The North Carolina PTA and Public Schools First co-hosted a webinar last night to educate parent advocates about the consequences of an unfunded class size mandate that is playing havoc with local school board budgets. In Wake County, parents have been urging other parents in carpool lines to contact state lawmakers to delay the reduced class size mandates in K-3 starting next year, or to give districts the flexibility they used to have.
NCAE, along with other education partners, were successful in pushing through a one-year reprieve this year. Districts have been looking at cutting thousands of arts, music, PE, and world language educators to come up with the budget and space to comply with the regulations. Now they are also considering reducing or cutting Pre-K offerings. Some districts simply don’t have the space to comply and would require millions of dollars in school building construction.
NCAE and other education partners are urging state lawmakers to address this issue when they come back for session on January 10. The House was willing to provide relief in October and says they would like to take the issue up again in January, but the Senate Republican leaders have balked at the idea.
NCAE continues its work with a strategic school bond work group to get a $1.9 billion dollar school construction bond on the ballot next year. North Carolina had identified more than $8.1 billion of school construction needs over the next 5 years. The last time the State made a substantial contribution to school construction was a $1.8 billion school bond in 1996.
TEACHER CONTRACT UPDATES
Without NCAE’s N.C. Supreme Court victory in the career status lawsuit, ALL teachers would have lost their career status next year. Because of NCAE’s lawsuit, teachers who earned career status before the summer of 2013 in their current school districts (and who have remained in the same district) will keep their career status.
Teachers without career status are currently employed on 1-year contracts. Starting next school year (2018-19), districts can offer teachers who have been with the district for 3 or more years, a contract that is either 1, 2, or 4 years. School districts are starting to develop criteria for how the longer contracts will be awarded. NCAE has provided information to your local NCAE president and board members on engaging local school districts and providing input on the contract criteria and options.
COMMISSION ON SOUND, BASIC EDUCATION
The inaugural meeting of the Governor’s Commission of Access to a Sound, Basic Education last week focused on the history of the decades-long Leandro case. The group will address the state’s court-defined failure to provide a sound, basic education to every child across the state. Gov. Cooper told the commission that we all can admit that North Carolina has struggled to live up to that constitutional requirement, but that they were here to plan to correct that course. NCAE President Mark Jewell and member Melody Chalmers, a principal at E.E. Smith High School in Fayetteville were appointed by Gov. Cooper to the 19-member commission. The commission will work with a court-appointed education consultant on what steps can be taken to bring the state into alignment with the decision.
Two companies, including one with ties to wealthy political donors who helped pass the law allowing the takeover of low-performing North Carolina schools, are now trying to win state approval to run the school selected in Robeson County. Achievement For All Children and the Romine Group have applied to manage Southside Ashpole Elementary School as part of the Innovative School District. ISD was created to allow for-profit charter management companies to take over low-performing schools.
“The Innovation School District is an unproven and unaccountable takeover scheme that does nothing to improve student achievement,” said NCAE President Mark Jewell. “Having for-profit companies take over public schools will do nothing but rip our communities apart. Parents, educators, and communities have been making it loud and clear that they do not want this.”
Achievement For All Children was formed in February and is registered by Tony Helton, the chief executive officer of TeamCFA, a charter network founded by Oregon resident John Bryan, a generous political contributor to political campaigns. Helton recently held a fund-raiser for Lt. Governor Dan Forest that included a controversial Word of Faith church leader. The board also includes former Rep. Rob Bryan who introduced the ISD bill and also Darrell Allison who heads the pro-private voucher group Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina.
The State Board of Education will decide early next year on the management company.
You can read more about this issue and check out the new school report card in the December edition of the NCAE SBE Review.
TAX CUT PLAN HURTS PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Last Friday, Senate Republicans pushed through a tax bill that should make every educator, parent, and supporter of public education seething mad.
The bill could lead to nearly $250 billion in cuts to our classrooms to pay for a massive tax cut for the wealthy and corporations. That means almost $500 less in spending per student, every year, so the rich can get richer. The plan also puts 250,000 educator jobs at risk nationwide, including more than 8,000 here in North Carolina.
