YOUR 2014 LEGISLATIVE SESSION RESOURCE

Flexibility & Local Control


April 27, 2017 | K-3 Class Size Compromise Clears The General Assembly


This week legislation aimed at modifying the district average and individual classroom maximum class sizes for kindergarten through third grade was approved by the General Assembly. NCASA has worked diligently with the House and Senate and helped broker the current compromise solution in House Bill 13 that both chambers approved this week and sent to the Governor for his signature. The bill modifies a provision in the 2016 state budget mandating further reductions in K-3 class size and calls for a two-year phase-in that lawmakers have pledged to supplement with new funding for enhancement teachers in 2018-19 when class sizes will dip again.


Under current law and per the new bill, the funded class allotment ratios for kindergarten through third grade, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, are as follows:

  •  For kindergarten, one teacher per 18 students.
  •  For first grade, one teacher per 16 students.
  •  For second grade, one teacher per 17 students.
  •  For third grade, one teacher per 17 students.


House Bill 13 would provide that for the 2017-2018 school year, the average class size for kindergarten through third grade must not exceed 20 students, while the size of an individual class may not exceed 23 students. In the 2018-19 school year, the district average class size in K-3 must equal the funded ratio for each of those grades, and the individual class maximum can be only three students above the funded ratio.


Although not reflected in the bill, House and Senate leaders have pledged and publicly stated their intent to provide new funding in 2018-19 in a separate allotment to support enhancement teachers, such as those who instruct in art, music, P.E. and world languages. That provision is expected to be included as part of the Senate’s budget set to be released in the next few weeks.


The bill does contain some additional bi-annual reporting requirements aimed at ensuring school districts are complying with the reduction of K-3 class size. Those reporting requirements include:

  •  For each class in each grade level at each school the following:
    • The duties of the teacher.
    • The source of funds used to pay for the teacher.
    • The number of students assigned to the class, including all exceptions to individual class size maximums in kindergarten through third grade that exist at that time.
    •  The district average class size in each grade K-3.
  • For each school the following:
    • The number of program enhancement teachers, defined as those who teach arts disciplines including dance, music, theater, and the visual arts, physical education and health programs, or world languages
    • The source of funds used to pay each program enhancement teacher.


The legislation does not change for what circumstances a district may request a class size waiver from the State Board of Education; however, waivers granted by the Board would not become effective until reported to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, and would be required to be reported within 30 days of the grant of the waiver. A press release from Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), which includes a quote from NCASA Executive Director Katherine Joyce, can be seen here.


The Governor signed the bill into law Thursday evening.


April 27, 2017 | Senate Approves Legislation Prohibiting LEAs From Suing County Commissioners Over Funding


Legislation repealing the statutory authority for LEAs to sue a board of county commissioners challenging the sufficiency of funds appropriated it gained approval in the Senate this week.


In addition to prohibiting a LEA from filing a civil action against the board of county commissioners over the amount of funding, Senate Bill 531, provides that if no agreement over funding is reached during a joint meeting between the LEA and board of county commissioners, the funding decision of the county commissioners is final. The bill also eliminates the formal mediation required between the parties to resolve the funding dispute. Though not in the approved bill, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tucker (R-Union) pledged to put in some sort of formula that takes into account student population growth that would be the default amount of funding provided in the event the LEA and board of county commissioners could not reach an amenable agreement.


The bill comes on the heels of legislation last year requiring a study of the procedure for resolving education funding disputes between local boards of education and boards of county commissioners. That legislation requires the Program Evaluation Division to report its findings and recommendations to the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee no later than May 1, 2017.


The bill now heads to the House for consideration. Last week a House committee passed an identical House bill, House Bill 305, which now resides in the Judiciary IV Committee, but did not meet the crossover deadline.


NCASA will continue to monitor these bills as they still could pop up in amended legislation later this session, or in the budget.


April 21, 2017 | Legislation Prohibiting LEAs From Suing County Commissioners Over Funding Passes House Committee


Legislation repealing the statutory authority for LEAs to sue a board of county commissioners challenging the sufficiency of funds appropriated it gained approval in the House State and Local Government I Committee this week. In addition to prohibiting a LEA from filing a civil action against the board of county commissioners over the amount of funding, House Bill 305 provides that if no agreement over funding is reached during a joint meeting between the LEA and board of county commissioners, the funding decision of the county commissioners is final. The bill also eliminates the formal mediation required between the parties to resolve the funding dispute.


The bill comes on the heels of legislation last year requiring a study of the procedure for resolving education funding disputes between local boards of education and boards of county commissioners. That legislation requires the Program Evaluation Division to report its findings and recommendations to the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee no later than May 1, 2017. A representative from the Division told the Committee that study is ongoing and will likely be reported in August. Some members of the Committee voiced their support of waiting to vote on the bill until after the study has been completed and the report done, however, the bill received a narrow approval in the Committee based on a voice vote.


The bill now heads to the House Judiciary IV Committee. NCASA encourages you to contact members of that Committee and ask them to oppose this legislation. Additionally, ask your House member to oppose this legislation should it come for a vote by the full House.


