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Expansion Of Innovative School District Moving Forward In House

Legislation to expand the reach of the Innovative School District (ISD) gained approval in the House Education K-12 Committee and will face a House floor vote soon, possibly Monday night.

The ISD revisions were rolled into Senate Bill 15, along with a provision allowing smaller LEAs to employ the superintendent’s spouse without violating other state laws. The latter provision would apply only to LEAs in counties with fewer than 65,000 residents or cities with fewer than 15,000 residents.

The ISD changes in the bill were requested by the State Board of Education and the ISD Superintendent, Dr. Eric Hall, according to Committee Co-Chairman Rep. Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes), who presented the bill in the Education Committee. Those changes would include:

  • Allow schools that have adopted a reform model to be considered qualifying schools for the Innovation School District (ISD).
  • Allow the ISD Superintendent to select up to two additional qualifying schools per year beginning with the 2021-2022 school year.
  • Require the State Board of Education to select prospective innovative schools by November 15.
  • Require local boards of education to submit a closure plan to the State Board of Education and adopt a resolution to transfer or close the school by December 15.
  • Grant the innovative school operator (IS operator) first priority in the use of capital expenditures at the school.
  • Change the timeline for memoranda of understanding between the IS operator and the local board to 45 days.
  • Require the ISD Superintendent's approval of the innovative school principal.
  • Allow teachers to retain career status if the school at which they teach becomes an innovative school.
  • Allow, rather than require, low-performing schools in an innovation zone to become an innovative school.

The proposed expansion of the ISD by two schools annually as well as the change to make restart schools subject to takeover by the ISD is drawing concerns from local superintendents across the state. NCASA has reached out to the State Board of Education’s legislative liaison to share feedback from superintendents, who feel their own internal reform efforts to turn around a low-performing school under additional flexibilities provided under restart status should be given ample time to work prior to becoming subject to ISD takeover. NCASA is working with several other groups to seek amendments to this bill as it moves forward.

 NCASA members should contact House members this weekend to share feedback and concerns prior to the bill’s debate on the chamber floor either on Monday night or shortly thereafter.

The Innovative School District program, originally called the Achievement School District, is based on a Tennessee program of the same name, but legislators here changed the name last year after Tennessee officials announced they were scaling down the program in the face of underwhelming results.

The NC program, which is currently capped at 5 schools, allows charter school companies to take over traditional public schools that are low-performing. Last year just one school was chosen in Robeson County. Its control went to a company that's closely tied to a national charter school network.