NCSBA Legislative Update – January 5, 2024

As the holidays passed in the NC Senate and House, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Once again, skeletal sessions were held on Wednesday, December 20, and Thursday, December 21 with no votes taken. The legislature is scheduled to reconvene on Wednesday, January 17. We’ll certainly keep you posted on any developments.

Candidate filing for the 2024 elections closed on Friday, December 15. Incumbents and challengers from across the political spectrum seized the opportunity to submit their filing fees and secure a spot on the ballot for positions ranging from congress and governor to sheriff and school board.

Roughly 12% of State legislators (15 House & 6 Senate) chose not to run again for their current seat. 8 of those 15 House members and 2 of the 6 Senators decided to instead run for a different office (1 for State Senate, 5 for Council of State, 4 for Congress).

Click here for the list of North Carolina House candidates. Click here for the list of North Carolina Senate candidates. Click here for a list of Council of State, Congressional, and Judicial candidates.

The NCSBA Governmental Relations team would like to wish everyone a very Happy and Healthy New Year!

The State Board of Education (“Board”) rang in the New Year with a meeting on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.  Raleigh Dingman Award recipient Dr. Michael Williams was recognized as Local Board of Education advisor for this year.
The Board approved the following:

  • Parents’ Bill of Rights Parental Concern Hearings Rule Changes
  • Three-Year High School Graduation Rule
  • Amendment to Policy on Reform of Continually Low-Performing Schools
  • Update on Temporary Rules for Interscholastic Athletics
  • Licensure Renewal Requirements
  • Standards of Professional Conduct Rule
  • Funding Model for Advanced Teaching Roles Program
  • Approval of Summer Enhancement Grant Program
  • Amendment to Schools Allotment Policy Manual

Parents’ Bill of Rights Parental Concern Hearings Rule Changes: In response to public input, the Board approved changes to the temporary rule 15 NCAC 06G.0701 it approved in November.  Changes add definitions, clarify parents’ right to request a hearing, and provide documents to be submitted.  Legal staff will return with a permanent rule later this year.   See rule with proposed changes in detail here.

Three-Year High School Graduation:  The Board approved changes to the temporary Rule 16 NCAC 06D.0510 it approved in November.  Changes address the need for PSUs to provide information on the graduation requirements for this three-year option. See changes here.

Amendment to Policy on Reform of Continually Low-Performing Schools: State Board policy DSTR-040 provides procedures for a local board of education to request authorization to implement a school reform model in a continually low-performing school under G.S. 115C-105.37B. The Board approved changes to set forth procedures for qualification for all four school reform models, including the Transformation Model, the Restart Model, the Turnaround Model, and the School Closure Model.  See policy and changes here.

Update on Temporary Rules for Interscholastic Athletics: On October 3, 2023, the General Assembly enacted S.L. 2023-133, which made significant changes to state laws governing interscholastic athletics and requires the State Board to adopt temporary rules in time for the 2024-2025 school year. The proposed temporary rules are designed to satisfy this legislative requirement and address such topics as the administration of interscholastic athletics, student health and safety, student participation requirements, amateur rules, penalties, and the appeals process. There will be a public comment period and hearing with adoption in March.  The temporary rules will take effect July 1, 2024.  A summary of the proposed changes is here.  Proposed temporary rules are here.
Licensure Renewal Requirements: The Board approved changes it reviewed last month for licensure renewal in SBE Policy LICN-005.  These changes apply to administrators, teachers, and student services personnel (including counselors, social workers, school psychologists, audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and media coordinators).  As recommended by PEPSC amendments include removal of the requirement for separate continuing education units (CEUs) solely related to digital teaching and learning. Also, mandatory state and local professional development must (was may) be counted towards general CEUs if certain criteria are met.  See policy changes here.

Standards of Professional Conduct Rules:  The Board approved several proposed temporary rules for public notice and comment which revise and create new provisions addressing the conduct of professional educators and revise Board rules related to teacher licensure suspension and revocation.  One of the new rules clarifies that a licensee may face disciplinary action against the license for violating the Standards of Professional Conduct.   Other provisions specify the types of sanctions the Board can impose on a licensee, including a written warning, a written reprimand, a suspension for a defined term, and revocation. Under the rules, the Board may attach remedial conditions to an action, such as a requirement that the licensee complete additional CEUs. PEPSC has reviewed and recommended the rules. See presentation here and a complete summary of proposed rule changes here.

