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Ahead of short session, an updated look at groups making education decisions

Besides the N.C. General Assembly, Governor’s Education Cabinet, UNC Board of Governors, State Board of Community Colleges, and N.C. State Board of Education, there are many boards, commissions, and committees tackling education issues.

Ahead of the short legislative session that starts Wednesday, here is an update on what they have been up to since last time:

Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education

Gov. Roy Cooper through an executive order created the Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education, comprised of 17 education, business, and nonprofit leaders, which first met in November.  According to the executive order, “The Commission shall undertake a comprehensive review, in conjunction with a subsequently selected independent consultant, to assess the State of North Carolina’s ability to staff schools with competent well-trained teachers and principals and the State’s commitment of resources to public education.”

The court in Leandro approved a joint motion filed by both the state and the plaintiff school districts in the case for an independent consultant, WestEd, to make recommendations on what must be done for the state to meet the constitutional standard. 

Chair Brad Wilson said the commission will provide a report focusing on the “how,” of the three components a 2002 ruling deemed necessary to fulfill the constitutional duty:

  1. Staffing each classroom with a competent, well-trained teacher. 
  2. Staffing each school with a competent, well-trained principal.
  3. Identifying the resources necessary to ensure that all children, including those at-risk, have an equal opportunity to obtain a sound, basic education. 

In its February meeting in Raleigh, the commission heard presentations on school funding across the state. In its April meeting in Greensboro, members dove further into the allotment system that funds school districts and heard from local finance officers on funding needs.

The commission, according to the executive order, must meet at least quarterly. The commission has 45 days after the consultant makes its recommendations to publish its report. Both reports, from the commission and the consultant, are intended to help the parties in the lawsuit draft a consent order for the court’s consideration.

The commission is set to break into subcommittees during its June and will meet again as a full body in September, according to Wilson.

myFutureNC

myFutureNC, a cross-sector group with representatives from business, education, nonprofits, and philanthropy, seeks to establish statewide educational and economic goals. It is co-chaired by UNC System President Margaret Spellings, Bank of America Chief Administrative Officer Andrea Smith, and Medical Mutual Holdings Chief Executive Officer Dale Jenkins. The commission will release a report in 2018-19 sharing its findings.

The John M. Belk Endowment, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Goodnight Education Foundation fund the commission through grants.

Kristy Teskey is the executive director of myFutureNC. The commission is broken into three committees that total 60 members. Each committee — P-12, postsecondary, and workforce — also has subject matter experts.

The commission has five total meetings scheduled along with listening sessions for community input throughout the state. The first two meetings were in November in Raleigh and in February in Winston-Salem. Its next meetings are scheduled for June in Cary, October in Asheville, and December in Charlotte.

The commission’s listening sessions have taken place so far in Greensboro, Elizabeth City, and Pinehurst. Its next session will be held in Jacksonville on May 16. EducationNC’s Reach NC Voices team is assisting with the facilitation of the listening sessions. 

Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission

The Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC), a new permanent commission which came out of 2017 legislation reworking educator preparation programs and teacher licensure, reports to the State Board of Education.

The group, comprised of eight appointees from each the House and the Senate as well as Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson and Teacher of the Year Lisa Godwin, has been fleshing out its bylaws and processes since last fall. At its February meeting, the commission, chaired by Greene County Schools Superintendent Patrick Miller, discussed improving teacher licensure, holding preparation programs accountable, strengthening the teacher pipeline, and measuring the success of educators. During its March meeting, the commission passed policy recommendations around license renewal and Teach for America alumni requirements At its most recent meeting in April, commission members debated licensure requirements for teaching academically gifted students.

The commission’s work came from Senate Bill 599, which allowed entities other than institutions of higher education to offer educator preparation programs for the first time. The law called for the commission to set standards for those programs and hold them accountable, as well as oversee all aspects of teacher licensure. 

B-3 Interagency Council

The B-3 Interagency Council, which first met at the end of January, is made up of representatives from both the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Created by the General Assembly in its budget last year, the permanent commission’s goal is to foster collaboration between the two agencies to develop an early education system from birth to third grade. 

At the council’s March meeting, members ranked priorities for a comprehensive early childhood system. In its May meeting, presenters outlined funding and programs currently in place and discussed gaps in data.

Historically, services for children before they enter kindergarten have been under DHHS supervision, while DPI oversees K-12 education. The council is charged with overseeing a coordinated birth to third grade system and creating an evaluation system to measure the educational progress of students from birth through the end of high school. 

The council released a progress report at the beginning of May outlining its first two meeting discussions. A report with the group’s final findings is due to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee, the Joint Legislative Committee on Health and Human Services, and the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations by February 15, 2019.

