SB 173: Free the Smiles Act
On Thursday, Governor Roy Cooper vetoed SB 173: Free the Smiles Act, saying “I have encouraged local boards to lift mask mandates and they are doing it across the State with the advice of health officials who see that COVID metrics are declining and vaccinations are increasing. The bipartisan law the legislature passed, and I signed last year allows local boards to make these decisions for their own communities and that is still the right course. Passing laws for political purposes that encourage people to pick and choose which health rules they want to follow is dangerous and could tie the hands of public health officials in the future.”
SB 173 would allow a parent to opt their child out of a mask mandate in public schools and repeal the requirement for monthly votes on mask policies.
SB 173, if passed, would supersede the Governor’s emergency powers and the authority of the Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, this bill would apply to any future pandemic or unforeseen circumstance.
As of February 25,
- 98 school districts have mask optional policies (two have mask optional policies with certain stipulations and 15 have pending effective dates)
- 17 school districts have mask mandates
The number of districts that have adopted optional mask policies has increased by 34 since last Friday, February 18. Additional districts are scheduled to vote today and next week on their mask policies.
NCSBA continues to track local school boards’ mask policies 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 Rebekah Howard at email@example.com.
On Wednesday, a panel of trial court judges upheld the redrawn State House and Senate maps but ruled that the redrawn Congressional map was unconstitutional and selected a map drawn by outside experts. Both sides appealed the trial court’s ruling to the State Supreme Court for various reasons, but all appeals were dismissed.
The candidate filing period for all races (federal, state, and local, except Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education) began at 8:00 am on Thursday, February 24, and will end at 12:00 pm on March 4. The primary election date is May 17.
House Select Committee on An Education System for North Carolina’s Future
This Committee met on Monday and heard a presentation on the public school funding system, as well as presentations from State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis and Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson.
Chair Davis stated that he believes the best place to start improving the State’s education system is to listen to students, parents, and educators. Davis listed three objectives to focus on:
- Elevating the teaching profession to attract and retain talent
- Providing the health and support services that our students need
- Increasing the academic achievement of all students
The Lieutenant Governor began his presentation with student outcomes from the 2020-2021 school year, stating that improved course standards are necessary to increase grade level proficiency and that these standards should be free of social engineering. Additionally, Robinson said that the State should decrease its reliance on federal tax dollars and programs and emphasized the need for the State to expand law enforcement and social services resources to maintain order and discipline in schools.
Click here for an article on the meeting, which includes an audio recording of the meeting. The next meeting of this Committee will be held on March 7 at South Asheboro Middle School.
State Superintendent Catherine Truitt announced the creation of a Parent Advisory Commission that will “elevate the voice of parents in students’ education.” The 48-member Commission will consist of six parents or guardians from each of the State’s eight education regions:
- Two traditional public schools
- One charter public school
- One homeschool
- One private school
- One at-large public-school member from the largest county in each region, including: Buncombe, Catawba, Cumberland, Guilford, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Pitt, and Wake
Per EdNC, in an email, Blair Rhoades, communications director for DPI, said that non-public school options are represented on the Commission for the following reasons:
- “Every parent of a student has a story to tell. And every one of those stories can be used to make improvements or to lift up best practices elsewhere.”
- Because Truitt “is a supporter of school choice, she wants to ensure that she is hearing feedback from every parent across the state.”
- “This goal of this group is to represent all school choice options and include diverse feedback so that they can advise, inform, and engage school and community leaders as well as policy makers.
Members will serve two-year terms, and the Commission will plan to meet quarterly, with regional sub-groups meeting monthly. “This Commission is focused on giving parents a seat at the table and strengthening parent and family involvement in education.” Truitt said. “Parents play an integral role in encouraging their child to achieve excellence in the classroom.”
Click here to access the application for the Commission, which is due by March 31.
On Tuesday, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Committee of Practitioners held a meeting and heard presentations on the Promising Practices Clearinghouse, Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) III updates, regional qualitative research and Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration (OLR) interventions, and the year of the workforce.
The Promising Practices Clearinghouse is an information-sharing effort that will support teachers, administrators, district personnel, and education advocates by providing strategies that have proven to be successful. DPI “will research, compile, disseminate, and promote practices for educators with the goal of improving educational opportunities for all 1.5 million public school students in North Carolina.”
The presentation on the year of the workforce focused on aligning K-12 education with workforce needs as the State continues to attract business. This is the goal of the statewide portrait of a graduate, which will be presented later this year.
Click here to access all meeting materials.
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association