Feb 23, 2018
NCGA Week in Review
With the special session wrapped up, legislators returned to interim
committee work this week. This week, legislators discussed how public
schools are financed and organized and a House committee took up the
Senate’s version of HB 189: Water Safety Act, for discussion. The
Governor’s Commission on Access to a Sound, Basic Education held their
second meeting, delving into the topic of school finance.
Education Finance Task Force Talks Charter School Funding
Yesterday, the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform
held their fifth meeting of the interim to discuss charter school funding.
Committee members heard an overview of the funding structure from the
Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) as well as perspectives on the
current funding structure and what changes could be made from members of
the charter school community.
What’s It Like Now?
Currently, charter schools receive an allotment based on their average
daily membership. State funds flow directly to the charter school while
local funds are dispersed by the local school district. According to a
from NCDPI Division of School Business Director Alexis Schauss, the growth
of charter schools has made the funding and budgeting system more complex.
Schauss shared that the average size of a charter school in NC has
increased to 600 students since 2008, when it was 400.
NC State Director for TeamCFA Gregg Sinders and Vice Chair of the Charter
School Advisory Board Steven Walker both shared anecdotes on charter
schools getting less funding than traditional public schools.
presentation, Sinders emphasized that charter schools are able to produce results
because of the flexibility they are allowed and encouraged the Task Force
to consider granting greater flexibility to traditional public schools,
while requiring accountability. Walker stressed that charter schools are
public schools in his
and should be treated as such. He also proposed the committee consider
allowing county commissioners to grant capital funding dollars to charter
schools and highlighted disparity in local funding between traditional and
Committee Chair Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) noted that the committee
will hear from operating charter schools at a future meeting. As the
committee considers proposals to restructure the state’s education
financing formula, charter schools will likely play a large role. NC’s
education landscape differs drastically from what it was when the current
funding formula was initially adopted. Many advocate for greater
flexibility and adaptability in a new system that can account for
innovative education environment.
Local School Administrative Units Discussed by Study Committee
The Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School
Administrative Units held their first meeting on Wednesday. The Committee
to discuss the division of local school administrative units (LEAs) and
recommend best practices to the General Assembly, including whether to
allow previously merged districts to break up.
What Was on the Table?
The committee received informative presentations from General Assembly
staff at the meeting. First, Legislative Analysis Division Staff Attorneys
Kara McCraw and Brian Gwyn
an overview of current LEAs, noting that there are currently 115 LEAs in NC
and discussing the existing processes for merging and dividing existing
units. They also reviewed national trends, noting that when comparing
number of school districts to population, NC is roughly in the middle
compared to other southern states and states with similar student
Where is This Going?
The creation of this committee was controversial and passed mostly along
party lines in the long session. On Wednesday, Committee Chair Rep. Bill
that it is not his intention to introduce bills to break up certain school
systems. According to leaders of large districts, like Wake and Mecklenburg
Counties, larger districts can reduce administrative costs and make
integration easier. Proponents for smaller districts argue that larger
districts can reduce local control over education.
House River Quality Committee Receives Updates & Discusses HB 189
At their first meeting since the Senate passed their version of HB 189, the
House Select Committee on NC River Quality heard updates from the NC
Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Cape Fear Public Utility
Authority (CFPUA), and discussed the Senate’s version of the bill.
DEQ Assistant Secretary for the Environment Sheila Holman provided an
on ongoing work to monitor air and water quality around the Bladen County
Chemours facility. DEQ has been working with the US Environmental
Protection Agency (US EPA) to test samples for the presence of GenX and
other emerging compounds. The committee received an
from CFPUA Executive Director Jim Flechtner and Chief Operating Officer
Frank Styers. CFPUA received funds from the legislature in 2017 to respond
to GenX, including analyzing drinking water samples and deploying drinking
water treatment initiatives. According to water quality samples, CFPUA is
seeing levels in treated water below the NC Department of Health and Human
Services health goal.
Later in the day, the committee shifted gears to discuss HB 189. In
January, the House voted 116-0 to pass their version of the bill, initially
titled “Short Term Responses to Emerging Contaminants.” After nearly a
month of stalemate, Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) introduced a proposed
committee substitute of the bill that passed the chamber nearly on party
lines. One of the big disagreements between the chambers was whether or not
to provide funds for a mass spectrometer to DEQ, which would allow the
Department to analyze samples in house.
At Wendesday’s meeting, the committee heard from US EPA Physical Scientist
Mark Strynar, who
spectrometer models, including the model NCDEQ would like to purchase,
which he said would be sufficient for the state’s ongoing sampling needs.
DEQ Director of Legislative Affairs Andy Miller also
to the committee, asking the committee to appropriate the necessary funds
to the Department to purchase and run the equipment.
The House has not voted on the Senate’s proposal, and because it is coming
back for a vote of concurrence, they are stuck between accepting the
changes or creating a conference committee to work out the difference. GenX
is poised to be a major topic in the upcoming short session, where it may
continue to spark disagreement between the chambers.
Education Commission Discusses School Finance, Equity
The Governor’s Commission on Access to a Sound Basic Education met for the
second time on Tuesday. The Commission was formed by Gov. Roy Cooper last
year to weigh in on a decades-long court case that asks how the state must
fulfill their constitutional duties to provide a basic education to North
Carolinians. The Commissions’
in 2017 was primarily organizational, the
were sworn in and received an overview of the case.
At Tuesday’s meeting, they delved into NC’s school finance system and
discussed the concepts of equity versus equality. CEO and President of
Education Resource Strategies Dr. Karen Hawley Miles underscored that
declining teacher pay has led to teacher shortages, which in turn impacts
student performance. Public School Forum of NC President and Executive
Director Keith Poston presented to the Commission on local funding gaps,
including an overview of the organization’s
annual report. According to Poston, counties with high property values are able to raise
necessary funds easily, while low wealth counties must rely on less
flexible state funds and more aggressive tax rates to compete. He
emphasized that no county should suffer for the advancement of another and
equity should be ensured by the state funding system.
Governor Cooper Announces Position on HB 90
Last Wednesday, Gov. Cooper
a press conference to discuss
HB 90:Changes to Education and Election Laws, which was passed by the legislature
last week. The bill addresses class size and provides funding to eliminate the NC
Pre-K waiting list, but the Governor opposes other legislative changes that
he called, “political attacks and power grabs.” Since the legislature is
now out of session, HB 90 will go into effect on March 15, 30 days after it
was sent to his desk.
A Look Ahead to Next Week
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
9:30 AM Social Services Regional Supervision and Collaboration Working
1:00 PM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC Health
Choice, Joint Behavioral Health Subcommittee
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
9:00 AM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services
1:00 PM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC Health
Thursday March 1, 2018
9:00 AM Committee on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
10: 00 AM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human
Services, Joint Subcommittee on Medical Education and Medical Residency