NCSBA Legislative Update – February 2, 2024

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FEBRUARY 2, 2024
Despite the North Carolina General Assembly being out of session, there’s been some notable activity to report. The House Select Committee on Education Reform has been quite busy, meeting twice over the past two weeks. Typically, during these off-session periods, these committee meetings focus on policy-related reports and updates from state agencies, legislative staff, or education-related interest groups.

During the January 22nd meeting, the committee delved into reports concerning teacher compensation and benefits, as well as advanced teaching roles. Presentations were made by the legislature’s Fiscal Research Division and BEST NC, a non-profit, non-partisan business-led coalition dedicated to improving education. The BEST NC presentation really did a particularly good dive into teacher pay in North Carolina as the slide below illustrates.

To see this full BEST NC presentation, click here.  You can check out the remainder of the reports below.

Fiscal Research Division: Teacher Compensation and Benefits
Fiscal Research Division: Advanced Teaching Roles
Best NC: Advanced Teaching Roles

Moving to the January 29th meeting, the Fiscal Research Division started off with a report on Public School Technology – Assessing Demand For and Supply of State Resources. During the presentation, a key item from NCSBA’s legislative agenda was noted – the $730 million owed to the school technology fund that was unconstitutionally diverted to other purposes. Representatives Diane Wheatley (R-Cumberland) and Maria Cervania (D-Wake) serve on the committee and have introduced bills proposing the use of motor vehicle speeding fines to help address over time the $730 million owed to the school technology fund.

Additionally, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) shared two reports: the first one being  Student Device, Home Connectivity, and K12 Artificial Intelligence Guidance Updates. In that presentation DPI’s Chief Information Officer Dr. Vanessa Wrenn reported that 89 of 115 LEAs have indicated that they don’t have, or haven’t identified resources to pay for replacement devices because these federally funded programs expire this year. The other presentation was on learning loss recovery, titled NC’s Road to Recovery through Evidence-based Policymaking.

The final presentation was from the Superintendent of  Randolph County Schools, Dr. Steven Gainey, who discussed the local impact of both learning loss and technology funding. Dr. Gainey also shared concerns about the “funding cliff” that local districts will face when the federal affordable connectivity funding program ends in April and the remaining ESSER funds must be committed by the end of September. Dr. Gainey also pointed out that state funding for technology and connectivity is substantially lower for the 2023-24 school year than it was for the 2009-10 school year. To view Dr. Gainey’s presentation, click here.

Looking ahead, the Education Reform Committee is scheduled to meet again on February 12th.  An agenda has not yet been posted. Both the House and Senate are scheduled for session in case one is needed Wednesday, February 14th. The NCSBA Governmental Relations staff doesn’t anticipate any activity.

Dr. Williams Begins SBE Tenure

Dr. Michael Williams, Board of Trustees Chair of the Roanoke Rapids Graded School System officially began his tenure as the Local Board Representative on the NC State Board of Education (SBE) at this week’s board meeting. “It’s an honor and privilege to be here, I represent the hundreds of school board members from across the state. I hope to bring to the table their perspective on various matters under consideration by this board. We all share a common interest, and that is the children of this state, and affording to them the best opportunities we can provide to educate and prepare themselves for their futures.”

Dr. Williams is the 2023-2024 recipient of NCSBA’s Raleigh Dingman Award, the highest honor bestowed on a North Carolina school board member each year. By statute, each year’s award recipient serves as an ex-officio member of the NC State Board of Education. Dr. Williams also serves on the NCSBA Board of Directors.

Dr. Williams With the NC State Board of Education
Click on the image for video of Dr. Williams’ opening comments.
State Board of Education Meeting February 2024
The State Board of Education (“Board”) met on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

SBE Legislative Agenda
The Board discussed and approved its legislative priorities for the upcoming legislative short session which begins in late April. Items include:

  • $4.5 million to continue funding efforts to transform schools designated as low performing.
  • A joint ask with NC DHHS around evidence-based prevention and early intervention
  • Supporting DPI priorities to ask for resources across 3 areas:  (1) early math screeners, (2) math professional development for teachers in elementary, (3) addressing literacy to middle grade readers, 4th and 5th grade readers in particular.

