The Fight Against the Coronavirus
Breaking News: Governor Roy Cooper just announced at a 2:00 pm press conference that public school buildings will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. On Thursday, April 23 Governor Cooper extended North Carolina’s stay at home order through May 8 and released a three-stage plan for reopening North Carolina.
NCDHHS has reported 8,052 positive cases for COVID-19 in 93 counties, and 269 deaths from COVID-19 in North Carolina. Click here to access the NCDHHS webpage that keeps North Carolinians updated on the state’s response to the coronavirus. Additionally, NCSBA has been updating its webpage containing information and resources about the coronavirus.
New NCSBA Video/Marketing Campaign for School Technology
We are less than a week away from what is anticipated to be an unpredictable and bizarre legislative short session, which will begin with lobbyists and the public prohibited from the legislative buildings until at least May 8. One of the things we have learned from schools shutting down statewide is that additional funding is needed for school technology. Yesterday, the SBE/DPI requested $146 million dollars for remote teaching and digital learning resources.
School technology has been a top priority for local school boards and other public education advocates for years, particularly since the courts ruled in 2008 that various state agencies unconstitutionally diverted almost $750 million dollars away from school technology for nearly ten years. Since that judgment, the State has only paid back $18 million, or 2.5%, of the amount owed.
Now is the time for state leaders to develop a responsible multi-year plan to invest in school technology and pay down the judgment. To bring attention to this important issue, NCSBA developed two videos, a new webpage, and is kicking off a social media marketing campaign to inform parents, educators, lawmakers, business leaders, and the general public. Here is the link to the webpage with both videos: https://www.ncsbac.org/support-student-access-to-school-technology/.
Please show your support by sharing the videos/webpage through social media and rallying your communities to reach out to legislators.
From the House Select Committee on COVID-19
The Education Working Group met at 2:00 pm on Thursday, April 23. The Working Group unanimously voted to adopt the Education Omnibus/COVID-19 bill. Click here to view a bill summary, which highlights sections, such as school calendar, that have been added to the bill since last week. New bill sections include:
- Section 3.8 School Calendar and Attendance – Will allow public school units to begin the school year as early as August 17, 2020. Expresses the GA’s intent to provide two weeks of supplementary jump start instruction in August 2020 for at-risk students and those recommended for additional support, which was requested by the SBE and DPI.
- Section 4.1 Budget Flexibility – Provides increased flexibility for local boards of education to transfer funds from one allotment category to another within certain limitations for the 2019-20 and the 2020-21 fiscal years.
- Section 4.2 Delay K-3 Class Size Reduction/Adjust Program Enhancement Teacher Allotment – Delays the K-3 class size reduction requirement for one school year and reduces corresponding funding for program enhancement teacher positions for FY 2020-21.
- Section 5.2 Intent of General Assembly on 2019-2020 School Growth Scores and Principal Salaries – Expresses intent of the GA to refrain from using 2019-20 school growth score data for the 2020-21 Principal Salary Schedule. Data may be used from the 2018-19 school year or earlier.
It was stated that Working Group chairs will resolve any differences with Senate members concerning the bill prior to the General Assembly’s convening on Tuesday, April 28.
The Working Group was also presented with K-12 budget requests from DPI and SBE. These budget requests were presented for discussion only, and no votes were taken. K-12 budget requests include:
- School nutrition services
- Supplemental pay for child nutrition and transportation employees
- Remote learning resources
- Exceptional children services
- Cybersecurity infrastructure and services
- Re-entry resources for student physical and mental health
- Jump Start/Summer Bridge program
The K-12 budget requests totaled $377,096,215. Click here to see dollar amounts for each request.
The Continuity of State Operations Working Group met at 2:00 pm on Tuesday, April 21 and 3:00 pm on Thursday, April 23. The Working Group reviewed and amended a draft bill entitled “COVID-19 Time Sensitive Matters”. Bill sections that may be of interest to school boards are as follows:
- Section 13.5 Carryforward of Drivers Education Funds – Unexpended and unencumbered Drivers Education funds from FY 2019-20 shall not revert but remain available until the end of FY 2020-21. This section was added to the draft bill by an amendment from Representative Torbett.