Funding Model for Advanced Teaching Roles Program: The Board approved a funding model for the LEAs previously selected to participate in this program.  For presentations and a list of  districts participating in this program see here and here.

Approval of Summer Enhancement Grant Program: Under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act NCDPI was awarded $1.4 million in supplemental funding which it proposed to use to fund the Competitive Summer Enhancement Grant ProgramNine applications met the minimum threshold for quality and are recommended for funding of a total award of $839,557. These applicants proposed to serve 625 students in 2- or 3-week intensive summer sessions. No LEAs applied.  Of the eleven applicants that submitted a proposal, two were charter schools, eight were community-based nonprofits, and one was a community-based for-profit.  Students in Pitt, Wilson, Scotland, Guilford, Buncombe, Bladen, and Cabarrus may benefit from these programs. See overview here.

Amendment to Schools Allotment Policy Manual:  The Board approved changes to the Allotment Policy Manual resulting from the 2023-24 appropriations legislation and to address several new State grants and one Federal grant.  Grants include funding for stop sign arms, teacher apprentices, Rethink Education which provides professional development and compensates teachers for it, and  PLASMA Games which provides educational software to be used in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and career and technical education (CTE) courses. See revised Allotment Policy Manual for the 2023-24 year here.

In addition, this month, the Board received several reports and discussed the following:

  • Funding in Arrears Report
  • Ninth Grade Accelerated Preparation for College Entry
  • Standards Revisions
  • Year-Over-Year Analysis Report on Recovery from Covid-19
  • ESSA State Plan Amendment
  • $7.9 Million Grant for Math Education in Rural Schools
  • SparkNC
  • Renewal School System Report
  • Charter Schools Review Board Update
  • Charter School Renewal Process
  • Heathy Active Children Policy Report
  • 2023 School Mental Health Policy Report
  • Wilson Area School-Based Health Centers
  • Other reports

Funding in Arrears Report: This report is due for DPI to submit to the General Assembly next month. Section 7.20 of S.L.2023-134 (State Budget) requires DPI to develop a model to fund PSUs based on the actual ADM from the prior school year instead of projections for the upcoming school year. DPI is required to propose technical adjustments for public school funding to the State Board of Education for approval before submitting the State Budget Director and the Fiscal Research Division. DPI’s CFO, Alexis Schauss, gave a lengthy report on a proposed model proposed for calculating school funding which includes a method to account for newly formed charter schools. The report was for discussion only this month and will be up for State Board approval to send to the General Assembly next month. (See report here and presentation here).

Ninth Grade Accelerated Preparation for College Entry:  Since PSUs are now required to offer 3-year pathways to graduation, the Board discussed amending policy GRAD-006 to include a recommended course sequence for both traditional and block high school schedules and for PSUs adopting sequences based on local needs. See here.

Standards Revisions:  The Board received an update on the progress of ongoing standards revisions.   DPI indicates it is making progress on drafts of K-12 World Language and Arts standards.  Surveys on Healthful Living will be open until the middle of January.  For more information see here.

Year-Over-Year Analysis Report on Recovery from Covid-19: The Board received the 2023 Year-Over-Year Analysis Report from the Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration. This report indicates North Carolina Schools are steadily continuing to recover from the Pandemic with what DPI reports are “gains virtually across all grades and subjects.” Two of 16 standardized assessments (EOG Reading Grade 3 and EOC English II) already show gains above the recovery thresholds.   The report uses a new method of analysis which provides more information to inform local discussion about recovery from the Pandemic. The new analysis focuses on trends in achievement during the last 10 years and compares those trends during time periods before, during, and after the Pandemic. For presentation and report see here and here.

ESSA State Plan Amendment: DPI met with the Department of Education to discuss resetting long-term goals. There will be a webinar this month to gather input on this proposal to reset long-term goals, timelines, and criteria for implementing the State ESSA plan. More information is here. For an article entitled “NC’s latest response to learning loss: Asking feds to let state hit the reset button” click here.