The council includes 12 voting members, including four public members appointed by both the House and Senate. DHHS Deputy Secretary of Human Services Susan Perry-Manning and DPI Associate Superintendent of Early Education Pamela Shue co-chair the council. Both Superintendent Mark Johnson and Secretary Mandy Cohen serve as ex-officio members with voting privileges. Two members of both the House and Senate also serve in nonvoting advisory roles.

Early Childhood Advisory Council

An executive order from Gov. Cooper in February appointed 24 early childhood experts to the Early Childhood Advisory Council. Every state must have a similar body under federal law. 

According to the press release on the reauthorization of the council, the group’s priorities include:

  • “Creating and guiding a bold early childhood action plan that aligns with other efforts to advance the state’s early childhood system.
  • Building awareness of the importance of high-quality early childhood experiences to future education and career success to ensure young children in North Carolina are learning and thriving.
  • Recommending and advocating for policies and funding that improve equitable access to high-quality early childhood services and better outcomes for young children and families.”

No meeting schedule has been posted for the council. 

Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School Administrative Units

The legislature created the Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School Administrative Units last year as a temporary committee to study if and how larger local school districts should be divided into multiple districts. 

The study committee is comprised of 13 members — six House appointees, five Senate appointees, and two co-chairs: Rep. William Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, and Sen. David Curtis, R-Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln

The committee concluded in April that no relationship exists between district size and student performance. Its final report to the General Assembly said smaller district size could have a positive effect but that challenges over equity and a lack of an effective division process persist.

In its first meeting in February, members heard presentations from legislative research staff on the history of school district consolidation, education funding, and the academic performance of students in different sizes of school districts. In March, the committee looked at district division’s impacts on transportation, school meals, facility quality, information technology, and funding. Concerns were raised around equitably splitting up resources in larger districts. Later that month, the committee came up with more questions than answers on district size’s effects on student achievement and cost. At the beginning of April, the committee looked at school programs trying untraditional approaches to improve student outcomes regardless of size. 

Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform

The Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform is a temporary task force studying how the state allocates money to districts and schools and creating a new finance structure based on a weighted student formula.

The task force, which was created by the General Assembly in its 2017 budget, is chaired by Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, and Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover. Besides the chairs, there are eight House and eight Senate appointees with voting powers. There is also one advisory task force member from the House.

The state currently gives money to local school districts through allotments, or line items categorized for specific uses. Each sum of money is determined by the district’s average daily membership (ADM). Certain districts receive supplemental funding based on characteristics of the district or the students, like income, county size, special needs, or limited English proficiency. 

The weighted student formula model would give a base amount of money to each individual student in the state’s public schools, adding more funding for specific needs of students.

In February, the task force discussed the funding system for charter schools. In March, charter advocates asked legislators for more funding, arguing they do not receive the same state resources as traditional public schools. In April, the group took a look at student-based funding formulas. At that meeting, Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, said the task force will not make recommendations for school funding policy changes this year but will continue its work after short session, aiming to produce legislation for long session next year.

Go here to sign up for meeting notices via email.

Committee on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

The Committee on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is a temporary body created by the General Assembly as part of its 2017 legislative research commission. The committee is studying the quality of services in the state for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. 

The committee’s focus is on ensuring smooth transitions between educational and work environments, looking at services through the education system and state and local government. The committee is co-chaired by Rep. John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg, and Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover. Besides the chairs, there are eight voting members from both the House and Senate and two ex-officio members from each. 

Go here to sign up for meeting notices via email.

House Select Committee on School Safety 

House Speaker Tim Moore announced a new House committee on school safety in late February following the Parkland, Florida shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and school staff. Its goal, Moore said, is to examine ways to improve school safety for elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the state. 

The committee is co-chaired by Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett and Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston and includes 44 House members as regular voting members, along with Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, as vice-chair.

In its most recent meeting last week, the committee approved a report with 14 recommendations as the legislature comes back into session, including school resource officer equity and diversity training, expansion of an app for anonymous tips of suspicious behavior, and increased support for students’ social and emotional needs. 

The committee’s first meeting was in late March, when legislators saw an overview of school safety issues across the state, including perspectives from educators, students, and experts on mental health, school resource officers, and safety measures currently in place. Throughout the spring, the committee broke up into working groups to separately tackle physical safety — which met April 18 and May 3 — and student health — which met April 10 and April 23.

To receive meeting notices via email, go here.

Special Committee on School Shootings

The Governor’s Crime Commission created a committee at the end of April to study ways to strengthen school safety. 

The Special Committee on School Shootings is co-chaired by Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison and Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger. Its 17 other members consist of law enforcement officials, school leaders, community members, and judicial representatives. 

In its first meeting on April 24, the committee discussed law enforcement protocol for emergency situations and training for school resource officers. No further meetings have yet been scheduled. 

