Much of the policy debate over education these days has been dominated by teacher pay. While how and how much we pay our teachers are important concerns, teacher pay has crowded out a variety of other important issues. In the interests of equal time, here are a few education topics the General Assembly has acted upon or are still considering – and a few more that they should pass but probably won’t.
Common Core Academic Standards – One of the most controversial topics of the session. The House and Senate have passed their own bills (HB 1061 and SB 812) to correct the problems that have emerged with the implementation of Common Core Standards. A conference committee will decide the shape of the final bill. Still, the bills have similarities. Both bills are motivated by a desire to have North Carolina regain control over academic standards and ensure that the standards are set high and are age-appropriate. Both bills also establish a commission to review the Common Core Standards. The House bill is probably a stronger effort at eliminating Common Core Standards, while the Senate bill leaves the door open to adopt some of the standards. Each bill has its strengths and weaknesses. The worse that could happen would be for the measure to get hung up in Committee so that in the end the General Assembly passes nothing.
Action: HB -1061 approved by House; SB – 812 approved by Senate
Student Privacy – The drive to collect more and more student data has brought with it an array of student privacy concerns. Legislation (SB 815) sponsored by Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake) creates an inventory of student data elements, ensures current data collection practices are consistent with Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), prohibits the transfer of personally identifiable student data, and provides parental opt-out provisions for various data collection procedures.
Action: Approved by the House and the Senate; sent to Gov. Pat McCrory on June 26.
Charter Schools – Legislation (SB 793) provides modifications to various charter school provisions. Major provisions include allowing high-quality charter schools to quickly expand. Another provision requires that charter schools be covered under Chapter 132 of the Public Records Act and make public employee salaries and how public money is expended. An amendment has been drafted to exempt charter schools from this provision, but has not been acted upon. McCrory recently announced he would not sign legislation that exempts charter schools from public records law
Action: Approved by Senate; approved by House
Virtual Charter Schools – Part of the House budget bill, the legislation (SB 744) calls for the creation of two pilot virtual charter schools. Virtual charter school will expand the number of educational options available for students and parents. Schools would operate for four years and serve students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, beginning in the 2015-16 school year. Virtual charter schools will be able to expand by up to 20 percent per year or a maximum of about 2,600 students. Participating virtual charter schools will be required to have an administrative office and testing center in North Carolina. In addition, all teaching staff will be required to have the appropriate North Carolina certification and 90 percent of the teaching staff will be required to reside in North Carolina.
Action: Approved by House; approved by Senate with amendments; conference committee charged with working out the differences between the bills.
Religious Freedom – Legislation (SB -719) reaffirms the right of student organizations – and specifically campus religious organizations – to determine that only persons with views consistent with an organization’s established doctrines can serve as leaders of an organization. Also prohibits public education institutions from punishing organizations for exercising their rights to do so.
Action: Approved by Senate; approved by House; signed by Governor on 6/25/2014
Legislation That Should But (Probably) Won’t Pass
SBOE Rulemaking Clarification – This legislation (HB 1164) has been overlooked – mostly because it is unlikely to pass – but it is still very significant and much-needed. It reaffirms in statute that the State Board of Education is subject to the provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). APA lays out the specific process for rulemaking by state agencies. For too long SBOE has ignored APA provisions. Under this legislation if the agency fails to follow any required action, the person harmed by the action may commence an action through an administrative law judge. It’s a sad statement that such legislation needs to be introduced; sadder yet that the bill won’t pass this session.
Action: Introduced; failed to make it out of Education Committee.
Education Simplification Amendment – The bill (SB 880) provides that primary and secondary education shall be administered by a Secretary of Education, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the House and the Senate. If enacted, the legislation would refocus decisionmaking authority for education policy into the Governor’s office and end the dysfunction and blurred lines of responsibility that define much of education policymaking in North Carolina.
Action: Introduced; fail to make it out of Education Committee