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EdExplainer: Crossover chaos

What is crossover?

Crossover is a deadline set by the General Assembly. Any bills that do not have an appropriations or revenue element must have passed at least one chamber of the General Assembly by the crossover deadline to be considered during the remainder of the General Assembly session. Legislation not receiving the approval of one chamber by deadline are effectively dead.  In 2017, the deadline was yesterday, April 27. 

This deadline is the reason so many bills moved through committees and were voted on in the House or Senate this week. Bill sponsors rushed to make sure their laws made it through at least one chamber. 

What education bills remain in play this session? 

House Bill 6 — Education funding study bill

House lawmakers are eager to form a study commission to look at possible ways of changing state funding of its schools. House Bill 6 creates the commission. 

The idea was originally broached in a Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee, which met prior to the long session. The draft legislation out of that committee would have formed a task force to consider changing the current funding formula from one that relies on allotments to one that is determined using a weighted-student formula. 

During an Education Committee meeting early in the session, the legislation was amended to allow the task force to consider not only the weighted-student formula but other funding formula options as well. 

Presently, the state doles out the state education funds using a series of allotments — 37 in total. The allotments are essentially line items. It gives a certain amount of money for classroom teachers, a specific of amount of money for school building administration, and so on. It is called the resource allocation model.

Under a weighted-student formula, the money would be based on the student. The state would allot a base amount of money for each student in the state. The arbitrary example given at a November meeting was $7,500 (note: that is not the funding number being proposed, simply a number picked to use in an example).

Now, the distribution of funds changes depending on the type of student. A student with no special needs affords the school $7,500. But a K-3 student would get an additional .19, or $1,425, of that base of $7,500. If that student has disabilities, he or she would get an additional .98 or $7,350 of that initial $7,500. When all the numbers are added up on that student, the school gets a total of $16,275 for one student.

Check out our earlier coverage to get a better understanding of how a weighted-student formula would work.

The bill passed the full House. 

House Bill 13 — Loosening class size restrictions

House Bill 13, perhaps the most high-profile of any education legislation this session, is a measure to ease class size restrictions passed by the General Assembly in 2016. 

The bill has now passed both chambers of the General Assembly and been signed by the governor. However, the bill that ultimately passed differed from the one originally crafted in and passed by the House. 

The original proposal allowed the average class size in grades K-3 to exceed restrictions passed in the 2016 budget by three students, and the maximum individual class size to exceed these numbers by six students. 

The compromise version that passed this week, however, instead put a one year delay on the implementation of the class size restrictions.

Those restrictions mandate that the class size allotment ratio and the maximum districtwide average class size be the same. They go into effect in the 2018-19 school year and are as follows:

– Kindergarten: 1:18
– First grade: 1:16
– Second grade: 1:17
– Third grade: 1:17

Under the legislation passed yesterday, the rules for next year — the last school year before the restrictions go into effect— are that the K-3 class size cannot exceed 20 students, and the maximum individual class size cannot exceed 23 students. 

The revised bill also requires biannual reports from school districts that include information on teacher funding, class sizes, and program enhancement teachers, along with any other information requested by the Superintendent of Public Instruction. 

The superintendent is required, under the amended bill, to conduct periodic audits of the reports. If any noncompliance is found, the State Board of Education could withhold the local superintendent’s salary. 

House Bill 90 — Eliminating NC Final Exams

This bill would, as the short title suggests, eliminate NC Final Exams. 

The legislation would only affect classes not aligned with federal requirements — that is, classes where federal requirements do not require the state provide performance data. 

In place of those exams, teachers would develop their own end-of-year tests for students. 

The NC Final Exams are tests given in subjects that do not have an end-of-grade or end-of-course exams. They contribute to a student’s grade and serve as part of teacher evaluation. 

The measure passed the full House. 

House Bill 322 — Change calculation of school performance grades

Presently, the state’s school performance grades are calculated by using a score that blends 80 percent achievement and 20 percent academic growth. This measure would change the calculation to make it a 50-50 split.

The bill passed the full House. 

House Bill 458 — Change school performance grades

The House also voted to give each school in the state two separate grades: an A-F grade for academic performance and an A-F grade for academic growth. .

The bill passed the full House. 

House Bill 339 — Teaching Fellows Program

This bill would revive a reformatted Teaching Fellows Program. 

The original Teaching Fellows Program, started in 1986, gave scholarships to students to attend college and train to become a teacher provided they were willing to teach in North Carolina schools for at least four years after graduation. The General Assembly voted to end funding in 2011. 

The revamped program provides up to $8,250 to teachers in science, technology, education, mathematics, or STEM, and special education fields. 

Teachers who participate in the program will have a year of their loans forgiven for every one year they spend at a low-performing school or two years at a non-low performing school.

The bill didn’t pass in either chamber. Since it involves funding, it can still be considered after the crossover deadline. 

