The State Board of Education (SBE) met for its monthly meeting on Wednesday and Thursday. The meeting included the swearing in of the Board’s newest member, John Blackburn, as well as presentations on the following:
- DPI/SBE 2022 short session legislative priorities
- Children’s behavioral health in NC
- Lead and asbestos remediation in public school units (PSUs) and childcare facilities
DPI/SBE 2022 short session legislative priorities: The Board approved the 2022 short session legislative priorities, which total $59.1 million and include a school psychologist internship program, regional literacy support coaches and early learning specialists, and an increase in the school transportation fuel price reserve. Additionally, cost-of-living salary increases for teachers and public sector employees is a priority. Along with these legislative priorities, the Board also approved two complementary requests presented by Board member Wendell Hall, who chairs the committee that worked on the legislative priorities. Those requests are $15 million for 115 school social workers and $18 million for district improvement specialists to aid in the transformation of low performing schools.
While there was agreement on the legislative priorities, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt differed from the Board in how and when to ask for the two complementary requests. Truitt did not deny the need for school social workers, but she did note that school districts currently have federal COVID-19 funds that could be used to hire social workers. Additionally, Truitt stated that she is not sure if DPI is currently prepared to support more low performing schools. Board Vice Chair Alan Duncan told the Board that the recommended ratio of social workers in schools is one for every 250 students, and that NC is closer to one social worker for every 1,300 -1,400 students. Duncan stated, “We do know there is a significant need for social workers.” Click here for an article that includes Board discussion on these legislative priorities and complementary requests.
Children’s behavioral health in NC: The Board was presented with information on children’s behavioral health by Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) staff who stated that student mental health challenges have been increasing over the past decade and noted that the COVID-19 pandemic worsened an already growing challenge for children. North Carolina data shows that approximately 3,600 children have lost a parent/caregiver to COVID-19, and that the rate of children discharged from emergency departments with a behavioral health condition increased by approximately 70% in the pandemic. DHHS staff explained the importance of children feeling close to people at school as it relates to their mental health and laid out a coordinated action plan to address the child behavioral health crisis. Click here for the presentation.
Lead and asbestos remediation in public school units (PSUs) and childcare facilities: The State budget appropriated $150 million for the 2021-2022 fiscal year to be used for lead and asbestos remediation and abatement programs for PSUs and childcare facilities. DHHS and DPI are required to work together to develop these programs. At the meeting, the Board approved temporary rules to implement initial tests for lead in water, lead paint, and asbestos. When asked about the legislative requirement that PSUs match one dollar for every two dollars of State funds provided for lead paint and asbestos abatement, DPI staff stated that while it is a concern, the current focus is on the initial testing. Click here for the temporary rules, click here for public comments on the rules, and click here for the FAQ.
In less than two weeks, the 2022 legislative short session will begin. Because of the late passage of the State budget in November 2021, we do not expect there to be too many modifications to the budget during the session. However, NCSBA’s Governmental Relations Team is pushing for the following during this legislative session:
- Additional mental health support personnel (school nurses, social workers, and counselors)
- Flexibility with the new school psychologist allotment that allows school districts that are unable to recruit and hire a qualified school psychologist to use those funds for any mental health support personnel
- Funding for recently approved cooperative innovative high schools
- Salary increases to keep up with rising inflation
- Additional teacher assistants to improve K-3 literacy and address learning loss caused by the pandemic
- Average daily membership (ADM) hold harmless
- Continued use of remote/virtual instruction – After June 30, 2022, LEAs will lose some authority on how and when remote/virtual instruction can be provided
- Modify the school calendar to improve student learning and performance
If you have questions or concerns about this list of short session priorities, please contact Bruce Mildwurf at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, May 9
5:00 pm – House Select Committee on An Education System for North Carolina’s Future – Legislative Offices Building, rm 544 (live stream)
Please note that we may not be sending legislative updates on a weekly basis while the General Assembly is not in session.
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association