There is no shortage of activity in the North Carolina General Assembly. While most capitol watchers are focused on the short session’s main responsibility, developing and passing a state budget, it’s good to remember other significant education legislation has already been passed or continues to work its way through the General Assembly.
Here is a quick review of some of the major education bills.
HB632 – Sponsored by Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) and Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake), the bill tightens protections on student privacy. The bill further defines what data students can expect to remain private. It also spells out regulations for data collection and how student data can be distributed and used.
Status: House: Passed, Senate: Passed; Signed by Governor McCrory 6/8/2016 (S.L. 2016-11)
SB867 – Sponsored by Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake), the bill compels the State Board of Education to require all candidates for teacher licensure to have a criminal background check. The bill also requires public school personnel and board members of charter schools that are seeking initial approval to also have criminal background checks. The legislation is in response to a much-publicized USA Today story that showed North Carolina school districts hiring teachers who had committed crimes in other states.
Status: Senate: Passed; House: In Committee
HB1080 – Sponsored by Rep. Rob Bryan (R-Mecklenburg), the legislation creates a special Achievement School District (ASD) to provide flexible and innovative ways to help turn around some of North Carolina’s worst performing schools. ASDs could involve up to five of the lowest performing schools in the state, and would have to be managed by experienced charter school operators and approved by the State Board of Education. ASDs enjoy “charter-like” flexibility and significant top ASD officials have significant control over hiring. LEAs with low-performing schools may also choose to transfer a failing school to the ASD. Schools can also benefit from creation of what are called “Innovation Zones.” Such zones are flexible environments where the best practices and innovative techniques are readily applied. Lastly, schools not selected to be part of the Achievement School District would have a number of turnaround models to choose from. One of those would be to employ a turnaround principal to improve academic performance. “Turnaround” principals are given five years, additional resources and flexibility to improve academic performance.
Status: House: Passed; Senate: In Committee
HB 657 – Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Archdale) is the primary sponsor of legislation that offers students the opportunity to choose their math track. The legislation, which is regarded as a compromise between critics and supporters of Common Core, provides students the chance to enroll in the current integrated Math, 1, Math 2 and Math 3, a track which teaches concepts of Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra II across the three courses. Or they could learn math via the standard Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II sequence, which was the way most math instruction was delivered prior to the imposition of the Common Core math standards. Conservatives should applaud any legislation that provides students an option to Common Core. However, conservatives should also be skeptical of the State Board of Education’s (SBE) ability to review the current math standards and develop new standards that are age-appropriate, rigorous and reflect the highest possible standards – a task the Academic Standards Review Commission failed to carry out. The SBE is charged with having new math standards by the fall of 2017.
Status: House: Passed, Senate: Passed; Differences Being Reconciled.
SB536 – Sponsored by Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake), this bill calls for creation of a website to provide prospective students relevant information on North Carolina public and private colleges regarding job market information, labor markets, degree programs, graduation information, median salaries, financial aid and the like. The bill also calls for centralizing questions of residency in one office rather than by individual campuses.
Status: Passed Senate, Passed House. Sent to Gov. McCrory for signature.
HB539 – Sponsored by Rep. John Szoka (R-Cumberland), this legislation would allow charters to receive a greater share of tax money, grant money and federal appropriations currently reserved for traditional public schools. The bill states that gifts or grants expressly designated for a specific school would not be shared with charter schools. However, the bill requests that monies received from indirect costs, reimbursements, sales tax revenue, unrestricted gifts and federal grants and appropriations to LEAs be shared with charter schools. The legislation also lays out penalties for LEAs that fail to comply with the transfer of funds within the required time limits.
Status: Passed Senate; Passed House, Differences Being Reconciled.
SB 873 – Sponsored by Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Buncombe). This legislation freezes tuition for resident undergraduate students for eight semesters for students seeking a baccalaureate degree at UNC institutions. Legislation also rolls back the fee charges 5 percent from their 2015 levels and reduces tuition at all UNC institutions. Tuition would be rolled back to $500/semester at Western Carolina University and UNC- Pembroke. Additional state funds would be provided to make up for the loss of tuition revenue. (Provisions to set in-state tuition at $500 (Out-of-state tuition – $2,500) for Western Carolina University and UNC-Pembroke were added to the Senate Budget Bill. Also included was a provision to include additional funds in the UNC budget to cover the loss of tuition revenue at the two schools. Provisions that guarantee eligible undergraduate students no increase in tuition and a 5 percent decrease in student fees — provisions originally included in SB 873 — are also included in the Senate Budget bill.
Status: Senate: In Committee.
SB554 – Sponsored by Sen. Jerry Tillman, the bill allows school districts to redirect state money originally designated for personnel costs to be used to help pay the costs of long-term leases. The bill is beneficial for cash-strapped rural districts that are downsizing or consolidating, but still need newer facilities. The State Treasurer’s Office has come out strongly against the bill, saying it will increase local debt and it puts the interests of developers ahead of taxpayers.
Status: Senate: In Committee
For a comprehensive look at Education policy in North Carolina dating back to 1985, check out the Civitas Institute’s public policy series here.