While House legislators in the General Assembly organized into work groups, examined issues, and rolled out draft recommendations to address COVID-19, the Senate has stayed mostly silent.
That changed today when Senate Democrats released recommendations that they have been working on in their own work groups.
“Rather than wait until the short session begins to work on these issues, we want to return to the General Assembly ready to act on behalf of North Carolinians. These work groups led an exhaustive effort to compile comprehensive recommendations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue told reporters earlier today, according to a press release.
According to documents from Senate Democrats, the education recommendations include five emergency appropriations requests that amount to $205.4 million in non-recurring funding. The recommendations also include 30 special provisions.
The funding requests include:
- $25 million for North Carolina Community College System reserve funds to make up for a loss in student receipts.
- $10 million for the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities for the Emergency Student and Family Fund.
- $37.4 million for UNC for the Emergency Assistance Fund to help with the cost of transitioning to online learning, personal protective equipment, overtime, reimbursements, and work study programs.
- $8 million for UNC for digital learning enhancements, which includes help with online transitioning.
- $125 million for emergency child care economic support funds, including funds for personal protective equipment, supplies, and to make sure essential workers have child care.
The special provisions cover a host of education issues that require legislative action, including matters related to testing, licensure, A-F grades, graduation, and more. Many of these issues are also being addressed in a House education working group, which released draft legislation yesterday. The document states that conversations about school calendars and instructional days are still happening.
The recommendations were generated after discussions with a variety of interested parties, including the state Department of Public Instruction, the North Carolina Association of Educators, the North Carolina Community College System, and members of the early childhood community, among others.
According to a press release from Senate Democrats, the recommendations will be sent to the office of Senate President Pro Tempore, Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, as well as Gov. Roy Cooper and committee chairs. Senate Democrats will work on preparing legislation for the upcoming short session on April 28.