April 17, 2020

Legislative Update

The House Select Committee on COVID-19 Education Workgroup held their 4th meeting on Thursday, April 16th. After a presentation from the General Assembly’s Legislative Analysis Division, Chairman Craig Horn led a discussion on recent federal appropriations that were approved in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. It was noted that North Carolina is to receive $390 million from the federal government. Of that, 90% is designated for LEAs. There are also funds directly earmarked to the governor for his discretion ($94 million), but it is unsure how that money will be spent at this point.

Eric Moore, of the Fiscal Research Division, was on hand to field questions from lawmakers.

There seemed to be some confusion on who decides how the money is spent and how to approach the process. For example, regarding federal dollars, Chairman Horn asked, “What are the strings that are attached?” These questions were not fully addressed during this meeting.

During a discussion of challenges and actions related to the impact of COVID-19, Chairman Horn suggested it would be necessary to defer K-3 class size reductions for a year.

Next, Samantha Yarborough from Legislative Analysis delved into issues facing higher education, beyond those concerns discussed last week regarding Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs). She spoke about statutory matters such as interest collection on student loans in the UNC system and other concerns specifically for the higher education community.

The committee then heard again from the Legislative Analysis Division concerning the NC Opportunity Scholarship program. Lawmakers want to ensure no one loses a scholarship because monies could not be disbursed. 

In addition, the Legislative Analysis Division presented on non-public schools, which includes private and homeschools, since those educational entities are required to administer national tests and to keep those records on file (this is a statutory requirement). It was suggested that the testing requirement for non-public school students be waived for those tests in grades 6, 9, and 11.

Homeschools have similar requirements annually, and it was recommended to waive the homeschool testing requirement.

Also, Opportunity Scholarship recipients are to be given a national test, and those results are shared with multiple agencies. It was recommended that testing and the required reports be waived.

The 9-calendar month of instructional time and compulsory attendance requirement for non-public schools was recommended to be waived.

Finally, Legislative Drafting presented a review of draft legislation that is in the works. This draft covers the items listed in last week’s recommendations and is listed again below.

The proposed draft would address statuary issues concerning the impact of COVID-19 on education in North Carolina.

K-12 Education concerns and recommendations:

– Testing waivers

– School Report Card waivers

– Low Performing Schools data waivers

– No new schools to be added to the Innovative School District (ISD)

– Adjustments to Read to Achieve statutory requirements (mandatory retention falls to principal discretion)

– Waive intervention requirements (Reading Camp)

– Reading assessments would be given to incoming 4th graders

– Waive reporting data

– Waive mandatory placement in Advanced Math based on test scores and allow local school discretion

– Waive CPR instruction requirement for graduating seniors

– Waive EVAAS data requirements

– Modify teacher observation and evaluation requirements

Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs) issues:

– Waive minimum admission requirements

– Waive clinical internship requirements

– Waive reporting requirements for performance data

– Waive sanction data concerning EPPs

– Extend deadlines for CEU requirements and licensure exam requirements

It was noted that any pending legislation would just apply to the period of the COVID-19 crisis.

During a final discussion period, Rep. Kevin Corbin said that the recommendations seem to be in line with requests coming from NC school superintendents.

One item, not dealt with yet, was the calendar. According to Chairman Horn, the calendar is complex, and there will be much deliberation as they address it.

Rep. Graig Meyer noted that he approved of the draft legislation and thanked the staff for its work in the drafting process. Rep. Pat Hurley agreed, indicating a bi-partisan approach to the proposals.

Rep. Cecil Brockman brought up the fact that teachers did not get a raise. Chairman Horn reminded Rep. Brockman that the committee is only dealing with COVID-19 fallout.

The committee plans to meet again next week, as they get closer to a final product to vote out of the committee.

For information about specific issues, please contact lobbyist@pencweb.org.

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