DPI Legislative Agenda
DPI Secretary Truitt also shared DPI’s legislative priorities for the short session.  Items include;

  • Expansion of Read to Achieve professional development to middle grades teachers
  • Legislate a statewide policy framework for math that includes Early math screener and professional development for elementary math teachers
  • School Performance Grade Redesign
  • Grant Funding to continue support for low-performing schools and districts
  • Continued funding  for Office of Learning and Research at NC DPI

NCSBA Legislative Priorities
While it was not a part of the SBE meeting, it is useful to also list NCSBA’s legislative priorities for the short session.

  • Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent; Improving Working Conditions
    • Increased pay and additional benefits
  • Student Centered Calendar
  • Fund more School Health Personnel
  • Accountability
    • Work with and support DPI’s efforts to revamp the school grading formula, statewide testing, and what constitutes a low-performing school
  • High School Athletics
  • Modify New Early Graduate Program
    • Allow local boards of education to maintain additional requirements for students graduating in 4 years, based on local needs.

Center for Safer Schools Data Report
First, the Board received the Annual Consolidated Data Report for the 2022-2023 School year from Karen Fairley, Executive Director, Office of the Center for Safer Schools. The center compiles the report which is required by the legislature to address dropout rates, suspensions, expulsions, uses of corporal punishment, reassignments for disciplinary purposes, alternative placements, and acts of violence in the public schools.   Statistics in the report include:

  • 13.3% decrease for high school dropouts from 10,841 in 2021-22, to 9,612 in 2022-23. DPI notes this is the lowest number of high school dropouts across the state in a non-pandemic year since the 2013-14 school year.
  • Increase in school safety incidents (includes acts of crime violence, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of a weapon) from11,170 in 2021-22, to 13,193 in 2022-23. DPI notes that incidents involving weapon possession decreased by 3.7%
  • 35.7% increase in controlled substance incidents.
  • 3.7% decrease in weapon possession incidents.

DPI stated that “the report’s findings increase safety awareness and allow school districts to evaluate safety protocols while facilitating discussions around how to improve, identify and strengthen safety measures in schools and communities.”

Click here for a DPI press release on these statistics and more, including increases in suspensions and expulsions.  To see the PowerPoint presentation click here and see the full report to the legislature here.

Student Health and Safety

NC Health and Human Services Secretary, Kody H. Kinsley, wants to continue working with the Board and DPI to improve student and community health and safety. He highlighted the important impact of school-based health programs on student behavior and performance.

Secretary Kinsley reported on the following statistics:

  • North Carolina is ranked 42nd out of 50 states in youth mental health service access
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for youth ages 10-18 in NC
  • On average more than 50 children sleep in emergency departments and DSS offices each week due to unmet behavioral health needs
  • 1 in 10 NC high school students attempted suicide
  • 1 in 3 NC high school students are chronically absent
  • 72% of NC high school students are not able to access needed mental health care

Secretary Kinsley believes that working together to address these issues in the schools maximizes the impact which in turn improves academic outcomes. See his full presentation which includes areas in need of investment, the vision for school behavioral health, and next steps,  here.

Dr. Sarah Komisaro, from the Duke Sanford School of Public policy, then spoke to the benefits of school-based telemedicine access which her research shows reduces the likelihood that a student is chronically absent by 2.5 percentage points (29 percent) and the number of days a student is absent by about 0.8 days per year (10 percent).  She added that her research suggests that telehealth can reduce violent or weapons-related disciplinary infractions. Reginald Keenan, Chair of the Healthy Responsible Students committee, summed it up later in the meeting in speaking about the Duke report and use of telemedicine in schools, “any positive effort to get to the children before the crisis is important” and it shows that “you can prevent violence if you put things in place.” See full presentation here.

Further Discussions

American Rescue Plan ESSA III Updated Budget Plan: DPI indicated that due to changes in the budgets for previously approved items, there is approximately $4.6 million currently available from ESSER III grants for further initiatives. The Board is poised to approve activities to be funded from ESSER III State Reserve funds at the March meeting.

Alan Duncan, Chair of the Business Operations Committee, reported that he expects the amount of available funds to rise until June 30 to around $5.5 million.  Proposals include $1.75 million for professional development in advanced teaching roles, $1.3 million for portrait of a graduate online learning modules, and regional training.

