Local School Board Mask Policies
This week two attempts were made to amend the requirement that local school boards vote at least once a month on modifying their district’s face mask policy (required in SB 654/SL 2021-130). The proposed amendment would require local school boards, in consultation with their local health director, to establish public health metrics that would determine when the board should consider modifying its mask policy, though it would not prevent the board from voting on the policy more frequently.
Both amendments were proposed to be added to SB 695: Various Education Changes (more on this bill in the next section), one during the House Rules Committee meeting on Tuesday night and one on the House floor on Wednesday morning. The House floor amendment failed 41-51, with all Democrats and one Republican voting for the amendment. Supporters of the amendment explained that it was in response to the unruly and threatening behavior that has become common at local school board meetings, and that if a school board does not intend to change its mask policy, based on metrics, there is no need to vote on it every month.
This legislative effort to modify the monthly mask policy vote requirement follows a letter sent to legislators last week by NCSBA Director of Governmental Relations, Bruce Mildwurf, requesting a modification to the monthly vote requirement. Additionally, NCSBA Executive Director, Leanne Winner, and NCSBA President, Amy Churchill, sent a letter to Governor Cooper requesting assistance in alleviating the tension and disorder at many local school board meetings across the State. Click here, here, and here for articles on the amendment and letters.
NCSBA is continuing to work with the NC Association of School Administrators (NCASA) and the NC School Superintendents’ Association (NCSSA) to address COVID-related issues impacting local school districts. For more on school districts’ masks policies, see the Local School Board Mask Policies section below.
SB 695: Various Education Changes
SB 695: Various Education Changes was gutted, amended, and approved in the House Rules Committee meeting on Tuesday. This bill previously dealt with medical action plans for schools, but now 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
SB 695 passed the House 92-0 and has been sent to the Senate for a concurrence vote. Click here for an official bill summary.
House Speaker Tim Moore announced that all unresolved budget items were agreed upon between the House and Senate, as of 9:30 am on Wednesday. This aligns with the legislative leaders’ goal of reaching an agreement in time to deliver a budget document to the Governor for his review this week. As we stated last week, the budget document being presented to the Governor will not be made public.
Additional Education-Related Bills
In last Friday’s Legislative Update, we reported that during the House Judiciary 2 Committee meeting this week SB 593: Special Education Due Process Hearings was scheduled to be heard and HB 64: Government Transparency Act of 2021 was expected to be heard for discussion and public comment only. That Committee meeting was cancelled earlier this week, so neither of those bills made progress. We will continue to provide updates on these two controversial bills.
Currently, 109 school districts require masks. Three districts allow masks to be optional, two have pending mask optional policies (Pender is effective on October 4 and Harnett is effective on October 5), and this week Avery County switched from being fully mask optional to requiring masks for all students in grades 3-12 (effective October 6).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education met on Tuesday to receive an update on the implementation of the Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Plan. The Commission also received remarks from Governor Cooper, who stated that he will continue to advocate for full implementation of the Plan during State budget negotiations. Click here to see how the House and Senate budget proposals align with the Leandro Plan.
As a reminder, the Commission was created in July 2017 and consists of 19 members appointed by the Governor to develop recommendations on how the State can meet is constitutional obligation of providing every student access to a sound basic education. This presentation includes a timeline of work done on the Leandro case in recent years.
Since the Commission’s last meeting in July:
- In early August, the State and State Board of Education submitted progress reports on the implementation of the Plan to the court
- In late August, plaintiffs submitted a response to the progress reports
- In early September, Superior Court Judge David Lee held a hearing where he stated that he is giving the General Assembly until October 18 to fully fund and implement the next two years of the Plan – then Judge Lee will explore his judicial powers to enforce the Plan’s implementation
The Commission also adopted a resolution that urges “all state bodies, entities, and agencies to take all necessary actions to implement and fund the State’s Plan…”
Click here for all meeting materials. Click here for an article on the meeting.
On Tuesday, the DRIVE (Developing a Representative and Inclusive Vision for Education) Task Force met to discuss the implementation of its DRIVE Report, which was presented to Governor Cooper on January 1, 2021. The DRIVE Task Force was established in December 2019 by the Governor with the goal of identifying ways to improve equity and inclusion in the teaching profession. The DRIVE Report includes recommendations from the Task Force on how to best meet this goal.
During the Tuesday meeting, Task Force members were assigned to two newly created subcommittees: action planning and community building. Each subcommittee met for the first time during the meeting via breakout sessions, and it is the Task Force’s goal that each subcommittee meet every two weeks. Additionally, Task Force Chair Anthony Graham stated that he will be requesting a two-year extension of the Governor’s Executive Order that created the Task Force, as implementation work continues.
Click here for an article on the meeting.
The UNC School of Government is hosting a virtual workshop called Financial Fiduciary Responsibilities of Local Elected Leaders on October 14, from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. Click here for more information and to register.
As of 2:00 pm on Friday, October 1, there are no education-related meetings scheduled.
Additional Education-Related Meeting
The State Board of Education will meet for its monthly meeting on Wednesday, October 6, and Thursday, October 7.
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association