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Principal Preparation Program Changes Make Headway in N.C. House

Elizabeth Yelverton | NCASA Legal Affairs & Policy Manager

As budget negotiations between the House and Senate continue, House lawmakers focused this week on pushing forward certain time-sensitive bills, including a bill that would merge the Transforming Principal Preparation and Principals Fellows programs. As requested by the North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA), the language concerning the merger of the two principal preparation programs replaced language originally contained in Senate Bill 227 regarding broadening charter school sibling priority. The goal of the merger of the two programs is to streamline oversight and administration of existing principal preparation programs, while generating more funds for applicants seeking forgivable loans to become effective principals.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), agreed to remove the charter school language, already contained in both House and Senate budget proposals, in order to ensure the current administration of the Transforming Principal Preparation Program (TP3) by the N.C. Alliance for School Leadership Development (NCASLD) continues as intended for two more years. An unexpected provision in a technical corrections bill passed during the special legislative session last December required the TP3 program to be transferred to the control of the Principal Fellows Commission on July 1, 2019. NCASA was able to work with lawmakers to include a repeal of the scheduled transfer in the House budget proposal, and has since worked extensively with both legislators and outside groups to come up with the compromise language in S227.

The latest version of S227 would maintain the existing administration of the TP3 program for current grantees until 2021, at which time the TP3 program will merge with the Principal Fellows Program under the auspices of the new “North Carolina Principal Fellows and TP3 Commission” that would take effect July 1, 2019.  NCASA worked with legislators to ensure leadership from the North Carolina Principals and Assistant Principals Association (NCPAPA), as well as school human resource experts, will be represented on the new commission. The bill was unanimously approved by members of the House K-12 Education Committee on Tuesday and will be referred to the House Rules Committee for further action. NCASA would like to thank Sen. Tillman and legislative staff for their extensive efforts in working with stakeholders to generate this language, and for support from the House Education Chairs to move the compromise forward in the House. NCASA remains optimistic the bill will be ultimately approved and signed into law before the July 1 deadline.

In addition to approving the principal preparation bill, committee members also approved Senate Bill 399, a bill allowing school districts to rehire retired teachers in high-needs areas. S399, sponsored by Sen. Rick Horner (R-Nash), attempts to address ongoing teacher shortages by allowing certain LEAs to rehire teachers who retired on or before February 1, 2019, while allowing them to also keep their retirement benefits. Eligible rehired teachers could earn 50% of their gross pre-retirement salaries, or $33,560 (whichever is greater); this amount would increase if the rehired teacher was reemployed to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) or special education. In Tuesday’s committee meeting, Sen. Horner noted the bill would have an immediate impact, and “superintendents will be able to replace long-term subs with some quality teachers." The bill was approved by committee members and referred to the House Rules Committee with a recommendation that the House Pensions Committee also hear the bill before it moves to the House floor.

Lastly, committee members also approved Senate Bill 366, a bill creating more opportunities for high school students interested in pursuing trade professions. S366, as amended in the committee on Tuesday, will permit 10th grade students to be eligible to enroll in college courses as a part of an academic transition pathway or college transfer certificate. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tom McInnis (R-Richmond), said the bill will help students interested in certain trades, such as welding or construction, pursue their interests while staying in school. This bill was approved by committee members and referred to House Rules.

Elizabeth Yelverton