April 2016

NCSBA Legislative Update – April 29, 2016

 

Session Begins

Lawmakers returned to Raleigh this week to formally begin the 2016 legislative “short” session.  Most of the week’s business focused on bill filings and committee hearings.  Appropriations committees met to learn more details about the Governor’s budget proposals (see below).

There will be a few new faces in the General Assembly this session due to various circumstances that arose during the interim.

LEA/Charter Fund Sharing

Please continue to communicate with your House member(s) about HB 539
.  Talk to them about the kinds of monies your school district would have to transfer if the bill becomes law.  Click here to learn more about the pots of monies that HB 539 would obligate school districts to share.  Use that document to help you communicate with your House member(s).  Also be sure to continue sharing the video that touches on this issue.  The link to the video is: https://youtu.be/Ai1al22B3DU

Voucher Expansion Bill

A bill has been filed in the North Carolina House that would make changes to the Opportunity Scholarship and special education voucher programs.  The most significant change proposed by HB 955 is to increase the portion of eligible students in kindergarten and first grade that can receive the Opportunity Scholarship voucher from 35% to 45% and to no longer factor in siblings of voucher recipients, siblings of a public school student or those whose parents are full time military (see below) in the calculation of the 45% ceiling.  This language would provide public subsidies to many families that may not have had any plans to enroll their children in public schools anyway.  It is likely to substantially inflate the perceived demand for vouchers and thus give the proponents an argument to increase funding for the program.

Another change made by HB 955 is that eligibility for the Opportunity Scholarship and special education voucher programs would extend to children whose parent/legal guardian is on full-time duty status in the military.  It also makes changes to how funds for the special education voucher program will be remitted to the non-public school that the parent or guardian chooses.  HB 969 and SB 742 have also been filed and solely deal with adding children whose parent/legal guardian is on full-time duty status in the military.

County Commissioners Association

One of the top three legislative goals of the NC County Commissioners Associations is:

“Seek legislation to repeal the statutory authority under NCGS 115C-431(c) that allows local school boards to file suit against a county board of commissioners over county appropriations for education.

  • The current version of HB561 includes a five-year moratorium on such lawsuits. The bill is in conference and is eligible for short session consideration.
  • With more counties experiencing threats of lawsuits, more legislators are interested in the issue. Those from counties that have experienced more extreme conflict between commissioner and school boards have grown more adamant that the issue be addressed.
  • Please communicate with your House member(s) in opposition to the provision in HB 561 that would put a moratorium on school board legal challenges to local funding.

Talking Points on HB 561 to Communicate to House Members

  • If passed, HB 561 has the potential to significantly alter the balance between school boards and county commissions.
  • The threat of school boards utilizing the legal action option gives county commissioners incentive to negotiate and take school board concerns seriously both during the normal budget development process and mediation.
  • Without the legal action option, county commissioners would have no reason to move away from their position on local funding, making the mediation process essentially meaningless.
  • There is also the question of how local boards of education will fulfill the constitutional obligation to provide an opportunity for a sound, basic education if this option is not available. The only other option would be the State.
  • The House has already spoken on this issue last session when it voted down a bill to permanently revoke this authority.

Fines/Forfeitures

House/Senate companion bills were filed this week to award $272,000 in wrongfully withheld improper equipment fines to the Richmond County Board of Education.  Lawmakers created a $50 improper equipment fine in 2011 but directed that the proceeds should go to fund inmate costs instead of to public schools.  A lawsuit was then filed by the Richmond school board contending that having the proceeds to go jails instead of public schools violated the NC constitution.  The Court of Appeals agreed and awarded $272,000 in collected fines to the Richmond board.  Another 81 boards of education have filed similar complaints over the fine.  The bills to direct the money to the Richmond school board are HB 953 (filed by Rep. Ken Goodman) and SB 756 (sponsored by Sen. Tom McInnis).
The House chief budget writer said legislators will be discussing how much money to return and where it should go. “I think what the General Assembly will do, we’re going to thoroughly review what our options are and what our requirements need to be and will work to make sure we are resolving the issue so that everybody can move forward and understand what the parameters will be,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake).

Issue Brief on Achievement School Districts

We mentioned last week that we were putting together an Issue Brief to provide more details and background on the Achievement School District bill.  That Issue Brief is now complete and you can find it here.

Governor’s Budget

Gov. Pat McCrory released details of his proposed budget adjustments for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The centerpiece of his proposal is to raise teacher salaries on average 5% and restore annual experience-based step increases to the salary schedule.  Annual step increases would range between $500 and $1,100 under the new schedule, with annual salary topping out at $50,000 by year 20.  This would set the average salary for teachers in North Carolina to $50,000 (this calculation includes local supplements).  The Governor also wants to give $5,000 one-time bonuses to teachers with 25 + years of experience and $1,100 bonuses to all other teachers.  The teacher salary package would cost approximately $260 million in recurring dollars with the bonuses costing another $166.1 million.

School administrators would also receive experienced-based step increases and bonuses while non-certified staff would get an average 3% bonus under the Governor’s proposal.
Other notable K-12 items in the Governor’s budget include fully funding ADM growth for the 2016-17 fiscal year and increasing funding for instructional supplies/equipment and digital learning through the lottery.

Click here to see the new teacher salary schedule proposed by the Governor.

Click here to see the K-12 provisions of the Governor’s budget.

Bills

New Bills: Click here to see NCSBA-tracked bills that had action this week.
Upcoming Legislative Meetings and Events

Monday, May 2

The House will convene at 3:00 PM
The Senate will convene at 7:00 PM

Tuesday, May 3

8:30 AM
The House Ed Appropriations Committee will meet.

Wednesday, May 4

8:30 AM
The House Ed Appropriations Committee will meet.

Thursday, May 5

8:30 AM
The House Ed Appropriations Committee will meet.


Leanne E. Winner
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919)747-6686 direct dial

Bruce Mildwurf
Associate Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 606-3916 mobile

Bryan Holloway
Associate Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919)747-6677 direct dial

           

Bruce MildwurfNCSBA Legislative Update – April 29, 2016
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