Now, final negotiations are underway between House and Senate Republican leaders, with a final vote due as early as next week. We need you to contact your Members of Congress today, and demand they vote NO on the tax plan. Call now.
The tax plan:
- Includes a backdoor voucher program that will mostly benefit the wealthy
- Could eliminate the classroom expenses tax deduction for educators who spend money on classroom supplies out of their own pockets
- Will cut the individual mandate for health care, resulting in 13 million people losing their coverage, and dramatically higher premiums to spike for millions more
- Explodes the deficit, which GOP lawmakers already say they will use as a reason to gut Medicare and slash Social Security benefits
This tax scam is a nothing but a giveaway to corporate special interests and the wealthy, paid for now and later by working families and students. We can’t be silent. Congress needs to hear from more of us
Tell Congress to:
- Vote NO on the $250 billion in education funding cuts
- Vote NO on putting 250,000 educator jobs at risk, including 8,000 in NC
- Vote NO on the tax plan
JOINT ED OVERSIGHT
During the final meeting of the year for the Legislative Joint Education Oversight Committee, several lawmakers expressed concerns over the fact that no historically black colleges and universities were chosen to host the new version of the Teaching Fellows program, which is now aimed at training teachers in fields of science, technology, engineering, math, or special education. Sponsors of the legislation say they didn’t intend to exclude HBCUs and that they will look at adding more schools once the program is re-established. The committee also heard updates on the state’s first two lab schools, K-8 institutions based in universities. Sixty-three percent of students attending the first two schools were previously enrolled in low-performing schools.
Next week, the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform will meet.
During the next special session in January and the short session in May, you may see additional attempts by legislative leaders to overhaul the court system in light of recent rulings that have not gone in their favor. Lawmakers have already cancelled judicial primaries in May, overriding Gov. Cooper’s veto of the bill. They are also considering a constitutional amendment to make all judicial terms two years, and making every judge run in November, despite the length of term they were elected to. Polling on this issue shows huge public displeasure with these court-rigging maneuvers. Lawmakers are also considering a merit-based judge selection proposal where the General Assembly would choose judges, instead of voters electing them.
OUT OF DODGE…FOR NOW
The House and Senate adjourned in the wee hours of the morning today after passing a flurry of bills in the final days of session. Typically when the Legislature adjourns the “long session” in odd numbered years, they do not come back until the “short session” the following May. This morning, the General Assembly passed an adjournment resolution to come back on Aug. 3 and on Sept. 6. In the August session, the Legislature could address a myriad of issues including veto overrides, appointments, approving bills currently in negotiations that could not be worked out before adjourning, a bill involving impeachment of an elected official, and responding to lawsuits — including around a redistricting court order. Legislative leaders say the September session will likely focus on redrawing legislative boundaries after they were ruled an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.
NCAE STANDS WITH GOV COOPER ON FINAL BUDGET VETO
On Monday morning, more than a dozen NCAE members stood with Gov. Cooper as he announced he would veto a $23 billion budget that he said shortchanged education and working families. The budget does very little in providing students additional resources to help them be successful. Gov. Cooper’s budget proposed more than $230 million additional in education investments while also more than doubling the General Assembly’s salary proposal in the first year and spending about $170 million more in the second year.
After the General Assembly passed the budget last week, NCAE President Mark Jewell said, “Gov. Cooper’s proposed budget provides a strong blue print for North Carolina and invests significantly more in our public school students and public education. The budget deal proposed by the legislative majority damages public schools by doubling down on tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations, siphoning off more money for private school vouchers, and shortchanging many of our educators who work hard every day to ensure our students are successful.”
Hours after the Senate received the Governor’s veto message they overrode it on a party-line vote, and the next day the House cast an override vote with only two Democrats joining the Republicans. The new state budget takes effect on July 1.
DUES DEDUCTION BILL SURFACES THEN WITHDRAWN
NCAE’s GR team worked tirelessly this week to beat back a bill to eliminate payroll deduction as a method to voluntarily pay for membership dues to organizations like NCAE. The bill is a way to limit our voices. Instead of passing bills to inconvenience educators and state employees, our elected officials should be focused on giving our students the resources they need to be successful and not cementing our placement in the bottom of the national per-pupil spending rankings.