$7.9 Million Grant for Math Education in Rural Schools: This 5-year grant awarded by the Department of Education is referred to as the Patterns for Reaching & Impacting Students in Math (PRISM).  The goal is to increase math proficiency. Through a partnership with Carnegie Learning to implement a professional development platform and coaching and WestEd to research and evaluate the impact on teachers and students,  up to 300 rural 4th grade Math teachers serving 7000 students across the state will receive ongoing professional learning. Initial groups of teachers and students will be identified this year as DPI finalizes the processes, protocols, and procedures to initiate the grant work.  Full implementation is expected to begin in January of 2025. See presentation here.

SparkNC:  SparkNC is a North Carolina nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, launched with the support of the North Carolina General Assembly in partnership with DPI with the strategic vision of developing students’ durable skills and engagement in real-world challenges.
SparkNC is designed to help students who are Spark Scholars create their own pathway to high-tech fields. Through the program a network of school districts collaborates so each district operates one or more SparkLabs to serve as physical hubs for a new kind of learning. This organization wants to expand this to districts throughout the State. SparkLabs are currently available in 20 districts, two charters, and some private schools. Wake County Schools have the newest lab located on the Wake Tech campus. Former Superintendent of Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Dr. Lynn Moody, introduced this project to the Board and Dr. John Stover, superintendent of Rockingham County Schools reported on the value of the program currently operating in his school system.  See presentation here and website here.  For an article on this program titled “SparkNC brings self-directed, competency-based learning to public school students” click here.

Renewal School System Report:  Rowan-Salisbury Schools (RSS) is North Carolina’s only Renewal School System which provides RSS charter-like flexibility with its calendar, curriculum, personnel, and finance.  Kelly Withers, RSS superintendent, presented the district’s annual report last month and was back to respond to questions this month. See her presentation here.

Charter Schools Review Board Update: Chair Bruce Friend and Vice Chair John Eldridge, gave a brief update on the December meeting. No charters have been approved yet in the 2023 cycle, but the chair reports that of the 15 original applicants • 10 Application interviews / reviews have been completed • 6 have been moved into the Ready to Open Process/4 were declined • 2 applicants have their second interview with CSRB in January • 3 applicants withdrew prior to the interview process. See report here.

Charter School Renewal Process:  The State Board and Superintendent Truitt continue to discuss the charter school approval process. This month the discussion focused on proposed guidelines for the renewal process.  See guidelines here.  To read an article on this issue titled, “Charter school renewal policy proposal sparks testy State Board of Education debate” click here.

Heathy Active Children Policy Report: DPI staff reported on ratios of licensed PE teachers to students and data showing a correlation between physical activity and less persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness among high school students in NC.  Some good news is that 100% of LEAs have a policy in place while 50% of School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs) met at least quarterly. 72% of SHACs provided annual reports to their local board. 63% of schools provided staff wellness programs.  Areas of health focused on this year were tobacco/vaping, safe school environment, mental health counseling, and social work.  Employee wellness is the top area in need of additional resources while counseling, psychological, and social services are second.  99% of LEAs elementary schools provide 30 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous physical activity through recess, physical education, classroom energizers, and GoNoodle. 76% of Middles Schools do this through Physical Education and classroom energizers, recess, intramurals. No teacher or school withheld recess as a punishment in 99% of LEAs.  See full report here.

2023 School Mental Health Policy Report:  327 to 336 total PSUs responded to DPI’s survey. Staff and the Board discussed the benefit of support personnel such as school psychologists, counselors, and nurses, noting that chronic absenteeism goes down with the right ratios and time for instruction goes up.   See full report here. For an article entitled “NC schools lack enough counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists report says” click here.

Wilson Area School-Based Health Centers:  Within the context of the Healthy Responsible Students committee discussion on healthy schools, Superintendent Lane Mills from Wilson gave a presentation on the school-based health centers set up in Wilson County Schools.  He noted that this partnership with the local county health department enables them to provide 4 onsite clinics in the schools. Mills reported that relationships are key to making this work. A private Healthcare Foundation provided seed funding.  DPI staff indicated that the state provides some seed funding to get these clinics started in schools. Mills also noted that the clinics have been key to keeping teachers and staff in school and that telehealth has been helpful in staffing the clinics. Information on WASH is here.

Other Reports: Read to Achieve Literacy Intervention Plans Approved and Denied in 2022-2023 (report here), Pilot Program to Raise the High School Dropout Age (report here), School Connectivity Initiative (report here), Weighted Funding for Exceptional Children (report here and presentation here), and Study for Students with Extraordinary Costs (report here and presentation here).

