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Senate Committee Approves House-Passed Measures Defining ‘Public School,’ Adjusting Teacher Contracts, Adding Personal Finance As Graduation Requirement

Katherine Joyce | NCASA Executive Director

As House and Senate budget writers began negotiating differences in their spending plans this week, the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee met on Wednesday to debate and move forward several education policy bills, including two public school measures previously approved by the House.

The committee approved House Bill 57 that would create a statutory definition of “public school unit” to refer collectively to multiple types of public schools in the state. This would include LEAs, charter schools, regional schools, innovative schools, the residential schools for the deaf and blind, laboratory schools, the residential School of the Arts high school, and the residential School of Science and Mathematics.

The bill also would codify the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) in state statutes. Committee Co-Chair Sen. Richard Horner (R-Nash) successfully amended the bill to exclude NCVPS from the new public school unit definition before it gained committee approval.

The committee also approved House Bill 924, which was requested by the N.C. Council of School Attorneys, and would clarify how much time a teacher must have already worked for a local board of education to be eligible for an extended employment contract. The bill would allow a local school board to adopt a policy requiring a teacher to be employed for three consecutive years to be eligible for a new or renewed contract for a term of one, two, or four years. The bill also would change the current definition of “year” with regard to teacher employment to mean that teacher must have worked no less than 120 workdays as a teacher in a full-time permanent position.

Under this measure, if the local board requires three consecutive years of employment, the board policy must state that if the teacher did not work for at least 120 workdays in a year because he or she was approved for legally entitled leave, that year can neither constitute a year of employment nor be considered a break in service. Further, the bill would specify that suspensions cannot constitute approved or legally entitled leave, and it indicates that teachers may have additional rights under the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act that requires employers to allow individuals to resume their civilian jobs after military service.

Before clearing the committee, the bill was amended by Co-Chair Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) to add the full contents of his Senate Bill 134, which would require a full course credit on Economics and Personal Finance for high school graduation, effective with students entering the 9th grade in 2020-2021. This same measure has been included in both the House and Senate budget proposals, and it appears that adding the proposal to H934 is an effort to expedite its passage while budget negotiations are ongoing.

Both these bills will next go to the Senate Rules Committee before moving onto the chamber floor.

Katherine Joyce