However, because the bill passed the Senate earlier this year, it remains eligible for the rest of the biennial session and could come back as early as August. Switching from payroll deduction to E-Dues puts the power in your hands and is simple. You can do it yourself by clicking here. All you need is your member ID number and zip code.
SCHOOL CONTROL LAWSUIT
On Thursday, a three-judge panel of state judges heard oral arguments in the lawsuit the State Board of Education filed against the state, which was later joined by State Superintendent Mark Johnson. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of House Bill 17, passed in late December before Gov. Cooper and Johnson took office. It was another attempt to strip the new governor of powers. The governor appoints members of the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education is arguing the law violates the N.C. Constitution by taking powers from the State Board of Education and transferring them to the State Superintendent. The law has been on hold until a decision on the case has been made. The judges will issue their decision in the coming weeks.
The General Assembly negotiated a compromise to Senate Bill 599 before ending session this morning. The bill establishes a new professional educator preparation standards commission and reorganizes and clarifies the teacher licensure process. The version they approved includes a number of changes to the original bill, which creates a residency license instead of lateral entry. Originally, the residency license was for one year, but the changes would make it one year with two renewals. The compromise also instructs the new commission to look at whether GPA in the content area is an acceptable indicator, instead of overall GPA. Also, an exception could be made for 10 years of work experience. NCAE still has major concerns around this new legislation and the impact it will have on school district’s recruiting people who want to change to a teaching career. Critics of the bill contend it would allow anyone who wants to train a teacher to do so, and that should be left to traditional teacher education programs. NCAE will continue to provide additional information on the new licensing procedures.
CHARTER SCHOOL CHANGES
On Thursday, both the House and Senate agreed to changes to the charter school law that would allow enrollment growth of 30 percent before having to seek a material revision to their charter with the State Board of Education. The current law is 20 percent. In House Bill 800, lawmakers did leave the threshold of 20 percent for charters identified as low-income. NCAE opposed the provisions until charter schools have the same accountability and transparency standards as public schools. The original House Bill 800 would have allowed charter schools in the workplace with preferred enrollment for the children of employees. That idea was stripped out of the bill. The bill sent to the governor would allow for preferred enrollment for students previously enrolled in a charter school. In a separate bill, House Bill 159 would extend the amount of time a charter school can elect to participate in the State Retirement System to two years, instead of one.
BACKGROUND CHECK FOR VOUCHER SCHOOLS PULLED
Early this morning, the House tried to insert a provision to require all employees of private schools receiving voucher funds from taxpayers to undergo background checks, just like public school employees. Currently, only the top decision-maker in the voucher school is required to undergo a background check. However, the Senate had issues with this proposal and had it pulled from a conference report that was dealing with other matters. The proposed background checks come during the same week that an employee from the state’s largest voucher school pleaded guilty to embezzlement of nearly $400,000 in state funds. Reports also indicate the school also has a history of tax delinquency. One recent study from Duke University said North Carolina’s voucher program accountability measures are some of the weakest in the country.
SCHOOL DISTRICT STUDY
State lawmakers approved a bill this week that would form a legislative study committee to look into whether legislation should be filed to break up previously merged large school districts. The Senate passed a change to House Bill 704 that included looking at the appropriate size for school systems, but that provision ended up getting pulled in the final negotiated bill. Opponents of the bill say it is an effort to lay the groundwork for breaking up Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg school systems, the two largest in the state. They also contend it would lead to the resegregation of schools.
State lawmakers included funding intent language in the Budget Technical Corrections this week, after claiming they inadvertently left it out of the final budget. As high profile as House Bill 13 was this year to save specials teachers, it’s hard to believe it was just a simple omission. Lawmakers included the funding intent language after a parents group, who NCAE partnered with to push House Bill 13, asked lawmakers this week to sign a pledge to fund specials teachers so they are not eliminated next year because of new class size limits.
