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House Education Committee Approves Read to Achieve Changes, Modified Education Bills

Elizabeth Yelverton | NCASA Legal Affairs & Policy Manager 


Members of the House Education Committee approved several modified Senate bills Wednesday, which replaced the original bills’ contents with House proposals regarding the Innovative School District (ISD), school safety protocols, competency-based assessment models, and teen mental health. Committee members also unanimously approved a bill sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) to improve the NC Read to Achieve Program, as well as a separate bill creating a statutory withdrawal process for regional schools.  Further details on the bills heard in Tuesday’s committee are as follows: 


S438: Excellent Public Schools Act of 2019 

This bill would make various changes to the NC Read to Achieve Program, focusing on improving individual student reading proficiency, creating uniform statewide plans for literacy improvement, and strengthening literacy training for teachers. The latest version, which remains substantially unchanged from a prior version presented in April, would make technical changes to correct typographical errors. The bill was approved and sent to the House Rules Committee. 


S522: Low Performing Schools 

The latest version of this bill deletes the contents of S522: “Various Changes to Charter School Laws” and replaces it with the contents of H798: “Low Performing Schools.” The modified bill would change the selection process for schools in the Innovative School District (ISD), requiring the State Board of Education to transfer the lowest scoring school in the State to the ISD for each school year from 2020 until 2023. Beginning with the 2023-2024 school year, the bill creates a new process for ISD selection by placing qualifying low-performing schools on a “watch list” for one year and then a “warning list” for an additional year. The bill was successfully amended in committee by Rep. Ashton Clemmons (D-Guilford) so that schools would have an initial “Qualifying” year before moving to the watch and then warning status in years two and three respectively. This would create a three-year monitoring and support process for a struggling school before it would be subject to ISD selection in the fourth year if it still remains in the lowest five scoring schools that had been under warning the previous year. The bill would also require additional reporting on low-performing schools by local boards of education, and require an additional study on changes to the ISD and low-performing schools. The bill as amended was approved and sent to the House Rules Committee.  


S5: School Safety Omnibus 

The latest version deletes the contents of S5: “Building North Carolina’s Future” and replaces it with the contents of H76: “School Safety Omnibus.” The current version of the bill clarifies school safety requirements, requires county boards of education to develop county state of emergency plans for all public school units in the county, and requires public schools to implement annual building vulnerability assessments. The latest version removes a prior provision creating school threat assessment teams. The bill also clarifies the powers of the Center for Safer Schools and requires certain training for school resource officers. The bill was successfully amended by Rep. Cynthia Ball (D-Wake) to require the Center for Safer Schools to provide training and information to public school personnel on how to properly engage school resource officers. The amended bill was approved and sent to the House Rules Committee. 


S301: Regional School Modifications 

The latest version removes the contents of the first version of S301, regarding regional school transportation recommendations, replacing it with a new, mandatory process for participating districts to use if they wish to withdraw from a regional school. The bills directs the participating unit to first adopt a resolution requesting withdrawal from the regional school and submit the resolution to the regional school Board of Directors (BoD). Following a public comment period, the BoD may conditionally approve the withdrawal resolution with a vote of at least two-thirds membership. Finally, the resolution is submitted to the State Board of Education for further public comment and possible approval of the withdrawal resolution by a majority vote. The bill would apply to all participating units in regional schools; however, several committee members noted the bill seemed to be a direct response to a recent case in which Beaufort County Schools was sued by the regional school in Northeastern N.C. for withdrawing without established withdrawal protocols. The bill was approved in the House Education Committee on Tuesday and again approved in the House Rules Committee on Thursday. It has been scheduled for Monday's House Calendar for additional action.


S476: Competency-Based Assessments & Mental Health/Teen Violence 

The latest version deletes the contents of S476: “Reaffirm Local Control of Discipline Policies” and replaces it with the contents of H714: “Competency-Based Assessments,” as well as H434: “Suicide Risk Ref./Mental Health/Teen Violence.” In regards to competency-based assessments, the bill would direct the State Board of Education (SBE) to make recommendations to the legislature on transitioning to a statewide competency-based assessment and teaching model before May 2020. The second portion of the bill would require public school units to: (i) adopt and implement a suicide risk referral protocol, (ii) adopt a mental health training program; and (iii) adopt a policy against teen dating and violence. The bill was approved and sent to the House Rules Committee. 



Elizabeth Yelverton