Mid-February NC Education Updates

NC Education Updates this time around include House Bill 90, Education Savings Accounts, Leandro/ the NC Board of Ed update and an NC school choice champion moves to the national stage.

House Bill 90

The bill passed through the legislature this week and was sent to Governor Cooper. The first item deals with Cooper’s pipeline slush fund. The General Assembly gave Cooper an out with this bill and it looks like he’s taking it since he said he would sign the bill.

Per the Department of Public Instruction, here’s what’s inside the bill:

  • Part I – ACP/MOU/ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Outlines how funding will be used that may be received by the Governor through a Memorandum of Understanding with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC. Through this bill, the General Assembly has allocated these funds toward improvement of education in the Local Education Agencies through which the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will pass.
  • Part II – CLASS SIZE PHASE IN: Phases in the required implementation of class size caps that were outlined in HB 13 Class Size Requirement Changes. See the chart below for the gradual rollout of class size caps.
  • Part III – PROGRAM ENHANCEMENT TEACHER ALLOTMENT: Provides funds for a position allotment for teachers of program enhancement classes; 1 enhancement teacher per 191 students in K-5th to include dance, music, theater, and the visual arts; physical education and health programs; and world languages. In addition, this section clarifies that dual language and program enhancement classrooms are exempt from the class size limits.
  • Part IV – ALLOTMENT TRANSFER RESTRICTIONS: Although the bill restricts transfers from the enhancement teacher funding allocation, this section identifies exceptions to the restriction and provides details pertaining to flexibility that is allowable with these new funds. This includes the hiring of international teachers or other measures to be approved by the State Board of Education.
  • Part V – APPROPRIATIONS FOR PROGRAM ENHANCEMENT TEACHERS: The General Assembly appropriates $61,359,225 for K-5 program enhancement teachers.
  • Part VI – CHANGES TO PERSONAL EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNTS: Streamlines the criteria for access to school choice scholarships and adds language to allow partial scholarships for children enrolled part-time in public school and part-time in non-public school.
  • Part VII – NC PRE-K STATUTORY APPROPRIATION: Increases Pre-K recurring funding by $82M and $91M beginning 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 respectively, an amount equal to the 3,000 students currently on the NC Pre-K waiting list.

Education Savings Accounts

Per House Bill 90 section VI, the language for personal Education Savings Accounts (ESA’s) has been changed to allow for students to more easily access scholarships for both full and part-time students.

Previously part-time students were not eligible. It also removed the eligibility criteria placed on the ESA’s and simply left lone criteria of the “eligible to attend a North Carolina public school pursuant to G.S. 115C-366.”

The net effect here is that thousands of special needs kids can now access and use NC’s Special Needs ESA. North Carolina’s special-needs ESA program previously only allowed for students actively transferring from public schools to private schools.

The NC ESA allows for $9,000 a year to offset the cost of educational expenses for families with special needs students and exceptional children.

Leandro Update

The NC Board of Ed wants out of the case? One has to wonder how this maneuver is tied to Roy Cooper’s ‘Sketchy Sound Education Commission‘ which is holding up Leandro as it’s reason for existing.

An NC School Choice Champion hits National Stage

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) announced last week that their Founding President, Darrell Allison, would be leaving to join the American Federation for Children (AFC).

PEFNC sent out a press release that also included some highlights of Allison’s work in NC.

“When I joined PEFNC as president on July 5, 2005, you could have knocked me over with a feather had you told me then that North Carolina would be where it is today—one of the leading states in the nation in K-12 education reform,” Allison said in the statement.

“During the past 13 plus years, our diverse school-choice coalition— Black, White, Hispanic, Democrat, and Republican—has achieved numerous victories for parental school choice. I am honored and humbled that, since 2011, you’d be hard-pressed to find another state that has implemented more new education reform programs than North Carolina,’ said Allison.

Specific accomplishments include:

  • The Opportunity Scholarship Program: Designed for low-income, working-class families, these scholarships provide up to $4,200 a year for eligible families to use toward the cost of private-school tuition. More than 7,557 students have accepted Opportunity Scholarships to attend private schools for the 2017-2018 school year and over 10,000 scholarships will be available for the 2018-19 school year.
  • The Children with Disabilities Scholarship Grant: Prior to passage of this scholarship grant, hundreds of thousands of special-needs students were in public schools because that was their only choice. Now, families are eligible for up to $8,000 annually in grants for such services as private-school tuition, tutoring, and other therapeutic services. PEFNC worked closely with the special-needs community to get this law passed.
  • Special-Needs Education Savings Accounts: North Carolina’s new ESA program provides up to $9,000 per year in assistance for families with special-needs students to pay for educational choice options. Significantly, all three school-choice laws are stackable, offering up to $21,200 for a student for each school year.
  • Public charter schools: PEFNC also played an instrumental role in helping to eliminate the cap on charter schools and expand the number of charters from 100 in 2011 to 173 for the 2017-2018 school year. Today, public charter schools serve over 100,000 students from 95 counties.

Allison will be the National Director for State Teams and Political Strategy. PEFNC tells me that Allison is staying in North Carolina, however.

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips: APDillon@Protonmail.com
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