Legislative staff from the State Program Evaluation Division (PED) released a report on Monday recommending the State focus more on early childhood learning in order to raise achievement in predominantly disadvantaged school districts. The report was created and shared with members of the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee (JLEOC) as a result of a 2018 Work Plan directing PED to identify at least 10 high-performing school districts with predominantly economically disadvantaged student populations and explore the reasons for their success. In its findings, PED recognized that it was “highly uncommon” for students in poorer school districts to demonstrate average or better performance on standardized tests; however, out of those districts that are demonstrating higher performance, most are already performing well by the third grade. As a result, PED found that students in poorer school districts were likely to be more academically successful when they were provided with more early childhood education opportunities.
The Department of the State Treasurer is moving forward on its proposal to change the NC State Health Plan Network of providers, despite numerous concerns raised by members about the proposal’s potential to limit their access to medical services. The Treasurer’s office sent a newsletter to members on Tuesday stating, “The State Health Plan is changing how it pays providers like doctors and hospitals for the medical services you receive as a Plan member. These changes will take place beginning January 1, 2020, and will only affect members on the 80/20 Plan, the 70/30 Plan and the High Deductible Health Plan.” While the State Treasurer has promoted his “Clear Pricing Project” extensively over past months, implementation of the Project may be delayed if a current, bipartisan House bill is approved in the Senate. House Bill 184, sponsored by Rep. Josh Dobson (R-McDowell), would create a committee to study and report on redesigning the State Health Plan, while also preventing the Treasurer’s office from moving forward on its Clear Pricing Project until December 31, 2020. The Treasurer’s newsletter directly addressed H184, stating, “Until any legislation to the contrary is actually passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor, the State Health Plan is moving forward with the Clear Pricing Project as announced.”
The N.C. Senate this week approved a revised version of Senate Bill 399 intended to help school districts address staffing shortages by allowing them to rehire retired teachers under a new option. As revised, however, the bill could create some legal and financial liabilities for LEAs that choose to rehire retirees under the law if ultimately enacted. Senate Bill 399 would allow certain retired teachers to return to work in high-need schools and still receive their full retirement benefits.
Senate lawmakers approved several bills attempting to expand options for school choice and charter schools on Wednesday, after members of the Senate Rules and Operations Committee approved the bills earlier Tuesday morning. Legislators expressed the most concern about Senate Bill 609, which would expand eligibility for opportunity scholarships, as well as Senate Bill 522, which would have authorized counties to provide capital funds to charter schools; however, the provision making charter schools eligible for facilities funding was ultimately removed from the bill before passage. Some of the less controversial bills would require the State Board to adopt rules allowing the transfer of sick leave between a charter school and local school administrative unit (LEA), while another bill would create notice requirements for charter schools that are attempting to close or materially revise their charters.