Up to $2 million is proposed for virtual summer courses through NC Virtual Public School. Superintendent Truitt notes that the national score card out of Harvard this week shows summer programs are recommended to recover from pandemic learning loss. $100,000 is proposed for DPI to hold a summit on AI issues with folks throughout the state. For the full list of proposed program spending see the Updated Budget Plan and the additional Funding Requests for 2024.

Career and College Promise (CCP) and Cooperative Innovative High School Programs: The full report will be submitted to the General Assembly. NC students have 3 pathways to higher education without cost as follows: College Transfer Path (CTP), Career and Technical Education (CTE), and Cooperative Innovative High Schools (CIHS).  State Board policy CACP-000 requires LEAs to have developed a CCP Partnership Agreement with their CCP college partner by December 2023. The agreement must address partnership protocols, program offerings, communication plan to broaden access, student academic support systems, and responsibilities of school/district and college personnel, responsibilities for program expenses, operation and use of facilities and transportation. See  presentation here and full report here.

Standards Revisions:  The Board received the monthly update on the progress of ongoing standards revisions. DPI is analyzing data collected from surveys that closed on the K-12 Healthful Living Standards January 14 and will now create the third and final draft for these standards. Another survey will be released in mid-February following the second draft of K-12 Arts standards.  K-12 World Language surveys will be open until mid-March.  For more information see full report here.

The Board reviewed and did not approve EPPs for Moreland University and Kipp NC to allow time for further research. For information on Moreland University see here and Kipp NC see here.

Policies Reviewed and Approved

  • Parents’ Bill of Rights Parental Concern Hearings Policy Changes
  • Ninth Grade Accelerated Preparation for College Entry
  • Middle School Introduction to Computer Science Elective Courses Requirement
  • RFP for Community Learning Centers
  • USDA Assistance Funds
  • Changes to Professional Certification of Finance Officers
  • After School Robotics Grant Recipients
  • Allotment for Modernization of LEA Business Systems
  • Heathy Active Children Policy Report
  • 2023 School Mental Health Policy Report
  • Final Evaluation Report for Innovation School District (INSD

Parents’ Bill of Rights Parental Concern Hearings Policy Changes: The Board updated State Board Policy PRNT-001, Parental Concern Hearings Procedure, so that it is consistent with 16 NCAC 06G .0701, the newly approved rule approved at the last meeting.  Changes add definitions, clarify parents’ right to request a hearing, and provide documents to be submitted. See policy changes here.

Ninth Grade Accelerated Preparation for College Entry:  The Board amended policy GRAD-006 to include the changes discussed last month which provide a recommended course sequence for both traditional and block high school schedules and for PSUs adopting sequences based on local needs. See policy here.

Middle School Introduction to Computer Science Elective Courses Requirement: The Board approved a list of elective middle school courses which satisfy the introductory computer science course requirement mandated in S.L. 2023-132. See list here.

RFP for Community Learning Centers: The Board approved the Request for Proposal (RFP) for LEAs, community-based organizations, city or county agencies, faith-based organizations, Bureau of Indian Education schools, Institutions of Higher Education, and for-profit corporations to submit applications to receive federal funds to provide education enrichment and learning support in out-of-school programs. Applications are due April 23, 2024. See report here and RFP here.

USDA Assistance Funds: The Board approved distribution of $35,228,553 in federal funds to assist districts dealing with supply chain disruptions which are causing financial difficulty/need. Recipients must agree to purchase only unprocessed or minimally processed food products.  For grant agreement and a full list recipients’ funding allocations see here and here.

Professional Certification of Finance Officers: The Board approved changes to the Professional Certification Program for North Carolina School Finance Officers (FINO-000) to align policy with S.L. 2023-134. Finance Officers must complete at least two hours of conflict-of-interest training regarding the making and administering of contracts every odd-numbered fiscal year. Current Finance Officers must receive their initial training by April 2024. New Finance Officers must receive their training within 90 days, and subsequent trainings in every following odd-numbered fiscal year.  See policy here.

After School Robotics Grant Recipients: Per S.L. 2023-134, the After School Robotics Competitive Grant application was provided to all PSUs. The total grant was funded at $1,000,000. NCDPI received over $2.1 million in requests from 46 schools. The Board approved the 22 recipients listed here.

