May 4, 2015 Legislative Update

In This Issue…

  1. House Lawmakers Focus Next on the State Budget Process
  2. Bill That Would Roll-Out Performance Pay Pulled from House Calendar
  3. Bill to Limit Political Speech from School Employees Passes Senate
  4. Many Education Bills Survive Crossover Frenzy
  5. PENC Bill Tracking Update

House Lawmakers Focus Next on the State Budget Process

With the frenzy of the crossover deadline behind them, House members will shift their focus to the appropriations (aka budget) process. For the past several weeks, public meetings were held to address policy matters outside of the budget process. Appropriations discussions in the House – both public and private – will take the bulk of the energy and effort in the coming weeks. While that is ongoing, both Senate and House members will review the bills of the other chamber that survived crossover. They will separate the controversial bills from those without controversy to determine how to address them and, in some cases, how to use the bills in negotiation processes.


Bill That Would Roll-Out Performance Pay Pulled from House Calendar

Responding to numerous questions prompted by educators’ – and PENC members’ – concerns, H662, Elevating Educators Act, was pulled from the House Calendar on April 29 and was referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

Sponsored by Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union), the bill would provide for a comprehensive multi-year program where LEAs would submit “differentiated pay plans” for new advanced teaching roles which would be administered by an unidentified non-profit group and not the State Board of Education (SBE) or Department of Public Instruction (DPI). The legislation aims to have the programs in as many as 60 LEAs within 3 years.

The bill’s passage was clearly in jeopardy when House members raised questions around the cost of the program and the scale. Furthermore, members stated that education groups have serious problems with the bill.

PENC does not support this bill for many reasons, among them:

  • PENC sees it as a roll-out, not a pilot for a pay for performance plan – a proposal which PENC members have repeatedly and consistently opposed. The bill would allow for this scheme to be in schools in as many as 60 LEAs by 2017.
  • The bill would have the pilots run by an unidentified private third party entity put in between the State Board of Education (SBE) – a public, appointed body that is accountable to the Governor – and local school boards – elected bodies that are accountable to voters.
  • This proposal relies upon testing data to determine which educators would be eligible to participate in the pilot programs using the same high stakes tests the SBE is reevaluating. That means only about 14 percent of educators who fall into the “highly effective” category and would be eligible to qualify to participate in the pilot to earn from 3 to 30 percent raises. This scenario is similar to the Senate proposal of a couple of years ago that directed principals to select the top 25 percent of teachers in their schools to receive raises.
  • PENC’s position on educator pay plans and salary schedule reforms has been consistent – raise all educators’ as quickly as possible – with Cost of Living Increases or other measures – to where they ought to be. Elevate all educators with meaningful base pay increases.

PENC members’ response to the action alert last week was instrumental in turning the debate on this bill. The bill will now receive more study and scrutiny by lawmakers, who will have a better opportunity to analyze the full impact on educators, the program’s costs and governance. Most of all, lawmakers must spend time considering the impact on students.


Bill to Limit Political Speech by School Employees Passes Senate

The Senate approved S480, Uniform Political Activity/Employees on April 29. In an effort to mirror state laws covering other state employees, the bill would prohibit school employees from using public property or supplies for partisan political purposes. The restrictions would extend to employees of charter and regional schools. The bill would allow certain types of political speech under certain condition, such as if a school employee were invited to speak on a matter by local, state or federal officials. Questions emerged during the discussion in the Senate Education Committee and on the Senate floor about political issues that arise on school property during meetings held by other groups, such as PTAs and PTOs.


Many Education Bills Survive Crossover Frenzy

Dozens of bills were addressed during the time before the April 30 crossover deadline. A disproportionate number of them involved education policy – including educator pay, curriculum, and school calendars.  A number of those bills are addressed below. Following the descriptions is a listing of the most recently-updated PENC Bill Tracking.

House Bills

H238, Duty Free Time/Lunch for Teacherspassed the House April 28 after clearing the House Education K-12 Committee the same day. The bill was introduced at PENC’s request by Representatives Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes), Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) and Bryan Holloway (R-Stokes). The NC School Boards Association and the NC Association of School Administrators raised concerns about the original version of the bill and PENC representatives worked with them to address them. The new version – to which NCSBA and NCASA agreed – will still codify educators’ right to a duty-free lunch; but adds flexibility needed to address the volatile school environment. Instead of a set amount of time each day, the bill would require schools to provide duty-free lunch time for every teacher on a daily basis, with the goal of providing at least 75 minutes per week.

H 248, Eliminate NC Final Exam, passed the House April 28 after clearing the House Education K-12 Committee the same day. The current version of the bill requires the State Board of Education (SBE) to eliminate the use of the NC Final Exam to assess teachers’ performance in relation to Standard 6 of the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation System. Each LEA would be required to use school‑wide growth values to determine Standard 6 ratings. The bill also ends use of the Analysis of Student Work (ASWs) along with the end to use of the NC Final Exam. The End‑of‑Grade assessments and End‑of‑Course assessments would be used for determining student growth values for teachers administering those assessments. The SBE would be required to apply to the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver for this change.

H581, Computer Coding Course Elective, passed the House April 28 after clearing the House Education K-12 Committee the same day. The bill would direct the SBE to develop and identify academically rigorous courses in computer programming and coding that can be offered as electives at the middle or high school level beginning with the 2015-2016 school year.

