School Calendar & Funding Changes Approved During Legislative Marathon
Elizabeth Yelverton | NCASA Legal Affairs & Policy Manager
A long week at the General Assembly ended early this morning with legislators pushing to address numerous outstanding issues, including many public school relief items requested by the NC Association of School Administrators (NCASA), before lawmakers take a summer break. On Tuesday, House members introduced and approved a proposed committee substitute (PCS) for Senate Bill 113, now entitled “Education Omnibus.” S113 includes several NCASA-requested relief items, including modifications to the 2020-21 school calendar to remove the previous 5-day cap on remote instruction days, as well as an extension until December 30, 2020 for schools to utilize the $75 million previously provided for emergency school nutrition funds.
S113 was sent to a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators on Thursday, and an amended version of S113 was given final approval by both chambers around 1 a.m. this morning. The major changes in the final version, which will be sent to the Governor, include dropping a previously proposed school psychologist pilot program, adjusting digital learning plan funds, and adding a new section providing liability immunity for nonpublic schools. A permanent new definition of year-round schools that prevents the innovative calendar used by 13 LEAs in 2019-20 was amended out of this bill earlier this week, but that same provision unexpectedly emerged in a 15-page conference report for Senate Bill 212, on unrelated capital appropriations, that ultimately gained approval by both chambers early today. Both S113 and S212 now await the Governor’s consideration.
The General Assembly also sent House Bill 1023, entitled “Coronavirus Relief Fund/Additions & Revisions,” to the Governor after it was approved in the House on Thursday. H1023 will provide $7 million for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) in public schools, as well as $5 million in grant funding for schools to provide services for exceptional children who lost critical services due to COVID-19-related school closures, among other education funding provisions. The following summarizes the major education provisions of both S113 and H1023:
S113: Education Omnibus
- School Psychologist Licensure Exemption — Section 1 would extend the exemption from licensure by the North Carolina Psychology Board to contracted school psychologists and those employed by any public school unit in North Carolina.
- Digital Learning Plan Funds — Section 2 would clarify that up to $1,800,000 in funds appropriated for implementation of the Digital Learning Plan during the 2020-2021 fiscal year within “economically distressed counties to support adoption of the digital literacy curriculum provider” shall be used solely for software licenses from that vendor.
- Modifications to 2020-2021 School Calendar — Section 3 would remove the 5-day cap on remote instruction days by allowing the governing body of a public school unit to use additional remote instruction days if the body determines it is needed “to promote the health and safety of students.” Section 3 would also modify the definition of year-round schools to be calendars adopted prior to March 1, 2020, and modify the definition of single-track year-round schools to be those providing an average of between 44 and 46 instructional days followed by an average of 15-20 vacation days throughout the calendar year. Notably, this section did not include NCASA-proposed language that would have allowed innovative year-round schools to continue operating under their modified school calendars for the 2020-21 school year.
- School Nutrition Funds — Section 4 would clarify that dollars provided for school nutrition from the Coronavirus Relief Fund are for emergency school nutrition services, including innovative school meals. This section would also authorize the use of these funds for the Summer Food Service Program and extend the time for their expenditure through December 30, 2020.
- Student Behavioral Health Needs — Section 5 would add an additional category of qualifying expenditures for the reinvestment plan of a local management entity/managed care organization (LME/MCO) that includes assistance to public school units within the LME/MCO catchment area for student behavioral health needs.
- Change Charter School Report Date — Section 6 would change the due date of a report from the State Board of Education on charter schools from February 15 to June 15.
- Superintendent May Approve Charter School Facility Bonds — Section 7 would designate the Superintendent of Public Instruction as an applicable elected representative who may approve issuance of a private activity bond to finance a charter school facility, following a public hearing conducted in the county where the charter school facility is or will be located.
- Revise School Administrator Intern Stipend — Stipulates that if Senate Bill 818: Compensation of Certain School Employees becomes law, Section 8 of S113 would revise the calculation of the school administrator intern stipend so that it is based on the higher of the beginning salary of an assistant principal or, for a teacher who becomes an intern, at least as much as that person would make as a teacher.
- Extend Grant Terms For NC Transforming Principal Preparation Program — Section 9 would extend the maximum grant term for a grant awarded under the NC Transforming Principal Preparation Program from 5 years to 6 years to align with the program length of the school leader preparation programs offered by grantees.
- COVID-19 Immunity For Nonpublic Schools — The recently-added Section 10 would provide COVID-19 liability immunity for nonpublic schools, like the immunity measures already approved for universities and K-12 public schools.
- Sections 1.1(a) and (b) appropriates the remaining $150M held in reserve for local governments to use for COVID-19 relief.
- Section 1.1(d)(6) modifies the $75M appropriation to DPI for school nutrition services provided in response to COVID-19 to include innovative school meals and to modify the authorized time for use of funds from the end of the 19-20 school year to 12/30/20.
- Section 1.1 (d)(55) allocates $2M to the Wildlife Resources Commission for the Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council's "N.C. Schools Go Outside" grant program to provide opportunities for young people to reengage with learning experiences in safe outdoor settings.
- Section 1.1(56) allocates $400k to DNCR for the State Library's N.C. Kids Digital Library for enhancement of digital offerings to students lacking physical access to local libraries due to COVID-19.
- Section 1.1(57) allocates $400k to DNCR for to fund development and implementation of and access to virtual history programs for students and online public access to the Museum during the closure of facilities due to stay-at-home orders.
- Section 1.1(62) allocates $2.5M to the Department of Commerce for establishing a statewide pilot program administered by the Department of Commerce, Office of Science, Technology, and Innovation to promote access to innovative digital and personalized learning solutions for high school students. The Office shall report on the pilot on June 1, 2021.
- Section 1.1 (63) allocates $7M to DPI for CDC and federal guidance compliant-PPE in public schools to facilitate in-person instruction.
- Section 1.1 (64) allocates $5M to DPI for grants to applicant public school units for services exceptional children who lost critical services due to COVID-19 related school closures.
- Section 2.2 permits DPI to withhold up to $12 million from the transportation allotment for to cover transportation expenses related to emergency school nutrition services provided in the summer of 2020.
- Section 2.3 requires the State Board of Education to report on unpaid meal charges and provides funds to cover the costs of reduced-price lunches for eligible students in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
- Section 2.4 provides $18,000,000 in nonrecurring funds for the School Business System Modernization Plan and directs that $650,000 of these funds be transferred to the Government Data Analysis Center (GDAC) to leverage existing public-private partnerships in support of certain components of the Plan.