- Section 21 Temporarily Remove Barriers to Allow Retirees of TSERS and LGERS to Return to Work on a Part-Time, Temporary, or Interim Basis During State of Emergency Related to COVID-19 – Will temporarily change the six month separation requirement for Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System (TSERS) retirees to a one month separation and applies to individuals retiring on or after October 1, 2019 but before April 1, 2020. Temporarily lifts the earnings caps for TSERS and Local Governmental Employees’ Retirement System (LGERS) retirees from March 10, 2020 until expiration. Representative McNeil had prepared (but did not run) an amendment that would tie the hiring of retirees before six months to a specific COVID-19 issue. It is expected that this will be addressed in the Pensions and Retirement Committee, as the bill moves through the legislative process.
- Section 27 Remote Participation in Open Meetings – Amends the Emergency Management Act to specifically authorize official meetings of public bodies to be conducted via remote, simultaneous communication during periods of declarations of emergency for public health reasons. Representative Harrison added an amendment to require a telephonic option for remote meetings that are simultaneously streamed live online.
The provision outlines specific requirements for conducting remote meetings and allowing public access. If a quasi-judicial hearing is held remotely, it requires all persons subject to the hearing to consent to it being held remotely. NCBSA believes that this requirement is problematic, given the prescriptive timelines in statute for many of the hearings held by local boards of education. We are working with the legislature to try to alleviate potential problems.
The amended bill was adopted by a unanimous vote and forwarded to the April 28 session. Chairman Bell said further amendments would be considered next week during the session, including adding back a section on agency regulatory relief that was deleted from Thursday’s draft bill.
The Economic Support Working Group met at 10:00 am on Tuesday, April 21. The Working Group heard a presentation from Jeff Sural, Director of the Broadband Infrastructure Office in the Department of Information Technology (DIT). Sural reported that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that 94.8% of NC households have access to broadband, but only 78.3% of NC households have subscribed to broadband service (2017/18 Census data). It is estimated that 197,139 households with children lack internet access. DIT and DPI estimate that at least 100,000 hotspots are needed to provide student internet access. Sural provided the Working Group with maps of broadband availability and adoption (use of service) across the State. To find free or affordable high speed internet service or public Wi-Fi access locations, use the DIT website: ncbroadband.gov/covid19broadband. At the conclusion of the presentation, Representative Szoka stated that the COVID-19 crisis has shown that “high speed broadband service is more infrastructure than optional service” and that there is a role for government to work with industries providing service.
The General Assembly will convene for its 2020 legislative short session at 12:00 pm on Tuesday, April 28.
From the State Board of Education
The State Board of Education met at 10:00 am on Thursday, April 23. The Board approved the following:
- Teacher evaluation changes
- Athletic academic eligibility changes
- Statewide grading policy for K-11 due to COVID-19 pandemic and extended school building closures
- Legislative funding requests, which were presented at the meeting of the Education Working Group of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 at 2:00 pm on Thursday, April 23
DPI released guidance instructing public schools to not attempt to complete the 2019-20 educator evaluation process online because (1) the evaluation tool is not equipped for online observation, and (2) there is currently variability in teachers’ access to online instruction training. Because of these circumstances, DPI advised the Board to adopt certain actions regarding teacher evaluations. Click here to read the five recommended actions. Board members discussed releasing more information and clarification regarding the recommended action that states that “SBE and NCDPI will use the most recent, valid summative rating for any teacher who did not receive a summative evaluation in the 2019-2020 school year.” There was concern that progress made over the 2019-20 school year may not be accounted for in teachers’ ratings.
Much discussion centered around the application of the final version of the statewide grading policy presented by DPI staff. The grading policy will allow students in grades 9-11 to choose between receiving a numeric grade or Pass(PC19)/Withdrawal(WC19) for each final course grade. Students will make this decision at the end of the semester after being advised by their teacher/school, in consultation with their parent/guardian. Numeric grades will be calculated into the cumulative GPA, while PC19/WC19 grades will not impact GPA. Additionally, the grading policy states that students in grades K-5 will receive no final grade, students in grades 6-8 will receive PC19/WC19 final course grades, and no student will receive a failing grade.
From the Governor
Governor’s Press Releases
- On April 24 Governor Cooper announced that public school buildings will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.
- On April 23 Governor Cooper issued Executive Order 135, which extends the stay at home order through May 8 and continues restrictions on mass gatherings, social distancing, and visitation at long term care facilities.
- On April 20
- Governor Cooper announced North Carolina’s approval for the new Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program, which will provide more than 800,000 children with additional food benefits.
- Governor Cooper participated on a call with Vice President Pence and other governors and gave an update on the work of the NC’s Testing Surge Workgroup.
- On April 17 Governor Cooper announced NCDHHS’s partnership with state academic partners to examine and understand COVID-19 cases with mild or no symptoms.
Leanne E. Winner
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Associate 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