H660, Transition to Personalized Digital Learningpassed the House April 29. Sponsored by Rep. Craig Horn, (R-Union), the bill would direct the SBE to:

  • Expand the School Connectivity Initiative,
  •  Establish a procurement service to obtain infrastructure, devices, content, provide professional development, and
  • Establish a grant program for LEAs to support the development and sharing of digital learning models.

The provisions would be dependent upon funding availability, which will likely be addressed during budget deliberations.

H661, Teacher Recruitment and Scholarships, passed the House April 29. Also sponsored by Rep. Horn, the bill would create a new North Carolina Competitive teaching Scholarship Program to be administered by the State Education Assistance Authority. Scholarships of up to $8,500 would be awarded to candidates annually who agree to teach in hard to staff schools or positions for at least 4 years.  Funding of $1 million would be provided in fiscal year 2016-2017 for the scholarships, which means that only 117 awards would be made in the first year. The bill was received by the Senate and assigned to the Ways and Means Committee, a committee which rarely, if ever, meets.  This indicates the Senate’s lack of interest in considering the bill.

H673, Modify Read to Achieve, passed the House April 28 after clearing the House Education K-12 Committee the same day. The bill goes beyond other legislation that addresses Read to Achieve’s reading assessments. The bill would require the SBE to complete the annual review of alternate assessments annually by Sept. 15. The bill would address Student Reading Portfolios, which would be used as a measure of students’ reading proficiency rather than reading ability. The bill would reduce the number of student work samples in the portfolio to two and would use them to evaluate reading standards. It would further provide that if a student responds correctly to 80% of the comprehension questions about one reading passage, then that one work sample would suffice to demonstrate student reading proficiency on the standards covered in that sample. The bill would require compiling a student portfolio only when it is determined that administration of a standardized test of reading comprehension is unlikely to yield positive findings of a student’s reading proficiency. The bill would require parents who elect not to enroll their child in a summer reading camp to improve reading proficiency to notify the school if the child attends other reading programs to address deficiencies. It further would require students who attended at least 64 hours of reading camps to be placed in a transitional 3rd and 4th grade combination. The bill would also require at least one informational session about reading proficiency requirements for parents of 3rd graders within the first 30 days of the school year. The bill was received by the Senate and assigned to the Ways and Means Committee, a committee which rarely, if ever, meets.  This indicates the Senate’s lack of interest in considering the bill.

H687, Public Schools/Testing Schedule , passed the House April 28 after clearing the House Education K-12 Committee the same day. Current law requires all annual state assessments and final exams for courses to be given within the final 10 instructional days for year-long courses and within the final 5 days for semester long courses. The bill would allow LEAs to apply to the SBE for an extension of the testing schedule for up to the final 20 instructional days of the semester for yearlong courses and for up to the final 15 days of the semester for semester-long courses. LEAs would have to apply at least 60 days prior to the beginning of the testing schedule. Teachers of record would not be prohibited from administering testes to students, except when testing changes are necessary. The changes would apply as of the 2015-2016 school year. The bill was received by the Senate and assigned to the Ways and Means Committee, a committee which rarely, if ever, meets.  This indicates the Senate’s lack of interest in considering the bill.

H803, School Performance Scores, passed the House April 28 after clearing the House Education K-12 Committee the same day. The bill would change the weighting for determining school grades. Currently, the grade is based 90 percent on school achievement scores and 20 percent on student growth. This bill would change that weighting to 50 percent achievement and 50 percent growth. PENC advocated with others in the education community for this scale last year. PENC understands that the only change to school grading to which House and Senate leaders agreed is the maintenance of the 15 point scale for two years. The bill was received by the Senate and assigned to the Ways and Means Committee, a committee which rarely, if ever, meets.  This indicates the Senate’s lack of interest in considering the bill.

H902, Transforming Principal Preparationpassed the House April 29. Sponsored by Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke), the bill would establish a new competitive grant program to be administered by the State Education Assistance Authority through a collaborative with an unnamed private nonprofit group. The purpose of the grants is to fund programs to prepare and support future highly effective principals. For profit groups, not for profit groups and higher education institutions are eligible to apply for grants to provide the training.

Senate Bills

S95, Performance-Based RIF/School Policy, passed the Senate April 29. Sponsored by Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake), the bill would direct local boards of education to adopt specific criteria in their policies for implementing a reduction in force. In determining which positions would be subject to such a reduction, LEAs would be required to consider specific factors, including work performance and teacher evaluations. This would basically codify language that has been used since 2011.

S333, Teacher Attrition Data, passed the Senate April 27. Sponsored by Sen. Dan Soucek (R-Watauga), the bill would require the SBE to include specific data in annual reports on the teaching profession, including the number of hard to staff schools in each LEA and the number of hard to staff teaching and subject areas positions that result in long term vacancies.

S343, Student Assault on Teacher/Felony Offense, passed the Senate April  29. Sponsored by Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), the bill would create a path for students 16 years of age or older who assault a teacher, school employee or volunteer to be charged with a felony on a second or third offense. The first charge would be a Class A1 misdemeanor. A second offense would be a Class H felony.


PENC Bill Tracking Update

Click here for an updated list of bill that PENC is currently tracking.

What do you think?

If you have questions or concerns, please share your thoughts and ideas with us.
Contact us at penc@pencweb.org.

Submitted by Evelyn Hawthorne


For more information about the North Carolina General Assembly, click here.
To identify and contact your legislators, click here.

For information about specific issues, please contact PENC government relations consultant Evelyn Hawthorne at lobbyist@pencweb.org.