Join us for a Day of Action May 1, 2019. 700 S. Salisbury St. Raleigh. 9am - 5pm.
This has been a big week for education at the NCGA. So the question is, are legislators listening to educators? Well, several bills have passed the House in the last week and gone onto the Senate, and several new bills were introduced.
For now, here's what's weighing heavy on my mind:
There will be a news conference at 2:30pm today. There are some elected officials named on the announcement that are not known for being friends of public education. I am trying to ignore the fact that the announcement will come to us on April Fools' Day. I can't imagine what the announcement will be, but Keung Hui says "it looks to be an announcement related to teachers." Last time NC Superintendent Mark Johnson made a big announcement, it was behind closed doors so at least this one will be public.
We'll be taking some deep breaths this afternoon after school dismisses as we figure out what they announcement was.
Ok, let's take a look at what legislation was moving last week. Thanks to Public Schools First NC's Legislative Update for the week.
Last week, we told you that educators are planning another "day of action" on May 1. They want to make sure education support professionals, retirees, parents, students, and other community members are there too. Let's see where legislation stands in regard to the five issues ranked as top priorities for the upcoming event:
1- Provide enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national standards. (Read more here about the need; see the recommendations for these support professionals in comparison to the deficit in our state.)
Less than a week after this priority was released, two new bills were filed. These are definitely a step in the right direction. We want to see the priority fully met including social workers and librarians.
SB 424 Fully Fund School Counselors & Psychologists. Would fully fund school counselors and school psychologists over three years. Filed 3/28/19.
HB 524 Additional Funds for School Nurses. Would appropriate $10 million for 2019-20 and $20 million for 2020-21 and $30.7 million in 2021-22 for schools to increase positions for school nurses. Filed 3/28/19.
2- Provide $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5% raise for all ESPs (non-certified staff), teachers, admin, and a 5% cost of living adjustment for retirees.
$15 minimum wage for all school personnel - HB 359 (filed 3/13/19 - No change)
5% cost of living adjustment for retirees - SB 243 (Filed 3/13/19, passed 1st reading, referred to Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate- no change)
3- Expand Medicaid to improve the health of our students and families. HB 5 / SB 3 Close the Medicaid Coverage Gap (filed 1/30/19, passed 1st reading, referred to Committee on Health no change - read more here and here)
4 - Reinstate state retiree health benefits eliminated by the General Assembly in 2017. HB 184 Study State Health Plan Design (filed 2/26/19, passed 1st reading, referred to Committee on Health, serial referral to insurance stricken, reported favorable committee substitute, re-referred to Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House); HB 188 Retirement Administrative Changes (filed 2/26/19, passed 1streading, referred to Committee on Pensions and Retirement, re-referred to Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House - No change; Court Rules State Retirees Should Pay Health Premiums | WUNC
5 - Restore advanced degree compensation stripped by the General Assembly in 2013. SB 28 Restore Master's Pay for Certain Teachers (Filed 2/06/19, passed 1st reading, referred to Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate -no change); SB 244 Restore Master's Pay for Teachers (Filed 3/13/19, passed 1st reading, referred to Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate - no change)
At least a small piece of each of the five priorities is being considered in proposed legislation. There's still a lot of work to be done. We need these bills to keep moving in the right direction. Call to Action - Contact your legislators and tell them how important these five priorities are. Plan to rally alongside teachers on May 1! (It's just one month away!!)
Here are some updates on other bills I mentioned last week:
School calendar flexibility: HB 79 Academic Alignment/Boards of Education & CC: This bill would allow local boards of education to align their school calendars with local community colleges. Passed House. Passed 1st reading in Senate, referred to Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.
HB 377 Reduce Testing (read more about the need for testing reform). Filed 3/18/19, passed 1streading, referred to the Committee on Education –K-12, reported favorable committee substitute, re-referred to Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House.
SB 329 (=HB 428 Passed 1st reading) K-3 Reading and Literacy Improvement Act (one TA per K-2 classroom and one TA for every 3rd grade) - read more here. Filed 3/21/19, passed 1streading, referred to Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.
HB 266 School Annual Report Card. Would modify school performance grades to provide that all schools receive a school performance grade for school achievement and a school performance grade for school growth. Passed House. Passed 1st reading in Senate, referred to Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.
HB 354 (=HB 313) Modify Weighting/School Performance Grades. An act to modify the weight of school performance grades to account for 50% growth and 50% achievement. Passed House. Passed 1st reading in Senate, referred to Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate. Read more here and here.
New legislation introduced this week:
HB 285 Virtual Early Learning Pilot Program. Would establish a Virtual Early Learning Pilot Program for preschool-age children, a three year virtual early learning program known as Upstart targeted at at-risk preschool-age children to develop school readiness skills. Filed 3/28/19, passed 1st reading, referred to Committee on Education –K-12. This is a bill that many educators say just doesn't make sense. Read more here and here. It is even getting national attention.
On another note, bills to fund face-to-face early education are supported like SB 427 Smart Start Funds. Would promote young children’s healthy development through continued investment in the Smart Start program. (=HB 124 filed 2/21; referred to Committee on Health) filed 3/28/19.
HB 482 (=SB 382) School Psychologist Compensation & Recruitment. Would appropriate funds to increase compensation for school psychologists and establish the School Psychologist Recruitment and Retention Program. Filed 3/27/19, passed 1st reading, referred to Committee on Education –K-12.
SB 382 Filed 3/27/19, passed 1st reading, referred to Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate, withdrawn, re-referred to Appropriations/Base Budget.
SB 397 Class Size Waivers/PE K-5 Teacher Funds. Would add certain waivers for local school administrative units from K-3 class size requirements with an adjustment to the eligibility for funds for program enhancement teacher positions for K-5. Filed 3/27/19, passed 1st reading, referred to Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.