An identical companion bill, Senate Bill 531, is scheduled to be heard next Tuesday in the Senate State and Local Government Committee. NCASA encourages our members to contact that Committee, and their Senate members, and ask them to oppose this bill.


To read more about this week’s committee meeting, please click here to read an article by Raleigh’s News & Observer.


April 7, 2017 | Two Calendar Flexibility Bills Gain House Approval


Two bills granting calendar flexibility were debated and voted on in the House this week, with one gaining initial approval, with another gaining full approval.


House Bill 375 gained initial approval in the House on Thursday afternoon. The bill authorizes LEAs to schedule their start date in order to coincide with the start date of a community college serving the city or county of the LEA, but no earlier than August 15. This calendar flexibility will better assist high school students wishing to take higher education classes, especially during the spring semester, and allow all students to take their end-of-course exams before going home for winter break. The measure could additionally help with summer learning loss for students in all grade levels. Although this bill gained initial approval on a 100-8 vote, an objection was filed to the final vote and the final vote will occur next week.


A second calendar flexibility bill gained full approval in the House this week after first gaining approval in the House Commerce and Job Development Committee. That bill, House Bill 389, establishes a School Calendar Flexibility Pilot Program to determine the impact of school calendar flexibility for opening and closing dates on, (1) student achievement and summer internships, and (2) to identify and quantify the communities that can support school calendar flexibility and those that cannot. Under the bill, LEAs would determine the opening and closing dates for students, however, the calendar could start no earlier than August 10 and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11. The bill directs the Department of Commerce to study the effect of the Pilot Program on the tourism industry. The bill gained approval by a 104-6 vote.


Authorized LEAs would participate in the Pilot Program for three school years beginning in either 2018-2019 or 2019-2020. The LEAs in the following counties would be authorized to participate in the Pilot Program: Anson, Bladen, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Cherokee, Cleveland, Davidson, Duplin, Graham, Greene, Guilford, Martin, McDowell, Mitchell, Northampton, Robeson, Rowan, Warren, Washington, and Wilson.


March 30, 2017 | Legislation Filed Directing Principals Report On K-3 Class Size


As NCASA continues to work toward a resolution of the impending K-3 class size mandate slated to begin next school year, legislation was filed in the Senate this week directing principals to report, on the first school day of each month, to the superintendent of their LEA on any K-3 classrooms in their school which are out of compliance with class size requirements. Senate Bill 473 requires the superintendent to report to the local board of education during the next board meeting on noncompliance with the K-3 class size requirements. Current law directing the local board of education take action to meet the class size requirements found in law apply for a waiver from the State Board of Education, remain unchanged under this legislation


March 30,  2017 | Calendar Flexibility Legislation Sees Action In House


Two bills granting calendar flexibility saw action in the House this week with one scheduled for a full House floor debate before being withdrawn from the calendar.

House Bill 375 gained approval in the House Education K-12 Committee on Tuesday morning. The bill authorizes LEAs to schedule its start date in order to coincide with the start date of a community college serving the city or county of the LEA, but no earlier than August 15.  This calendar flexibility will better assist high school students wishing to take higher education classes, especially during the spring semester, and allow all students to take their end-of-course exams before going home for winter break. The measure could additionally help with summer learning loss for students in all grade levels.

The bill was scheduled to be heard on the House floor on Wednesday afternoon but was withdrawn from the calendar. NCASA urges you to
contact your House members and ask them to support and pass this important measure for school districts across the state.

To read more on this bill, and the Committee meeting in which it was heard, please click
here for an article by Raleigh’s News & Observer.

A second calendar flexibility bill also gained approval in the House Education K-12 Committee on Tuesday morning.  That bill,
House Bill 389, establishes a School Calendar Flexibility Pilot Program to determine the impact of school calendar flexibility for opening and closing dates on, (1) student achievement and summer internships, and (2) to identify and quantify the communities that can support school calendar flexibility and those that cannot. Under the bill, LEAs would determine the opening and closing dates for students, however, the calendar could start no earlier than August 10 and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11. The bill directs the Department of Commerce to study the effect of the Pilot Program on the tourism industry.

Authorized LEAs would participate in the Pilot Program for three school years beginning in either 2018-2019 or 2019-2020. The LEAs in the following counties would be authorized to participate in the Pilot Program: Anson County, Bladen County, Cabarrus County, Caldwell County, Cherokee County, Cleveland County, Davidson County, Duplin County, Graham County, Greene County, Guilford County, Martin County, McDowell County, Mitchell County, Northampton County, Robeson County, Rowan County, Warren County, Washington County, and Wilson County.

The bill now resides in the House Commerce and Job Development Committee for further consideration before moving the floor for approval by the full House.

To read more on this pilot program, please click
here for an article by WRAL-TV.


March 20, 2017 | NCASA Sends Letter To Senate Asking For Relief From Impending K-3 Class Size Ratio Changes


This morning NCASA sent a letter to all members of the Senate seeking the Senate's help in providing relief from changes to the K-3 Class Size ratio set to take place beginning in the 2017-2018 school year.  The letter, which can be downloaded here, contained the following:


Dear Esteemed Senator,
Last month the N.C. Association of School Administrators (NCASA) submitted to Fiscal Research information on how classroom teacher funding is being used at the local level.  School districts have been responsive, cooperative and transparent in providing the requested information. The responses overwhelmingly show they are using the classroom allotment to fund teachers in Grades K-3, Grades 4-12 and in enhancement subjects (art, music and PE), all needed and allowable from this one funding stream.

