budget process continues to be drawn out, many education-related issues, like salary increases, remain uncertain.
HB 324: Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools
The House voted 61-41 along party lines to concur with Senate changes to HB 324: Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools, and the bill has been presented to the Governor who is not expected to sign it into law. This controversial bill defines “promote” as “compelling students, teachers, administrators, or other school employees to affirm or profess belief in the concepts described” and lists 13 concepts that are prohibited from being promoted in public schools. Public school units (PSUs) shall not promote that:
- One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex
- An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive
- An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex
- An individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex
- An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex
- Any individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress
- A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist
- The United States was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex
- The United States government should be violently overthrown
- Particular character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs should be ascribed to a race or sex or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex
- The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups
- All Americans are not created equal and are not endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
- Governments should deny to any person within the government’s jurisdiction the equal protection of the law
HB 324 also requires public schools to notify DPI and post to their website information about:
- Instruction regarding the concepts
- Contracting with, hiring, or otherwise engaging speakers, consultants, diversity trainers, and other persons for the purpose of discussing the 13 concepts
- Contracting with, hiring, or otherwise engaging speakers, consultants, diversity trainers, and other persons who have previously advocated for the 13 concepts
During House floor debate, Representative Abe Jones, D-Wake, said that HB 324 is not needed because local school boards can handle concerns about what is being taught in their schools. Click here for an official bill summary.
SB 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions
SB 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions (primary sponsors: Senators Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Don Davis, D-Pitt; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) was signed into SL 2021-130. The bill addresses virtual instruction, COVID-19 waivers/extensions, mask policies, teacher licensure, principal recruitment supplements, and year-round calendars.
- Click here to access last week’s Legislative Update that includes a summary of SB 654
- Click here for an official bill summary
- Click here for an article on SB 654 (from Monday, August 30)
Other Education-Related Bills with Action This Week
HB 91: Accountability and Fair Play in Athletics passed the Senate 32-14 on second reading and is scheduled for a third (final) reading on Wednesday, September 8. Next, the bill will be sent to the House for a concurrence vote. The current version of the bill requires the State Board of Education (SBE) to either enter into a memorandum of understanding with a nonprofit to administer high school interscholastic athletics (which could be the NC High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) but is not required to be) or assign administration to DPI. Authors of the revised bill (Senators Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell; Todd Johnson, R-Union; and Tom McInnis, R-Richmond) say that HB 91 is a result of an ongoing investigation into the NCHSAA over the past 22 months concerning lack of transparency. HB 91 is unanimously supported by Senate Republicans and opposed by the NCHSAA and many Democratic Senators, with five out of 22 voting to approve the bill. Click here for an official bill summary that outlines all the new requirements for the SBE, PSUs, and NCHSAA.
HB 954: Video Lottery Entertainment (primary sponsors: Representatives Harry Warren, R-Rowan; Timothy Moffit, R-Henderson; Howard Hunter, D-Hertford; Michael Wray, D-Northampton) was modified and approved by the House Commerce Committee and referred to the House Finance Committee. This bill prohibits a video lottery terminal from being placed within 500 feet of a public or nonpublic school. Click here for an official bill summary.
SB 159: State Health Plan Administrative Changes.-AB (primary sponsors: Senators Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth; Jim Burgin, R-Harnett; Jim Perry, R-Lenoir) was signed into SL 2021-125. This bill makes technical, clarifying, and administrative changes to laws relating to the State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees. Click here for an official bill summary.
HB 3: Craven Bd of Ed/Partisan Electoral Districts (primary sponsor: Representative Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort) passed the Senate and was sent to the House for a concurrence vote. Click here for an official bill summary.
The Board met for its monthly meeting this week and heard presentations on the following:
- Five-year facility needs survey report
- 2020-2021 student test performance results and graduation rate
- DHHS COVID-19 update
- ESSER funding
- House and Senate budget comparison
- Read to Achieve local alternative assessments
Five-year facility needs survey report: The SBE was presented with the 2020-2021 Statewide Facility Needs Report, which is a compilation of data submitted by LEAs for five-year facility needs. In the table below you will see that the total capital funding need is $12.8 billion, with a majority of need for renovations and new schools. This is a 58.7% increase in need from the $8.1 billion reported in 2015-2016. DPI staff noted that its $250 per square foot cost estimate is a pre-pandemic number and does not account for the recent inflation in construction costs. Presenters also noted that LEAs tend to underreport their need.