The following is the Consortium of State School Boards Association’s (COSSBA) most recent federal education reports.

December 11, 2023 Headlines From the Weekly Report Include:

-NC Educational Programs were awarded almost $15 million of the $277 million distributed by the Federal Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Grant Program.  The EIR programs help create, implement, replicate, and expand entrepreneurial, evidence-based innovations to improve outcomes for historically underserved learners and to evaluate such innovations. There were a total of 45 grantees.  Three listed below are the North Carolina based programs.

N.C. Department of Public Instruction PRISM: Patterns for Reaching and Impacting Students in Math  $7,868,972
Village of Wisdom, Inc. That’s Just Good Teaching Program  $4,000,000
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Strengthening Social-Emotional Learning in High Schools with Integrated Multi-Tiered Mindfulness Programming   $4,000,000

To learn more about the EIR Grants, click here.

-FCC Proposes New Rules Addressing Homework Gap: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a proposed rule to address the ongoing remote learning needs of students, school staff, and librarians through the E-Rate program.  The purpose is to help ensure families benefiting from the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program are not left behind when the program sunsets on June 30, 2024. The program helps fund connected devices, Wi-Fi hotspot devices, broadband connections, and other eligible equipment and services for their needs outside of their school or library.  The FCC is reexamining the E-Rate program and seeking comment on proposals and potential actions the Commission could take to support E-Rate beneficiaries who are at risk of losing access to essential broadband connections necessary to engage in educational opportunities once the ECF program sunsets this June. The FCC is accepting comments through January 8, 2024, and reply comments are due on January 22, 2024.

For more information on these programs and to learn how to submit comments, click here.

Authors of the weekly COSSBA updates took a break following the December 11th publication.  They’ll be back at it the week of January 15th.

The following are recent news articles, reports, and press releases on state and national education-related issues.

State News

North State Journal: 46% of North Carolina School Board Races Will Be Partisan in 2024
North State Journal: A Look Back At The Year In K-12 Education
WFAE: New Report – Third Grade Reading Is Bright Spot for Learning Recovery
WFAE: NC Students Face Brutal Realities of Lingering Pandemic Setbacks In Schools
WFAE: Most CMS Families Aren’t Responding to ‘Parents Rights’ Permission Requests
WFAE: Where Do NC Students Go to School? Trends Show Decline At Traditional Public Schools
WFAE: Gaston Schools Will Keep Defying NC Calendar Law For Two More Years
WFAE: NC Budget Lets Teachers Who Struggle With Licensing Exams Keep Their Jobs
News & Observer: NC Schools Lack Enough Counselors, Nurses, Social Workers and Psychologists Report Says
News & Observer: Facing a State Deadline, Wake Schools Pass Policy To Comply With Parents Bill of Rights
News & Observer: NC Schools Sue Social Media Companies For Exploiting Addictive Nature of Platforms
News & Observer: NC Is a National Leader in Charter and Private School Growth. Good News or a Threat?
Carolina Journal: Change For Good – The NC Charter School Review Board and the Road Ahead
Carolina Journal: NC Has 3rd Highest Charter School Enrollment Growth In Nation
NC Health News: Task Force To Focus On Social Media Algorithms, Gun Storage Education, To Help Keep NC Kids Safer in 2024
NC Department of Public Instruction Press Release: NCDPI Awarded $7.9 Million To Address Math Disparities in Rural Schools

National News

EdSource: Threats, Stress and Politics Pushing Superintendents Out the Door
K-12 Dive: School Districts Face Growing Competition for Students
K-12 Dive: 4 Key School Staffing Solution Themes That Emerged in 2023
K-12 Dive: 5 Insights From Top School Administrators In 2023
Education Week: Students’ Math Outcomes Have Plummeted. Here’s What To Do
Washington Post: Homeschooling’s Rise From Fringe to Fastest Growing Form of Education

There are no education-related committee meetings scheduled at this time.
The NCSBA Governmental Relations team would like to wish everyone a very Happy and Healthy New Year!
Bruce Mildwurf
Director of Governmental Relations
NC School Boards Association
bmildwurf@ncsba.org

Madison Skeens
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
NC School Boards Association
mskeens@ncsba.org

Rob Black
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
NC School Boards Association
rblack@ncsba.org

Christina DavoileNCSBA Legislative Update – January 5, 2024