Allotment to Modernize LEA Business Systems:  The Board approved changes to the allotment policy for funds to implement the School Business System Modernization Plan which supports the modernization of local education agency (LEA) business systems, particularly those that support financial, payroll, human resources, and related human capital functions. See policy here.

Healthy Active Children Policy Report: Last month 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.  This month the Board approved the report.  See full report here.

2023 School Mental Health Policy Report:  Last month the Board discussed the need for 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.   This month the Board approved the report. See full report here.

Final Evaluation Report for Innovation School District (INSD): The Board approved the report to the general assembly with the final evaluation of the pilot program known as the Innovate School District (INSD). See report here.

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

January 29, 2024 Headlines From the Weekly Report Include:

Federal Budget Update: The continuing resolution (CR) passed by Congress in November expired on January 19th. The day before the CR expired, both chambers of Congress kicked the can down the road again and passed a CR which expires either March 1, or March 8th, depending on the classification into which the funded federal agencies fall. The Democratic-controlled Senate remains far apart from the Republican-controlled House.

Education Department Releases National Education Technology Plan: The plan points to three key factors, or “divides,” that limit impactful education technology usage to support teaching and learning. Those divides include, 1) The Digital Use Divide, addressing opportunities to improve how students use technology to enhance their learning; 2) The Digital Design Divide, addressing opportunities for educators to expand their professional learning and build the capacities necessary to design learning experiences enabled by technology; and 3) The Digital Access Divide, addressing opportunities for students and educators to gain equitable access to educational technology. To read more about the plan, click here.

Montgomery County School System Wins $1.4 Million Federal Grant: They’re celebrating down in Troy, NC. Their system was among 19 school systems across the country receiving a total of $25 million in grants through the first-ever Perkins Innovation and Modernization Career Connected High School Programs. The grants from the Department of Education build the capacity of education and workforce systems to partner with business and industry, to develop new high-quality career-connected high school programs for more students. Grantees will leverage four evidence-based strategies, or “keys,” to help students in unlocking career success including: providing postsecondary education and career guidance; increasing access to dual or concurrent enrollment programs; increasing work-based learning opportunities; and providing industry-recognized credentials. To read a press release about the program, click here.

 

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

State News

WFAE: No Oversight For NC Charter Schools? That’s Not Really True
WFAE: Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board Is Ready For Legal Fight Over Parents Bill of Rights
News & Observer: Federal Complaint Accuses NC Parents Bill of Rights of Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination
News & Observer: NC Legislative Leader Vows Quick Response to School Board Vote On Parents Bill of Rights
News & Observer: School Crime Soars In NC Public Schools. It’s Now 38% Above Pre-Pandemic Levels.
WCNC: North Carolina Schools To Add Threat-Assessment Teams Ahead of Next Year
News & Observer: NC Schools Get $35 Million In Safety Grants. Here’s What It Can Be Used For.
Carolina Journal: School Board Rejects NC Law, A Quick Trip To Chaos
WFAE: State Education Officials Recommend Changes To Special Education Funding, Services
News & Observer: We Could Not Be More Proud; NC Leads US in Number of Nationally Certified Teachers
Charlotte Observer: New Policy Will Allow NC Private High School Athletes To Benefit From NIL
UNC System Press Release: NC Teaching Fellows Program Launches District Pilot Recruitment Initiative
WCNC: NC To Receive $12 M From White House for School Counselors
WRAL: Most NC Schools Say They’re Running Out of Money To Replace Students Laptops
WRAL: NC Creates AI Guidebook For Schools, Fourth In the Nation To Do So
WRAL: NC’s New School Voucher Program Reignites Funding Debate
North State Journal: NC Department of Public Instruction Releases AI Guidebook

National News

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Press Release: CMS Announces $50 Million In Grants to Deliver Critical School Based Health to Children
Higher Ed Dive: 2 Final Title IX Regulations Will Likely Be Delayed – Again
Education Week: How Taylor Swift’s Experience With Deepfakes Can Help Students Examine AI Ethics
Education Week: What’s On the K-12 Agenda For States This Year? 4 Takeaways
Washington Post: White House Urges Schools To Address Absenteeism Amid Troubling Data

House Select Committee on Education Reform
Monday, February 12 1:00pm
Legislative Office Building, Room 643
An agenda has not yet been released. Check the committee website linked above for updates.
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 – February 2, 2024