Superintendent’s Working Group on Student Mental Health and Well-Being

Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson heads a working group on mental health and school safety. There are 23 additional members including education, law enforcement, and student health officials. 

In the group’s most recent meeting in May, members discussed proposed safety trainings for public schools. The working group’s next meeting has not yet been scheduled.

Child Fatality Task Force

The Child Fatality Task Force is a permanent body, formed in 1991, that makes recommendations to the governor and legislature on how to increase the well-being of the state’s children. 

The task force consists of 35 members, including four appointed by the governor, 10 by each the House and Senate, and 11 ex-officio members of the state government. The group meets two to four times a year between legislative sessions.

In its most recent meeting in March, the task force passed mental health and suicide prevention recommendations. 

Email kella.hatcher@dhhs.nc.gov to receive meeting notices and updates on the task force’s work.

Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee

The Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee, which reports to the legislature and meets between legislative sessions, is comprised of  legislators from both the House and the Senate. The committee addresses issues across the education continuum. 

The committee is co-chaired by Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, Rep. Linda Johnson, R-Cabarrus, and Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Franklin, Wake and includes 16 voting members besides the chairs, nine advisory members, and three vice-chairs.

Issues addressed by the committee in meetings since the 2017 legislative session have ranged from virtual charter school funding to teacher licensure system issues.

In its report to the General Assembly this year, the oversight committee included recommendations for the short session on extending the virtual charter school pilot for another four years and tightening oversight around the instruction of cursive writing and multiplication tables.

Its meeting history has fluctuated from year to year. In 2016-17, the committee did not meet at all and did not submit a report to the legislature. In 2015-16, the committee met only once. 

Go here to receive meeting notices via email.

State Board of Community Colleges

The State Board of Community Colleges is a permanent body that meets two days of each month and oversees the 58 community colleges across the state. The board is charged with creating a plan for the entire system at least every two years and assigning community colleges to certain regions.

Scott Shook chairs the board and Jim Rose serves as the board’s vice chair. The board consists of nine gubernatorial appointees, and four representatives appointed by each the House and Senate. There are also three ex-officio members — Leuitenant Governor Dan Forest, State Treasurer Dale Folwell, and student Roderick Gooden — and 17 non-voting members representing different community colleges. 

In its most recent meeting, the board appointed Peter Hans as the president of the community college system. The board will meet this Thursday and Friday. 

Board of Postsecondary Education Credentials

Created by the legislative budget in 2017, the Board of Postsecondary Education Credentials, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, is charged with the task of ensuring the state’s adults have the necessary skills to fill economic needs. The board should ensure by 2025, according to statute, that the appropriate percentage of citizens hold postsecondary credentials best suited for industries’ demands. 

The permanent board is under the Community Colleges System Office and is made up of nine members other than the lieutenant governor, appointed by entities across educational, health, and workforce spheres. Among its responsibilities is recommending what educational opportunities are needed through the state’s universities, community colleges, and other entities for individuals young and old and in and out of school.

The board, according to law, “shall identify alternative ways in which people gain valuable workforce skills and experience, such as on‑the‑job training, that are not represented by four‑year or two‑year degrees and the types of credentials used to signify competence of a certain level upon successful completion of the alternative training experience.”

Its first report was due to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee by the beginning of March, with another report on its progress and recommendations due by March 2019. 

Charter Schools Advisory Board

The Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB) is a permanent board dedicated to the oversight of all charter schools across the state. The board makes recommendations to the State Board of Education on groups creating new charter schools, whether or not current charters should be renewed, and the performance of charter schools.

The board meets monthly and has an application and interview process for new charter schools. CSAB is meant to hold the rapidly growing network of charter schools accountable and make recommendations to close schools when necessary. 

There has been an increase in charter schools from 98 schools with about 38,000 students in 2010 to 173 charter schools serving more than 100,600 students in 2018.

Alex Quigley is CSAB’s current chair, who was appointed by the state board. There are 10 other voting members — four appointed by the House, three by the Senate, one by the state board, one by the lieutenant governor, and one by the governor — along with one non-voting superintendent. 

Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on the North Carolina State Lottery

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on the North Carolina State Lottery is a permanent bipartisan group of legislators examining the state lottery and making recommendations to the legislature for improvement of the lottery’s effectiveness.

The committee is chaired by Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, and Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Moore, Randolph and also includes 12 other voting members and two non-voting members, half of which were appointed by the House and half by the Senate. Its charge is to study the “administration, budgeting, and policies of the lottery.”

Go here to sign up for meeting notices via email.


Editor’s Note: EducationNC CEO Mebane Rash is serving as a subject matter expert to the P-12 committee of the commission. The Goodnight Education Foundation contributes to EducationNC. 

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.