Legislative Update for Fall 2014

nc-sealSTATE: This summer was active for the NC General Assembly, especially regarding Charter School legislation. One troubling component of this bill is the lack of transparency regarding the income of charter school operators and salaries of their employees that are funded by tax payer money. This concern has prompted the State Board of Education Chair (Bill Cobey) to request full disclosure by September 30th, or risk being shut down by the state and the Governor’s veto, prompting the final passage of an amended SB 793 (Charter School Modifications). There are also concerns regarding the lack of protection against discrimination for LBGT students. In school funding measures, two bills HB 1224 (Local Sales Tax Options/Economic Development Changes) and HB 718 (Ensure Adequate Funds for Teacher Assistants/Revenue Allocation) to provide flexibility in tax revenue and teacher allotment positions (respectively) failed in passage for this session. This leaves LEAs facing increased challenges in staffing decisions with tight budgets and rigid regulations. On August 20th, 2014 the General Assembly’s adjourned “sine die” to end the legislative session for the 2013-2014 year. This November is an election year; expect to see representatives and senators begin or continue to campaign for re-election. The legislature is scheduled to reconvene on January 14, 2015.

We last reported issues surrounding the embattled Common core state standards with Oklahoma dropping the standards in May. The US Department of Education fired back by revoking its ESEA waiver as the previous state standards did not meet the minimum criteria of being “rigorous and relevant.” Virginia and Texas both have ESEA waivers, but did not adopt the Common Core State Standards. Forty-three states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico currently have ESEA waivers. Of these states, 81% (e.g. 35) will expire; all but one has requested a waiver-extension prior to submission for renewal.

In May, the NC general assembly passed a bill signed by the governor in July (SB 812 - Replace CCSS with NC's Higher Academic Standards) that would re-examine the Common Core implementation and determine avenues necessary to redesign Math and English standards. To accomplish this, an 11-member panel would need to be convened with a final report submitted to the 2016 legislature. Therefore, the standards will remain in place for current and likely following school years. Any changes would require vetting through various channels and meet the standard set by the US Department of Education such to not affect NC’s waiver status.

Being a strong advocate for teachers and schools requires remaining abreast of current data and news all from a balanced perspective. Public School First NC (PSFNC) is an excellent source of information focused on public education where their “goal is to educate and inform North Carolinians about critical issues that impact our schools, our teachers, and students and to engage all stakeholders in supporting a quality public education system.” This statewide, nonpartisan organization provides free materials to develop grassroots advocacy in your neighborhood.   You may find them online at http://www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org/

Submitted by Rebecca Hite
NCSLA Legislative Liaison