BILLS WE ARE TRACKING:
HB 90 NC Truth in Education
HB 115 Retirement Technical Corrections Act of 2017
HB 149 Students w/ Dyslexia and Dyscalculia
HB 155 Omnibus Education Law Changes
HB 176 Pensions Integrity Act of 2017
HB 183 Retirement Admin. Changes Act of 2017
HB 256 2017 Appointments Bill
HB 299 State Health Plan Administrative Changes
HB 482 County Comm. Role in School Bldg Acquisition
HB 527 Restore/Preserve Campus Free Speech
HB 528 Budget Technical Corrections
HB 651 State Pension/Ret. Health Ben. Fund Solvency
HB 894 Veterans/Health Care/ Youth Suicide Prevention
SB 36 Convention of the States
SB 55 School Bus Cameras/Civil Penalties
SB 78 Cost To Comply/Fed Ed Funds/PED Study
SB 169 Teaching Excellence Bonus Program
SB 253 Partisan Elections/Certain School Board
SB 335 Study/Fair Treatment of College Athletes
SB 448 Professors in the Classroom
SB 656 Electoral Freedom Act of 2017
TRUMP-DEVOS BUDGET DISMANTLES PUBLIC EDUCATION
- $1.2 billion from after-school programs
- More than $700 million from loans for low-income students
- $27 million from arts education
- $2.1 billion that helps reduce class size and support professional development for educators
Even worse, DeVos and Trump are trying to take this public funding away from public schools in order to funnel them to private schools. We simply can’t afford to fund two different education systems—one private and one public—on the taxpayers’ dime.
The Trump-DeVos plan for education consists of voucher programs and budget cuts that would rob public schools of the resources to provide students with a well-rounded curriculum and community support services, such as health care and after-school programs.
We should focus on in investing public schools, where 90 percent of children go, not diverting money from them for the 10 percent who go to private schools.
Please send an e-mail to Betsy DeVos today and tell her how her voucher cuts hurt our students, educators, and schools:
The Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 599 this week, which establishes a new professional educator preparation standards commission and reorganizes and clarifies the teacher licensure process. NCAE has major concerns with this bill. One, it’s not even necessary. Based on the budget last year, certification and licensure requirements were mandated and have been implemented by the State Board of Education, so it’s unclear why lawmakers are doing this again. There are also major concerns around changes affecting lateral entry teachers and allowing a student’s clinical teaching in a private school when the curriculum and standards can be completely different.
Amendments trying to address some of the concerns were defeated in the committee. The concerns were enough for one lawmaker, Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, to pull her name off the bill as a sponsor. The bill still has to go through the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Rules Committee before a floor vote. It’s unclear whether the House will consider taking up the legislation.
NCAE leaders and staff have been working with an education stakeholders group to make significant and important changes to the state’s draft ESSA planthat will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in September. NCAE is advocating for more educator voices as part of the plan, identifying additional barriers to equal access to educational opportunities, and providing key input on benchmark measures. The stakeholders will meet again next week and NCAE will be there.
HEALTH CARE DEPENDENT AUDIT
All State Health Plan members with dependents are starting to receive letters requesting documentation to verify the eligibility of dependents to participate in the State Health Plan. According to the State Treasurer’s office, in order to ensure continued coverage under the Plan for those dependents, members must respond with the required documentation by July 31, 2017. Failure to respond and produce the required documentation will result in termination of dependents’ coverage under the Plan effective August 1, 2017.
North Carolina government could soon have to pay damages to retired workers and teachers after a judge ruled it was wrong to require them to begin paying health insurance premiums six years ago — a cost that one state official says could exceed $100 million.
Retirees sued in 2012 after the legislature directed the state employee health insurance plan to mandate that they make monthly contributions to receive what had been standard insurance coverage for decades. A retiree who still wanted to avoid premiums could get covered under a plan with less-generous benefits.
A trial judge last week ruled for the retirees, saying they had a contractual right as part of their work agreement to receive the standard coverage without a premium.
The judge ordered the state reimburse retirees for premium payments they made to retain the “80/20” plan and offer that plan as it existed in 2011 premium-free for the rest of their lives. It is possible individual repayments could reach into thousands of dollars.
It’s unclear whether the decision will be appealed or when retirees would receive refunds if the decision stands.
BILLS BEING TRACKED:
HB 486 National Guard Education Assistance Changes