2020-2021 student test performance results and graduation rate: Student test performance results for this past school year were down across all grades compared to the 2018-2019 school year. As a reminder, tests were not taken at the end of the 2019-2020 school year due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although tests were taken for the 2020-2021 school year, data will not be used for accountability measures due to state and federal waivers. DPI staff reminded the Board that the presentation of the 2020-2021 data with 2018-2019 data is for context only, not for accountability, and that the data is meant to support teachers and parents in planning for this current school year. Additionally, Board members were presented with graduation rates. While the 2020-2021 graduation rate decreased to 86.9% from the 87.6% rate in the 2019-2020 school year, it increased from the 86.5% rate in the 2018-2019 school year.
- Click here for a presentation that includes overall testing results, disaggregated testing results, graduation rates, waivers, and more
- Click here for a statistical summary of the testing results
- Click here the complete testing results for the State, LEAs, and schools (under the 2020-21 Reports heading)
- Click here for DPI’s press release on the testing results
- Click here for an article on the testing results
DHHS COVID-19 update: DHHS informed Board members that COVID-19 cases are quickly rising, with case rates increasing the most for 18–24 year-olds, followed by 0-17 year-olds. As of August 31, there are 72 active clusters in K-12 settings.
DHHS also presented the Board with information regarding the State’s federally funded opt-in K-12 COVID-19 testing program. The program provides funds for screening and/or diagnostic testing, as well as temporary staffing support like registered nurses or other clinical personnel. School districts that want to opt-in to the program for the 2021-2022 school year must complete the opt-in form by September 13. DHHS distributed the opt-in form and guidance to superintendents and school health administrators in July.
ESSER funding: The Board approved federal Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds that have been appropriated by the General Assembly in session law, including:
- $10 million in ESSER II funds for school nutrition programs, which was appropriated inHB 196: 2021 COVID-19 Response & Relief/SL 2021-3
- $20 million in ESSER III funds to ensure that each PSU receives at least $400 per student, which was appropriated in SB 172: Additional 2021 COVID-19 Response & Relief/SL 2021-25
House and Senate budget comparison: The Board’s legislative update presentation included a comparison of the House and Senate budget proposals. Click here to access the presentation that includes the comparison starting on slide 9.
Read to Achieve local alternative assessments: The Board approved a list of Read to Achieve local alternative assessments that LEAs can use instead of the state funded Amplify assessment tool. All presented assessments were approved for the 2020-2021 school year, but some have been renamed by vendors.
NCSBA has created a chart tracking local school boards’ policies/resolutions on school mask requirements. Click here to access the chart.
The number of school districts with mask mandates continues to increase, with currently 109 out of 115 requiring masks. Last Friday the number was 91, and the Friday before that the number was 80. As your school district finalizes its mask policy, please email information to Richard Bostic at email@example.com, as well as any corrections to the chart.
Last week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it will open a second application filing window on September 28 for schools to request funding for devices and broadband connection for off-campus use by students and school staff during the 2021-2022 school year. This announcement follows over $5 billion in funding requests from all 50 states, U.S. territories, and D.C. during the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program’s initial application filing window. The second application filing window will open on September 28 and close on October 13. Click here for the FCC news release. Click here for a webpage with numerous resources.
This week the Hunt Institute announced the creation of the Hunt-Lee Commission, which “will identify and apply high-impact strategies for strengthening systems across the education continuum in North Carolina.” The Commission is named after four-term NC Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. and Institute Board members (former) NC Senator Howard Lee and NC Senator Michael Lee. The bipartisan Commission is commended by Governor Roy Cooper, Senate leader Phil Berger, and House Speaker Tim Moore. Click here for the press release that includes a full list of Commission members. Click here for an article on the launch of the Commission.