April 17, 2015 Legislative Update
In This Issue…
- Long Days, Lots of Bills Filed
- PENC-Requested Repeal of Personal Education Plans Passes the House
- Senate Panel Considers Making Assault on a Teacher a Felony
The “spring break” NC State lawmakers enjoyed following the Easter and Passover holiday was a faint memory by Tax Day, April 15. Upon return, House members were immediately faced with an April 14 deadline to file any remaining bills. Senators and House members also face the looming April 30 “crossover” deadline, which is the date by which bills must be approved by the chamber of origin in order to be eligible for consideration throughout the rest of the two year session. Lawmakers have long days of committee meetings and floor sessions to contend with until the Crossover Day, which will be quickly followed with intense budget work beginning in the House.
Education related bills filed in the past 7 legislative days can be seen here.
The bill repeals the requirement that educators prepare personal education plans. Responding to PENC member feedback, PENC advocated for the repeal because of their redundancy and obsolescence, given other reforms, interventions and data collection methods. They became a paperwork burden that did not change or enhance educators’ plans or strategies to help struggling students. Additionally, PEPs have no accountability – principals do not review PEPs with teachers, nor are PEPs linked to the teacher evaluation in any way. There is no evidence that shows that they are making any statistically significant difference. Finally, The State Board of Education does not receive reports on PEPs (SL 2013-226), raising further questions about their merit.
PENC contended that teachers know which students are at risk of academic failure and they know what needs to be done in order to ensure these students are successful. Teachers need to be able to use their best judgment on a daily basis and be flexible enough to change what they are doing so that they are meeting the needs of all of their students.
PENC thanks Representatives Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes), Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) and Bryan Holloway (R-Stokes) for their sponsorship and advocacy efforts in support of the bill.
The Senate Education Committee considered S 343, Student Assault on Teacher/Felony Offense. Sponsored by Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), the bill would create a new felony offense when a student who is age 16 or older and who does not have an Individualized Education Program or Section 504 Plan assaults a school employee on school property while the employee is discharging or attempting to discharge his duties as a school employee. A first offense under this crime would be a Class I felony and a second or subsequent offense would be a Class G felony.
The bill is controversial for a number of reasons. While the bill aims to protect educators and school employees, the long term consequences of the penalties are formidable for a young person. A felony conviction would tag a student for the rest of his or her life, regardless of the success of efforts to turn his or her life around. Furthermore, current law allows additional charges with increasing consequences based upon the circumstances of the incidents, so the need for the higher charges is not clear. Finally, PENC members have shared that they have encountered problems when administrators fail to act upon incidents in schools under current circumstances. Raising “the stakes” won’t solve the problem of school violence. The bill is slated to be the subject of additional scrutiny by members of the Senate JII Committee.
What do you think?
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Submitted by Evelyn Hawthorne
For information about specific issues, please contact PENC government relations consultant Evelyn Hawthorne at email@example.com.