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NCSBA Legislative Update – September 13, 2019

This Week at the Legislature

What started off as an uneventful week focused on redrawing legislative districts unexpectedly turned into a wild ride fueled by drama, high emotions, dueling press conferences, and a “he said, he said” controversy.

The House voted 55-9 on Wednesday morning to override Governor Cooper’s veto of the State budget, HB 966: 2019 Appropriations Act. (The vote was changed to 55-15 when several House Democrats who were in the chamber at the time but did not vote later asked to be recorded as having voted “no”.) As a result of the override, with just over 25% of House Democrats present, there was no shortage of name calling, finger pointing, and national news coverage.

Rather than try to explain what happened in writing, we believe in this case it is more appropriate for you to see and hear for yourself how the events unfolded. See the five links below.

1) Audio recording of the 8:30 am House session on September 11, 2019, during which two veto overrides occurred (morning session lasts 14:45 minutes)

2) Video of floor debate during the 1:30 pm House session – to recall the override votes that were sent to the Senate

3) House GOP’s press conference

4) Governor Cooper’s press conference

5) News article: Text message, outburst fuel partisan theories on big budget vote

 

The 2019 Appropriations Act, aka the State budget, is expected to be placed on the Senate calendar as early as next week. That does not mean the Senate will vote to override the Governor’s veto next week. Three-fifths of the members present are required to override the Governor’s veto. The Senate rules state that leadership “…shall give the Senate Minority Leader at least 24 hours’ notice that a vetoed bill may be considered by the Senate.” If all 50 Senators are in the chamber, 30 votes are needed. There are 29 Senate Republicans and 21 Senate Democrats. Meaning, Senate Republicans either need one Democrat to vote with them or at least two Democrats to be absent. Senate Democrats say they are in lockstep with the Governor to sustain his veto. Therefore, it appears that the waiting game on the budget that occurred in the House will now play out in the Senate. Stay tuned…

 

Highlights of K-12 Education Bills

SB 621: Testing Reduction Act of 2019

  • Signed into S.L. 2019-212 on Wednesday, September 4
  • Primary Sponsors: Senators Tillman, R-Randolph; Ballard, R-Watauga; Sawyer, R-Iredell
  • Eliminates the NC Final Exam beginning with the 2020-21 school year
  • Requires annual reports on the progress of the NC personalized assessment pilot, which implements a through-grade assessment model and the goal to eliminate the EOGs and EOCs
  • Establishes plans to reduce standardized testing by LEAs by requiring local school boards, in each even-numbered year, to review locally required standardized tests
  • Requires reimbursement of up to $75.00 for expenses related to graduation projects for any economically disadvantaged student in a LEA that has a graduation project requirement
  • Requires DPI to examine third grade English Language Arts assessments to ensure alignment with Read to Achieve
  • Requires SBE to determine and analyze the necessary steps to transition to a competency-based assessment and teaching model for all elementary and secondary students (included in SB 476: Compt-Based Assess. & Mental Hlth/Teen Viol.)
  • Clarifies that the definition of a high-need retired teacher in SB 399: Rehire High-Need Teachers (S.L. 2019-110) is one that works at least 30 hours a week for 9 months or more – this allows the rehiring of retired teachers under the earnings cap, as long as they do not work more than 30 hours a week for 9 months or more
    • Under this Session Law, LEAs must notify the Retirement System no later than Sunday, September 15 if it will not employ high-need retired teachers for that school year
    • LEAs that employ high-need retired teachers could be fined if the IRS determines that the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System would be jeopardized by allowing retired teachers to return to work in high-need schools while receiving retirement benefits
  • Expands SB 219: Modify Teacher Licensing Requirements (S.L. 2019-71) to apply to residency licenses (RL)
    • Extends the timeline from two to three years for RLs to pass any necessary licensure tests
    • Adds RLs to the list of individuals who are eligible for a limited license if they failed to fulfill examination requirements after three years of licensure

 

HB 75: School Safety Funds, Programs, and Reports

  • Passed the Senate and sent to the House for concurrence
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee replaced the contents of the original bill that required a school mental health screening study with a bill that does the following:
    • Appropriates funds for school safety—$38,833,333 for FY 2019-20 and $29,800,000 for FY 2020-21
    • Requires an annual report on school resources officers
    • Establishes the School Resource Officer Grants Program
    • Requires development of a recommended school mental health crisis response program
    • Requires annual reports on school mental health support personnel
    • Expresses the intention of the General Assembly that additional funds provided for instructional support personnel be used to fund additional school mental health support personnel
    • Requires DPI to study and report on school psychologist and school counselor positions
    • Provides for eight additional agents of the SBI to support the Behavioral Threat Assessment program (consistent with the provisions of the conference report for HB 966: 2019 Appropriations Act)

 

 

State Board of Education Meeting – September 4 & 5

This month’s meeting marked the release of the 2018-19 accountability and school performance grades reports. Nearly 75% of schools met or exceeded growth expectations in the 2018-19 school year. It was reported that 45.2% of students in third-eighth grades are considered Career and College Ready in reading (scoring at a level 4 or 5), and 57.2% of students in third-eighth grades are considered Grade Level Proficient in reading (scoring a level 3, 4, or 5). Additionally, the percentage of schools that earned A or B school performance grades increased from 35.6% for the 2017-18 school year to 37.3% for the 2018-19 school year. Board member J.B. Buxton made the observation that most student scores in reading, math, and science are stuck in neutral. Many of the charts showing the percentage of students scoring at level 3 and level 4 and above over the past three school years show little to no increase in student achievement.

  • Click here to access the accountability and school performance grades presentation, which contains the previously-mentioned charts.
  • Click here to access the DPI news release on school grades.
  • Click here to access the 2018-19 Performance and Growth of NC Public Schools Executive Summary.

The SBE also approved the required report on school start and end dates under SB 343: Various Education Law Changes (S.L. 2019-165). The SBE’s draft report’s “Executive Summary” states in the second paragraph that “The State Board of Education shall report the information submitted by the local boards of education to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee.” Both the Findings and Data Collection sections of the draft report included DPI’s opinion that some schools were not in compliance with State law. The NCSBA Governmental Relations Team wrote a letter to SBE members prior to the September meeting, stating that nowhere in the session law does it require DPI to render an opinion. The letter read, “NCSBA does not believe it is appropriate for DPI to determine whether LEAs are not in compliance with the law, especially since there is no legal definition of ‘year-round’.” Click here to read the full letter written by NCSBA staff on behalf of all LEAs. The SBE removed the language before passing the revised draft report.

 

Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education – September 9

Commission members met this week to review each work group’s priorities and any changes that had been made based on discussion during the June 25th meeting. Priority topics include finance and resources, teachers, principals, early childhood/“whole child”, and assessment and accountability. The early childhood/“whole child” work group presented numerous changes to their priorities, but also left the meeting with many changes to make. There was discussion about whether a recommendation concerning literacy instruction was too detailed for a court to enforce or if it could actually help improve the State’s reading programs, which have not proven to be very beneficial. Because this workgroup is specifically focused on early childhood, the discussion of pre-k for all surfaced as well. Overall, the early childhood/“whole child” workgroup was tasked with the most follow-up work, while all other workgroups, except the principal workgroup, were assigned with polishing up a few of their recommendations.

The commission will potentially meet one more time in the future before submitting their priorities to the judge. Click here to access all meeting agenda items and attachments.

 

 

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

Bruce Mildwurf
Associate Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6692

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6677

Rebekah Howard
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6688

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – September 13, 2019