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NCSBA Legislative Alert – March 27, 2020

The Fight Against the Coronavirus

The NCSBA Governmental Relations team continues to follow action being taken by local, state, and federal government in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Click here to access last week’s alert containing vital actions that had been taken thus far. NCSBA also continues to update its webpage containing information and resources about the coronavirus.

During a Friday afternoon press conference, Governor Roy Cooper issued a statewide stay at home order that will begin on Monday, March 30 at 5:00 pm and will remain in effect for 30 days.

NCSBA encourages school board members to communicate with their legislative delegation and representative on the State Board of Education during this extended period of uncertainty and statewide school closures. It’s critical for them to hear from the locally elected education policy makers about the challenges facing your districts and the immediate needs to help students, staff, families, and administrators successfully get through this difficult period.

From the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction

The SBE held conference call meetings on March 23 and March 27. During the March 23 meeting, Board members unanimously approved the submission of a one-year waiver of federal student assessment and accountability requirements for the 2019-2020 school year from the U.S. Department of Education, which was then submitted by DPI and later approved.

Topics discussed during the March 27 meeting include:

  • Grading guidance recommendations
  • Approval of an amendment to the state’s contract with Istation
  • Options for distributing the $50 million allotment directed to public schools by Governor Cooper
  • State of Emergency Leave policy

DPI presented guidance on remote grading and learning, which is broken up into grades K-5, grades 6-11, and grades 12-13. The document also includes DPI recommendations for SBE policy amendments and a plan to graduate the class of 2020. Regarding 2020 graduation, the following guidance will be used:

  • Students will receive grades for fall courses as already stored, and those grades will count toward GPA – for year-long courses, the fall term grade will be counted toward GPA
  • Students will receive a Pass or Withdrawal for spring courses based on their learning as of March 13 (the last day before remote learning began)
  • If a student has an F as of March 13, the district/school shall provide opportunities for the student to improve to a passing grade
  • If an Occupational Course of Study (OCS) student completes 157 of the 225 hours of “paid work hours” graduation requirement, the student will receive a Pass

Most discussion centered around the approval of an amendment to extend the state’s contract with Istation. The current contract expires on March 31, 2020 and the new contract would begin April 1 and terminate on July 31, 2020. While Vice Chair Alan Duncan initially suggested that the Board vote to table the issue until clarity is given from the NC General Assembly on what waivers will be granted regarding Read to Achieve (RtA), Superintendent Mark Johnson was persistent in the passage of the amendment. Johnson reassured Board members of his efforts to be completely transparent and explained that Istation agreed to provide remote learning curriculum during this time free-of-charge (the current contract is only for Istation’s diagnostic tool). He also emphasized that the contract with Istation can be terminated at any time, that the state has a four-term payment schedule with Istation rather than a lump-sum payment, and that these state funds are required to be used for RtA and cannot be diverted elsewhere. Dr. Tara Galloway of DPI also noted the large increase of Istation users since students began remote learning. Istation is not only being used as a diagnostic tool but also a curriculum provider. Ultimately, the Board voted 8-2 to approve the tabling of an Istation contract extension until the General Assembly is given the option to consider a waiver.

The Board was also presented with three models of how to distribute the $50 million flexible funding directed by Governor Cooper to public schools. The three models are:

  • 50% of the funds are distributed based on the number of poverty children per the Title I Low Income poverty data. The remaining funds are distributed based on allotted ADM.
  • 50% of the funds are distributed based on ADM multiplied by a low wealth percentage, and 50% of the funds are distributed based on allotted ADM.
  • The number of poverty children per the Title I Low Income poverty data and 50% of the funds are distributed based on ADM multiplied by a low wealth percentage.

The Board voted to approve the model that distributes 50% based on the percentage of low wealth students and 50% based on ADM.

The final item on the Board’s agenda was a State of Emergency Leave policy. The goal of this policy is to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 and to protect the health of public school employees. The policy designates mandatory, “high risk”, and non-mandatory employees and lists reasons for each type of employee to use paid State of Emergency Leave. Up to 168 hours of State of Emergency Leave may be granted by employers during the month of April. Part-time employees with irregular schedules will receive a pro-rated share of the 168 hours. Additionally, up to 96 hours of State of Emergency Leave are available for all employees who requested leave during the school closure period of March 16 – March 31, 2020 for reasons listed in the policy. The policy is available to public school employees from April 1 to April 30, 2020 but may be extended by the SBE.

Click here to access all Board meeting materials.

 

From the NC General Assembly

House Select Committee on COVID-19

The Education Working Group of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 met at 1:00 pm on Thursday, March 26.

The Select Committee first heard from Geoff Coltrane, Senior Education Advisor to Governor Cooper, who discussed action taken by the Governor thus far in addressing the impact of the coronavirus on K-12 public schools. The Select Committee was also presented with actions taken by the SBE and DPI. Much of the information provided in these presentations has been covered in their respective sections of this week’s and last week’s Legislative Alerts.

Some additional points that were made include:

  • The $50 million flexible funding allotment that Governor Cooper directed to public schools on March 24 includes charter schools
  • Over 9,000 individual teachers have registered for DPI’s remote learning training
  • With only 35% of LEAs responding, there are 875 teachers that have reported not having internet access due to lack of broadband

Click here to access the presentations.