House Bill 375 — Align school calendar with community colleges

This bill would allow local school districts statewide to align their calendars with the schedule of the community college in their area. The synchronization is one reason many schools want school calendar flexibility. A school would not be able to open earlier than August 15 under the bill.

It passed the full House. 

At present, traditional-calendar schools must start no sooner than the Monday closest to August 26 and finish no later than the Friday closest to June 11.

House Bill 389 — School calendar flexibility pilot program

This bill would create a three-year pilot program, giving school calendar flexibility to 20 counties selected on the basis of student poverty levels, counties’ poverty tier designations, and the number of low-performing schools in the county, and other measures.

It passed the full House. 

House Bill 514 — Charter schools run by towns

The legislation would give two towns, Matthews and Mint Hill, the authority to run charter schools. The municipalities’ governing bodies would take the place of a board of directors that normally oversees and operates a charter school. 

The bill passed the full House. 

House Bill 704 — Study committee on dividing school districts

This bill would create a committee to investigate the process that would be necessary to divide big school systems into smaller ones. The committee would also examine the question of whether legislation should be filed that would allow for the break up of bigger school systems. Right now, State law lays out the procedures for merging school systems but not for breaking them up. 

House Bill 779 — Expand charter enrollment

This measure would allow charters to expand their enrollment by up to 30 percent in a year without having to go before the Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) with a revised charter. The bill would also give preferential enrollment both to students who attended a different charter school the previous year and to students who are in pre-K programs sponsored by the same charter school, among other changes. 

It passed the full House. 

House Bill 800 — Create “charter partners”

This bill would allow corporations called “charter partners” to grant priority enrollment to its employees’ children.

To be a charter partner, the business has to donate property or the school building or help the school with renovations or technological resources. No more than 50 percent of the student population would be given priority in the charter school’s lottery. However, if there are more applicants, the bill would require their acceptance in a separate lottery. 

The measure passed the full House. 

House Bill 826 — Change definition of low-performing schools

Currently, the state defines low-performing schools as those schools that receive a D or F on the school performance grades and have either met or not met expected growth. 

The bill tweaks the definition so that schools that met growth would not be included. 

For 2015-16, there were a total of 489 low-performing schools and 10 low-performing districts. See a full list here.

This bill passed the full House. 

House Bill 838 — Give State Superintendent funds to hire employees

This bill grants the state Superintendent of Public Instruction about $600,000 to hire five or six people for unspecified positions. 

This is interesting because Superintendent Mark Johnson is currently involved in a lawsuit over power transferred to the superintendent position from the State Board of Education by the General Assembly in December. While the legislation is waiting to be heard in court, those powers remain with the State Board, including many decisions related to hiring personnel. 

The bill passed the full House

Senate Bill 15 — Extra teachers for isolated schools

This bill would grant extra classroom teachers to geographically-isolated schools.

The K-12 schools have a small number of students in their classes but, because of where they are located, cannot be merged with other schools to provide more appropriate class sizes. 

Right now, the state has three schools that would be affected: two in Macon County, and one on Ocracoke. 

This bill passed the Senate.

Senate Bill 234 — Increase administrator pay

Senators behind this measure want to use lottery funds to increase administrator pay and help with school construction. Senate Bill 234 would give the equivalent of a 7 percent increase in the average principal salary to each school district. The superintendent of that district would be responsible for distributing those raises to the district’s principals.

All principals would also receive $2,600 bonuses. In low-wealth counties, the bill would create a principal bonus program that gives principals $5,000 bonuses, $1,000 at a time, depending on five criteria, the first four of which are at the discretion of the district superintendent:

  • Strong leadership
  • Improvement in learning environment
  • Positive community perception and high morale within the school
  • Improvement in physical environment
  • Exceeding expected academic growth

The legislation would give assistant principals 13 percent more than the highest-paid teacher salary.

The legislation also creates a “Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund,” which would give grants to 80 counties that rank in the bottom two out of three levels of the state’s system that measures economic distress. The funds would be provided for school construction and repair. 

The bill did not pass either chamber, but it obviously has an appropriations component, which is keeping it alive. The provisions may simply be placed in the Senate budget proposal. 

Senate Bill 531 — School boards can not sue counties

The heading says it all. This bill would prevent school board from suing their counties for what they perceive as inadequate local education funding for building and operating schools. 

It passed the full Senate.  

Senate Bill 597 — ApprenticeshipNC

This bill transfers an apprenticeship program from the Department of Commerce to the NC Community Colleges system’s office and names it ApprenticeshipNC. The program offers training in a specific industry or trade along with classroom instruction.

This bill did not pass the Senate but has an appropriations element and remains active. 

What happens next?

With crossover out of the way, the legislature can take up any of these bills in the coming months. If a bill has passed one chamber of the General Assembly, it moves into the other. Most of the attention in the House and Senate, however, is likely to be taken up by the budget. Neither chamber has put forward a proposal yet, but once they do, the negotiations get started in earnest. And it is likely that elements of these bills may be included in budget proposals.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.