Most districts have made an effort to lower class size in K-3 since 2011, although not at the pace or the funded ratio the Senate would prefer.  However, the vast majority of school districts are complying with the current law allowing them to operate K-3 classrooms with a district average of 21 students and individual classrooms with a maximum of 24 students.  This district average and individual class size maximum did not change in the law in recent years as additional funds were provided.

Those few districts not in compliance with current law likely have no alternatives to their current staffing pattern. Some are struggling with enrollment growth, lack of facility space and capital funding, time constraints for permitting and placing mobile units, and/or a shortage of teachers and available K-3 educators they can hire.  Students do not arrive at a school in sets of 16, 17 or 18 to easily facilitate a new classroom in K-3. Instead, districts must determine the best placement for a small number of students when one or more classrooms exceed mandated limits.

By eliminating previous exceptions to the mandated class sizes in K-3 effective for 2017-18, districts statewide must soon determine if they can secure additional county funds to retain approximately 5,500 teachers – most of whom are providing instruction in art, music and PE as well as serving Grades 4-12 – or initiate the layoff process that must begin this spring to meet mandated due process requirements.  Districts need support from the Senate in the next couple of weeks to either relax the new mandate as proposed in House Bill 13, or delay its implementation and allow more time for the districts and General Assembly to collaborate on identifying the most conducive approach for lowering K-3 class sizes.

We look forward to partnering with you on this issue to find a resolution that meets school districts’ needs and the goals of the General Assembly.  If you have any questions, or if I can be of further assistance, please contact me at 919-828-1426 or kjoyce@ncasa.net.

Sincerely,
 

Katherine W. Joyce
Executive Director


February 23, 2017 | NCASA Delivers District Class Size Data, Letter On Survey Limitations To N.C. Senate


Katherine Joyce | NCASA - Thank you to all who have completed and returned your district's response to the class size survey that NCASA circulated and collected at the request of the General Assembly. We delivered 91 responses to the legislature late Tuesday, and responses continued to come in through the week. Senate leadership has asked that we continue to collect surveys from the few districts that have not yet responded, as they want to see class size information from every district. If you have not yet sent in your survey, please work to get it to me ASAP at kjoyce@ncasa.net for forwarding to lawmakers as requested.

In conjunction with delivering the responses to the General Assembly, NCASA prepared and sent a
letter to Sen. Phil Berger, President Pro Tempore of the N.C. Senate, to help explain the limitations of and problems with the survey that the legislative staff sent to NCASA for distribution to school districts. We also released a press release to reflect the efforts by our school districts to be cooperative and transparent in sharing information on the lawful and allowable ways in which you are using your teacher funding.

We are hopeful that these efforts will lead to positive action by the N.C. Senate on the K-3 class size issue soon. Please continue a positive dialogue with your Senators to ask for a timely resolution on the K-3 issue, and thank your House members for their unanimous support of
House Bill 13 that has now been sent to the Senate for consideration.


​February 16, 2017 | House Approves Legislation Modifying K-3 Class Size Reduction 


Adam Pridemore | NCASA - This week legislation aimed at modifying the maximum average class size requirements and individual class size requirements for kindergarten through third grade was approved by the House. House Bill 13 modifies a mandate in last year’s state budget to reduce class size which, while a goal all public schools and administrators support, had unintended consequences.


Per last year’s state budget, the funded class allotment ratios for kindergarten through third grade, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, are as follows:
• For kindergarten, one teacher per 18 students.
• For first grade, one teacher per 16 students.
• For second grade, one teacher per 17 students.
• For third grade, one teacher per 17 students.

House Bill 13 would provide that the average class size for kindergarten through third grade could not exceed the funded allotment ratio of teachers to students in those grades by more than three students, and that the size of an individual class could not exceed that allotment ratio by more than six students. This additional flexibility would allow for the following ratios in grades K-3:
• For kindergarten, one teacher per 24 students.
• For first grade, one teacher per 22 students.
• For second grade, one teacher per 23 students.
• For third grade, one teacher per 23 students.

Without flexibility in class size as granted in this legislation, the requirement to use the allotment for traditional or core teachers meant most LEAs would not have the additional funds necessary for enhancement teachers such as art, music, and physical education teachers.

On Tuesday, the bill gained approval in the House Education K-12 Committee, where bill sponsor Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) acknowledged the bill was not a total fix. Rep. Rosa Gill (D-Wake) stated the bill does not fix the issue in Wake County, but does provide some relief and urged her fellow legislators find additional funds to fix the issue in the future. The bill then gained approval in the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday morning.

The bill now heads to the House floor for full House consideration. NCASA will continue to work with House and Senate on improvements on help for LEAs on this issue and hope to see final legislative resolution reached this month due to its time-sensitivity – spring hiring and county budget season.