The Select Committee also heard from Brian Gwyn of the Legislative Analysis Division who discussed how state statutes are affected by the cancellation of EOGs and EOCs. Although General Assembly action was not required to cancel these assessments, action will be required to amend statutes that rely on usage of testing data. Click here to access Mr. Gwyn’s presentation that notes the affected state statutes. Mr. Gwyn noted that this list of statutes is a work in progress.

Click here to access all meeting materials.

The House Select Committee on COVID-19 invites submission of public comments. Click here to submit comments.

The General Assembly is still set to convene in the 2020 short session on Tuesday, April 28. Click here to access the General Assembly’s webpage concerning the coronavirus.

 

From the Governor and the Department of Health and Human Services

  • On March 20
    • Governor Cooper issued a press release announcing his letter sent to President Trump on March 18 requesting food insecurity and health insurance waivers for North Carolinians.
    • Governor Cooper’s administration extended the state tax deadline to July 15, however, interest will still be charged for payments received after April 15.
    • Governor Cooper sent North Carolina’s Congressional Delegation a letter sharing federal funding priorities.
  • On March 21 the Governor announced the signing of Executive Order 119 on March 20. The press release highlights provisions waiving childcare restrictions and DMV registration requirements.
  • On March 23
  • On March 24
    • Governor Cooper directed $50 million to schools for teaching and feeding students during COVID-19.
    • Governor Cooper issued a press release announcing his letter sent to President Trump on March 22 requesting a major disaster declaration for North Carolina, which would provide more individual assistance.
  • On March 25 DHHS reported the first COVID-19 associated deaths.
  • On March 26 Governor Cooper issued a press release stating that his request for a federal disaster declaration for COVID-19 had been granted.
  • On March 27
    • The Governor announced that parents can text “FOODNC” (or “COMIDA” for Spanish speakers) to 877-877 to find nearby free meal sites for children who need food assistance.
    • Governor Cooper issued Executive Order 121, which places North Carolina under a stay at home order, effective Monday, March 30 at 5:00 pm for 30 days.

 

DHHS has reported 763 positive cases and 3 deaths from the coronavirus in North Carolina. Click here to access the DHHS webpage that keeps North Carolinians updated on the State’s response to COVID-19.

 

Governor’s Education and Nutrition Working Group

The Governor’s Education & Nutrition Working Group held its second meeting on Thursday, March 26. Richard Bostic, NCSBA’s representative on the Working Group, shared several of the challenges school districts have faced in the past two weeks. Some of the issues discussed during the meeting are as follows:

Childcare

  • 45% of licensed childcare centers and 80% of licensed childcare homes are still open.
  • A childcare hotline, 1-888-600-1685, is available for workers in critical industries, like health care, to connect with childcare centers. The hotline has had 1,000 calls since March 20, and 665 callers have been referred to childcare centers.
  • 8 school districts currently offer emergency school-based care for critical workers. 8 more school districts plan to offer childcare.

Child Nutrition

  • 3 million meals have been served since March 16.
  • USDA has approved numerous waivers, such as parental/guardian pick up of child nutrition meals and meal service times.
  • All school districts’ nutrition plans have been approved.
  • Parents can find the nearest meal site in three ways:
    • Text “FOODNC” to 877-877 – when a response text is received, enter home address to find meal site
    • Call toll-free at 1-866-348-6479
    • Click on USDA Summer Meal Site Finder at usda.gov/SummerFoodRocks

Remote Teaching

  • 9,000 educators have taken classes on remote teaching since March 18
  • The $50 million made available by Governor Cooper may be used for broadband access

 

If you have concerns about these issues that you would like the Working Group to address, please email Richard Bostic at rbostic@ncsba.org.

 

From the College Board

For the 2019-20 school year, the College Board is making the following changes to Advanced Placement exams:

  • 45-minute online free response exams are being developed
  • Content will focus on what was covered in courses by early March
  • Exams can be taken on computer, tablet, or smartphone
  • Exams can also be hand-written and submitted by photo
  • Solutions are being worked on to address students that do not have internet or device access
  • Free AP review classes are available as of Wednesday, March 25

To learn more, click here to access the College Board website.

 

From Congress

Congress approved H.R.748: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the $2 trillion stimulus package to combat the coronavirus. The bill provides $13.5 billion for K-12 education stabilization. There is an additional $3 billion included in the bill for governors to use in addressing needs of both K-12 and higher education. According to the bill, LEAs and states using these funds “shall to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the periods of any disruptions or closures related to the coronavirus.”

The bill also provides the following funding:

  • $25 million for distance learning, telemedicine, and broadband
  • $15.5 billion for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program
  • $8.8 billion for Child Nutrition Programs
  • $750 million for Head Start early-education programs
  • $100 million in Project SERV grants to clean and disinfect affected schools, and provide counseling and distance learning
  • $69 million for schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education
  • $5 million for state health departments to provide guidance on safe practices for disinfecting homes, schools, and day-care facilities

According to Education Week, “the bill does not include dedicated funding through the federal E-Rate program to provide students with internet-connected devices and internet connectivity at home if their school buildings have closed. Dedicated aid for remote K-12 learning is something that several senators and educators have asked for in the last several days. In order to access the state education stabilization fund in the final Senate bill, states would first have to agree to provide funding to education in fiscal years 2021 and 2022 that’s at least the same as the average of their education over the three prior fiscal years. However, DeVos could waive that requirement for states.”

 

 

 

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 Alert – March 27, 2020