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Program Evaluation Oversight Committee Approves Draft Legislation On Local Dispute Resolution, School Nurses

On Monday, the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee approved draft legislation for consideration by the House and Senate regarding the local school funding dispute resolution process and increased school nurse staffing and funding.

First, the Local Education Funding Dispute draft legislation would create a working group to look at the fund balance of the local boards of education and substitute a default funding mechanism for the current funding dispute resolution process. The committee reviewed a report on the current process and recommendations for changes proposed by the Legislature’s Program Evaluation Division (PED) in preparation for drafting this bill. Both the N.C. Association of County Commissioners and the N.C. School Boards Association spoke at the committee’s discussion of this issue on May 21 and expressed general support for shifting to a default mechanism to settle funding disputes at the local level.

On the committee’s April 9, 2018 meeting, Sen. Chuck Edwards (R- Henderson) submitted an amendment that he said would increase transparency and accountability in funding districts by making changes to the new working group’s responsibilities and imposing new limits on the budget authority of local school boards. However, the NCSBA spokesman urged caution against any effort to limit the ability of school districts to maintain fund balances that are needed to address unplanned spending needs that occur mid-year.

On Monday, the draft legislation was approved without Sen. Edwards’ amendment and will move to the House and Senate for consideration.

Next, the committee approved draft legislation on school nurse staffing and funding reform. The bill draft requires state school and health officials to change the funding formula by generating a more accurate calculation of the workload for a nurse in a given district, based on the percentage of exceptional children, the district’s poverty level, and other available healthcare in the district’s communities. While the School Nurse Association of North Carolina (SNANC) favors the bill draft, officials said catching up to the current formula would take an extra $55 million a year, and putting a nurse in every school in North Carolina would cost $76 million.

"Really, the need is for the students to continue to be healthy and safe in school and be able to learn," SNANC spokesman Alex Miller said. "There's no investment the state can make that would have a greater impact on that than more school nurses."

The bill draft includes the following:

  1. Requiring the State Board of Education (SBE), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), to recommend a new staffing standard for the ratio of school nurses to students and develop an implementation plan to achieve that standard.
  2. Requiring DHHS and DPI to prepare a recommended plan to consolidate the School Nurse Funding Initiative and the Child and Family Support Team Initiative into one program based on an acuity model.
  3. Requiring the DHHS to conduct an examination of the rates paid for school-based nursing services and report the results of this examination to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC Health Choice and the Fiscal Research Division.
  4. Requiring DHHS to submit to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and State Plan Amendment or waiver necessary to establish Medicaid reimbursement for school-based nursing services that are documents on a Medicaid recipients’ 504 Plan or Individualized Health Plan.
  5. The bill would be effective when it becomes law.

To view materials from Monday’s meeting, click here.

Jacqueline Wyatt for NCASA