NCSBA Legislative Update – October 8, 2021

 

The State Board of Education met for its monthly meeting this week and was presented with the following:

Local boards of education COVID-19 responsibilities: The Board’s General Counsel presented an overview of an addition to the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit, which explains that it is each local school board’s legal responsibility to take control measures against COVID-19 in schools. Control measures require a principal to report to the local health department anyone in a school who is reasonably suspected of having a communicable disease, like COVID-19. The local health director will then investigate the case, which may require school compliance in accessing records to help identify cases and close contacts. Next, the local health director is responsible for ensuring that all control measures (contact tracing, quarantine, isolation, and exclusion) are complied with. Click here for more information about local school boards’ legal responsibilities.

DHHS COVID-19 update: COVID-19 case rates remain high across the State. There are currently 258 active K-12 clusters (246 in public schools and 12 in private schools), compared to 72 one month ago. Based on data from August 26 through September 26, NC school districts with mask optional policies had an average of 17.2 clusters per 100 schools. This compares to an average of 6.9 clusters per 100 schools in NC school districts with consistent mask mandates that reported at least one cluster (see slide 8). Despite high case rates and increased K-12 clusters, all statewide COVID-19 metrics are on the decline.

Additionally, DHHS staff presented updates and additions to the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit:

2020-2021 Read to Achieve data: The Board was presented with annual Read to Achieve (RtA) data, which shows that a majority of students in first, second, and third grade did not demonstrate reading proficiency. Since testing was waived in the 2019-2020 school year, DPI staff compared the 2020-2021 results to 2018-2019:

  • The percentage of first graders demonstrating proficiency dropped from 71% to 39%
  • The percentage of second graders demonstrating proficiency dropped from 78% to 43%
  • The percentage of third graders demonstrating proficiency dropped from 57% to 44%

Although accountability was waived due to COVID-19, DPI staff and Board members expressed concern over these drastic drops in reading proficiency. The Board was also presented with data showing that at least 60% of K-3 teachers demonstrate factual knowledge in science of reading instruction, but less than 40% of K-3 teachers understand the application of this knowledge. Click here for an article on this presentation.

2021-2022 Read to Achieve implementation guide: The Board was also presented with RtA implementation guide updates. This guide is based on the implementation of the science of reading, which is required in SB 387: Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021/SL 2021-8. Sections 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 12 were added to the guide, which include curriculum alignment, literacy interventions, assessments, and data collection. The Board voted to approve these final sections of the implementation guide.

Federal COVID-19 spending update: The Board received an informative update on the status of North Carolina’s spending of federal COVID-19 relief funds. This presentation provides a summary of each round of funds based on their purpose, and this chart includes a description, spending deadline, and status of specific allotments from each round of funds.

Click here to access all meeting materials. Click here to access an article on the meeting.

 

Budget Negotiations

Budget negotiations are still ongoing between Republican legislative leaders and Governor Roy Cooper. Budget details continue to remain private as the State has entered its fourth month of the new fiscal year without an approved State budget.

SB 695: Various Education Changes

SB 695: Various Education Changes was approved by the Senate 49-0 and was sent to the Governor for his signature. This bill does the following:

  • Exempts principals granted a license for any school year from 2010-2011 to 2020-2021 from certain statutory licensure requirements and provides a waiver for certain individuals in the process of becoming a licensed principal
    • This provision is per the request of the State Board of Education and DPI
  • Allows LEAs to use a payroll deduction plan to pay eligible school personnel in 12 monthly installments
  • Extends the submission of the Student Meal Debt Report from October 15, 2021, to October 15, 2023
  • Authorizes public school units (PSUs) to hold State funds in local bank accounts for up to three business days after the date of drawing on the State funds, before making a final disbursement to the ultimate payee
    • This is a departure from the current cash management statute that requires the State Treasurer to keep money on deposit until final disbursement to the ultimate payee
    • In 2020, the State Treasurer’s office identified a problem during the pilot testing for the DPI School Business Modernization Development Process software implementation – without the change in this bill, the new software could potentially make PSUs out of compliance with the State Controller’s cash management statute
    • Language from HB 18

Click here for an official bill summary.

Local Election Bills

Both HB 400: Asheville City Sch. Bd. Appt/Elections (primary sponsors: Representatives Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe; Brian Turner, D-Buncombe; John Ager, D-Buncombe) and HB 118: Buncombe School Bd. Election were amended and passed by the Senate State and Local Government Committee. The amendment to HB 400 removed a section that was then added to HB 118.

The new version of HB 118 changes the election method for the six Buncombe County Board of Education members that run from districts. Instead of being elected by voters from across Buncombe County, board members would only be elected by voters residing in their districts. HB 118 lists out requirements for the board in establishing and revising electoral districts. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 400 changes the Asheville City Board of Education from an appointed board to an elected board and increases the board from five to seven members. Both HB 400 and HB 118 have been referred to the Senate Rules Committee.

 

Currently, 108 school districts require masks, six districts allow masks to be optional, and one requires masks for students in grades 3-12.

NCSBA continues to track local school boards’ policies on school mask requirements as districts vote monthly on whether to modify their current policy (required by Section 10 of SB 654/SL 2021-130). Click here to access a chart of school board actions. If your school district changes its mask policy or you have corrections to the chart, please email information to Richard Bostic at rbostic@ncsba.org.

 

 

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 – October 8, 2021