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Lawmakers Propose Needed Clarifications To Recent Laws On Retirees Teaching And Teacher Licensure Changes

Katherine Joyce | NCASA Executive Director

A bill dealing with public school testing reform emerged from a House-Senate negotiating committee late Wednesday, and now includes greatly needed changes to two laws passed earlier this session that triggered some negative unintended consequences for hiring teachers for the new school year. The Conference Committee proposal for Senate Bill 621 now includes clarifying changes to previously enacted Senate Bill 399 regarding retirees returning to the classroom, as well as Senate Bill 219 regarding teacher licensure. The clarifying changes to both laws were requested by the NC Association of School Administrators (NCASA), which has worked feverishly the last few weeks to convince lawmakers that these time-sensitive changes are critical for school districts.

The revised S621, which is set for both House and Senate floor votes Monday 8/26, provides the following fixes regarding teacher employment:


Clarifications to S399, Rehire High-Need Teachers

S399, enacted July 11, 2019, had prohibited LEAs from placing any retiree subject to the salary earnings cap as a teacher in a “high-need school,” which the law defines as a school that was or is either Title I and/or a D or F school at any point since July 1, 2017. According to guidance issued by the State Treasurer’s Office, S399 only allowed placement of most retirees at an “A0” annual salary of $35,000.  STEM or special education teachers would receive an “A06” annual salary of $40,000.

These salary constraints precluded a major pool of teachers needed to staff classrooms in districts across the state, particularly in the Northeastern and Sandhills portions of NC, where districts already compete for teachers with bordering states. Since the passage of S399, many districts have had no option other than to convince needed retirees to become long-term substitutes, rather than hiring them under more attractive salary options.

To address these issues, NCASA, along with the NC School Boards Association and other groups, requested clarifications to make the new salary provisions enacted in S399 applicable only to retirees placed as full-time teachers (30 hours/week or more for 9 months or more) in a high-need school or schools. This clarification, now included in S621, will make the following changes if enacted into law:

  • Allow LEAs to place retirees in part-time teaching positions (less than 30 hours per week) subject to the earnings cap at any school, including high-need schools;
  • Allow LEAs to hire retirees full-time (30 hours or more per week 9 months or more) and pay them on the A0 or A06 salary steps, depending on subject area being taught, with no cap or pension loss in high-needs schools; and
  • Clarify that only teachers providing classroom instruction, and not other individuals also paid on the teacher salary schedule, are subject to S399 salary placement.  It further clarifies that a rehired retiree is subject to the special salary placement only if teaching “exclusively” at one or more high-need schools.

In essence, the new clarifications in S621 would allow enacted S399’s provisions – for retirees to teach full-time in high-need schools with special salary placement and no loss of pension benefits – to supplement rather than impede previous options allowing the placement of retirees as teachers under the earnings cap.


Clarifications to S219, Modify Teacher Licensure Requirements

S219, enacted July 1, 2019 and effective July 19, extended the licensure exam deadline to allow teachers with an Initial Professional License (IPL) the full three years of their IPL to pass the licensure exams needed to convert to a Continuing Professional License (CPL). The law also provided a one-time, one-year extension for elementary education (K-6) or special education general curriculum teachers with an IPL, if their license was set to expire June 30, 2019 due to the failure to fulfill the licensure examination requirements.

Additionally, S219 created a new teaching license, called a “limited license,” for teachers: (i) with an IPL who are not eligible for a CPL due to failure to fulfill licensure exam requirements; OR (ii) for teachers who have an out-of-state license and are not immediately eligible for a CPL. A limited license is valid for three years and cannot be renewed. The limited license can only be requested by the local board of education currently employing or seeking to employ the teacher and is only valid in that local school administrative unit (LEA).  

As LEAs began to implement the new licensure options of enacted S219, it became apparent that the law contained some glitches. NCASA continued to advocate for the following clarifications to S219, which are now included in S621:

  • Allow individuals with a lateral entry or residency license that has been renewed twice to be eligible for a limited license. Individuals who have only had a residency license for one or two years would not be eligible for a limited license;
  • Provide a one-year extension for individuals with lateral entry or residency licenses set to expire June 30, 2019, due to a failure to fulfill licensure examination requirements;
  • Clarify that the new three-year timeline to pass CPL exams applies to individuals who held an IPL on July 1, 2019, as well as new applicants; and
  • Clarify that individuals who already had IPLs as of July 1, 2019 can be eligible for a limited license if they otherwise meet the criteria for the license.

NCASA would like to thank all legislators on the S621 Conference Committee for including these time-sensitive changes in the bill they are now proposing for full House and Senate approval next week. The Conference Committee includes: Sens. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga), Rick Horner (R-Nash), Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson), Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell), and Sam Searcy (D-Wake); as well as Reps. Linda Johnson (R-Cabarrus), Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes), and Ashton Clemmons (D-Guilford).  In addition, NCASA appreciates the work of other lawmakers, including Sen. Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) and Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union), who have been urging their colleagues to move these changes forward expeditiously.

NCASA also encourages superintendents, human resource directors and principals to thank these same lawmakers for their work on these proposed solutions to facilitate hiring of needed teachers. We also request that administrators urge their own House and Senate members to vote in favor of S621 before it faces floor votes early next week.

If the bill clears both chambers, it then will go to the Governor, who will have 10 days to determine whether to sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law without his signature. NCASA is already urging quick action by the Governor’s Office to finalize this important measure, which we are optimistic will soon become law.

Katherine Joyce