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Ed roundup: State Board of Education and General Assembly

State Board addresses budget cuts

Responding to news that the General Assembly’s budget did not reverse $5.1 million in cuts to the State Department of Public Instruction for the upcoming year, State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey said Wednesday he was disappointed. 

“It impacts our ability to reach the lowest achieving schools,” he said in an interview. 

Board members and Superintendent Mark Johnson went into closed session Wednesday to discuss the budget cuts. Cobey said before the Board’s meeting that he didn’t know exactly what the cuts would look like, but he said, “It’s going to have to be a pretty significant number.” 

After an audit made a significant number of recommendations as to how the State Department of Public Instruction should transform, the Board along with Johnson sent a letter to the General Assembly asking for a delay in the budget cuts. The $1 million for the audit came from the General Assembly at the request of Johnson. 

Lawmakers, however, did not heed the request, though they did grant $3 million in reversions that could be used to offset the cuts for one year. Cobey said those reversions would likely only be helpful for paying out severance to employees that will need to be cut to meet the reduction. 

One of the recommendations of the audit was the creation of a transformation office at DPI that will oversee transformation efforts. Along with that, Cobey created a committee of the Board that would focus on transformation. That committee was supposed to report for the first time this week but was delayed until August so that the Board could focus on figuring out how to implement the budget cuts. 

Teacher Working Conditions Survey

Almost 110,000 educators answered the Teacher Working Conditions Survey, with 87 percent of them saying they agreed with a statement that overall they thought their schools were good places to work. 

“Thank you to the nearly 110,000 school-based educators across the state who took the time to take the survey,” Johnson said in a press release. “Knowing how to support educators starts with listening to them, and this survey is one of the ways we’re gathering their views about our schools.”

The survey also found, however, that fewer teachers feel schools are safe or think students are behaving. The News & Observer has that story: 

Are NC schools getting out of control? Fewer teachers feel students behave properly

Complete results from the survey are available here

General Assembly happenings

The controversial town charter school bill passing the legislature, and Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the budget were some of the big education stories this week, but they were far from the only ones. 

House Bill 986, which clarified reporting requirements related to cursive writing and multiplication table instruction in schools, passed the House Wednesday. Schools are already supposed to be teaching those two subjects and reporting that fact to the state, but this bill makes the reporting requirement clearer so that the state can assess who is teaching these subjects and how. 

Added to this bill was a provision that says any student who gets a 5 on math end-of-grade or end-of-course tests would automatically be put into advanced math classes the following year. Five is the highest level a student can score. The bill goes now to the Senate. 

Also on Wednesday,  a bill — House Bill 92 — that would allow unlicensed teachers to teach Cherokee language and culture passed the Senate education committee. The bill is meant to help with a shortage of Cherokee language and culture teachers in schools attended by Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian students. It moves now to the Senate rules committee. 

Other education news

Three Greensboro schools won’t be open for students at the start of the next school year because of damage from a tornado in April. The Greensboro News & Record reported: 

Greensboro schools damaged by tornado won’t reopen for next school year

And state officials visited Elizabeth City and checked out the Northeast Academy of Aerospace and Advanced Technologies, a charter school, and participated in a roundtable discussion on STEM education.

The Daily Advance in Elizabeth City wrote about it: 

State officials visit charter school, discuss STEM


Editor’s Note: This article incorrectly provided a list of charter schools approved by the State Board of Education this month. The State Board of Education isn’t voting until July on the charter schools to open in fall 2018, and one of the schools, Anson Academy Charter, asked for a one-year delay. 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.