March 27, 2020

Legislative Update

As Covid-19 continues to menace the state and impact our lives. PENC is staying in touch with the Governor’s office, legislators, and the State Board of Education. As you know, the Governor extended the school closure date til May 15th.

In addition, PENC has sent a list of requests to our state leaders that includes issues such as pay, testing, etc. These conversations will continue, and we will keep you posted as we garner more information.

The North Carolina Speaker of the House, Tim Moore, recently created three emergency task forces to address the pressing issues and concerns arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. One taskforce is a working group called the Education Workgroup Select Committee on Covid 19.

This committee held its first meeting Thursday, March 26th, virtually, to digest information from stakeholders, to field questions, and then look ahead at considering necessary legislation to meet emerging needs.

Before the meeting convened, Speaker Moore addressed the committee members and those listening through the NCGA website. The Speaker affirmed that the North Carolina balance sheet looks good and that funds should be available to meet needs as they arise. He thanked the members of the taskforce for the critical work they are about to embark upon.

Chairing Thursday’s meeting was Representative Craig Horn.

After introductions of committee members, Rep. Horn yielded to the Governor’s Senior Education Advisor, Geoff Coltrane. Mr. Coltrane addressed the committee on the ongoing efforts that Governor Cooper is making to keep residents safe, while limiting the economic impact caused by Covid-19.

He addressed the Governor’s decision to shutter the schools (including Lab schools and Charter schools). The closure does not include private schools or the state’s online charter schools or the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS)since they are exclusively online. Mr. Coltrane added that the Governor’s guidance to LEAs included great flexibility since the situation is fluid and local needs are subject to change.

Mr. Coltrane added that DHS and DPI are working together to better serve the needs of the community, such as working to provide meals to students in need.

Coltrane reminded listeners that Executive Order 120, which closed the schools, was based on recommendations from the CDC and DHHS. He added that the Governor also wanted classified employees to have a safe working environment. The Governor has made available 50 million in flexible monies for LEAs (for technology enhancement, transportation, and sanitation) and that no application was needed for these funds.

Following Mr. Coltrane was Freebird McKinney, State Board of Education’s Director of Legislative Affairs and Community Outreach. Mr. McKinney spoke about likely changes with the School Report Card and the likely suspension of school grades for this year. He addressed school calendar flexibility and stated that flexibility would likely be needed moving forward because of a pattern of school disruptions ranging from the weather in the Eastern part of the state to the virus outbreak ongoing. He noted that the State Board may eliminate testing without the General Assembly needing to write legislation. He said that waivers regarding required school days and hours was likely as well as a suspension of EVAAS data since accurate measurements were not likely this spring semester. He advised that waiving teacher observation requirements, licensure renewal requirements, student-teacher requirements, teacher certification, and even the PRAXIS II, was also being considered.

McKinney also addressed discussions about the Innovative School District (ISD), and bonus pay for principals and some teachers since valid data would probably be absent from this calendar year.

After Mr. McKinney’s presentation, Chairman Horn advised that the committee meet again next week as they begin the work of their task force.

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


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


         

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