Still adapting to the changes forced by the coronavirus pandemic, this week the General Assembly moved forward with several bills that would provide more flexibility to educators and students.
Senate Bill 671: Virtual Educ./Remote Acad./Virtual Charters would allow for public school units to create virtual public, private, and charter schools in North Carolina going forward. The bill would set standard requirements for schools in North Carolina that are looking to establish remote academies and would require the State Board of Education to approve all remote academy applications. The State Board of Education would also be required to evaluate the success of these remote academies to ensure that the standards outlined in the bill are followed by each public school unit.
The bill takes into consideration schools that have already taken the step toward virtual education by allowing those schools' existing remote academy plans to be grandfathered with the new requirements not taking effect until schools have had time to revise those plans. SB 671 would also end North Carolina’s virtual charter school pilot program and would allow the two virtual charter schools participating in the pilot program to be approved as fully operational charter schools in the state. SB 671 passed the House on Thursday, and now goes to the Senate.
Additionally, the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations provided a favorable report to House Bill 159: Education Law Changes. The legislation would tighten restrictions on vending machine items in schools to align more closely with federal standards and provide healthier options to school children. The bill also includes a handful of other technical changes that were agreed upon on a bipartisan basis.
Lastly, two Senate committees, Higher Education and Rules and Operations, provided favorable reports to House Bill 79: Clarify HS Insurance. This bill would allow high schools purchasing catastrophic injury insurance for student athletes to purchase plans along with normal insurance in one plan, either privately or through the Commissioner of Insurance. This bill builds on Session Law 2021-184, that passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor in 2021, which allowed high schools to purchase catastrophic insurance coverage for student athletes through the Commissioner of Insurance instead of through the North Carolina High School Athletics Association.