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The Friday Report

March 31, 2017

Forum News

2017 Local School Finance Study Shows Stark Gaps in School Funding Across North Carolina

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A study released this week by the Public School Forum of North Carolina spotlights a stark and growing gap in public school funding between the highest and lowest-wealth counties in the state. The 2017 Local School Finance Study found that the ten highest spending counties spent on average $3,026 per student compared to $710 by the ten lowest spending counties, a gap of $2,316 per student. Orange County, at the top of the list, spends more than twelve times more per student than Swain County at the bottom. In 2014-2015, the ten highest-spending counties spent 4.26 times more per child than the ten lowest-spending counties.

“North Carolina’s wealthiest counties are able to invest much more in their local schools because they have a much higher property value base to generate revenue,” said Public School Forum President and Executive Director Keith Poston. “The wide and growing gap is certainly not because of a lack of effort by county governments in the poorer parts of the state. In fact, the ten poorest counties tax themselves at a much higher rate than the ten wealthiest counties in an effort to keep up, but simply can’t because the amount of revenue that can be generated is substantially lower due to the small tax bases.”

In 2014-2015, the ten poorest counties taxed themselves at nearly double the rate of the ten wealthiest counties – $0.83 compared to $0.44, a 39-cent difference. In spite of this, because of the disparity in real estate wealth capacity, the revenue the poorest counties could generate, even at the higher tax rate, was substantially lower than what the wealthier counties could generate at lower rates. The poorest counties continue raising their tax rates, while the wealthiest counties lower theirs, and yet the substantial revenue disparity persists.

“Policy decisions at the state level have helped by providing additional funds for the state’s smallest and lowest-wealth counties, yet investments in schools still vary dramatically by zip code,” Poston said.

“This year the General Assembly is considering options to overhaul the state’s school finance system,” Poston said. “Our concern is that a new system alone that does not address adequacy and equity will not change these trend lines and will continue to leave poorer counties behind. We encourage our legislators to ensure that adequacy and equity in school finance remain top priorities.”

“When it comes to funding our public schools, the focus should be on how we ensure there are adequate resources in every county to serve every child, regardless of the delivery structure for those necessary investments,” Poston said. “Even in the school systems that get the most support from their local government, resources are stretched and overall the state’s per pupil spending still lags compared to the national average.”

The full report is available for download as a PDF at https://www.ncforum.org/2017-local-school-finance-studyA special thank you to SunTrust Bank for sponsoring this year’s Local School Finance Study.

This Weekend on Education Matters: How Your Zip Code Drives School Funding

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This week’s episode of Education Matters takes a look at local school funding across North Carolina.

A new report out by the Public School Forum spotlights stark gaps in school funding across the state.

Guests Include:

  • Lauren Bock, Research Director, Public School Forum of NC
  • Aaron J. Beaulieu, Chief Financial Officer, Durham Public Schools
  • Rep. Kevin Corbin R-Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon
  • Dr. Eric Houck, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy, UNC-Chapel Hill

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When and Where to Watch Education Matters

Saturdays at 7:30 PM, WRAL-TV (Raleigh/Durham/Fayetteville)

Sundays at 6:30 AM and Mondays at 3:00 PM, UNC-TV’s NC Channel (Statewide)

Online at https://www.ncforum.org/

Note: The North Carolina Channel can be found on Time Warner Cable/Spectrum Channel 1276 or check local listing and other providers here.

If you missed last week’s episode on private school vouchers, you can watch it online at 

https://www.ncforum.org/education-matters-private-school-vouchers-a-national-perspective/

In This Issue

2017 Local School Finance Study Shows Stark Gaps in School Funding Across North Carolina

This Weekend on Education Matters: How Your Zip Code Drives School Funding  

NC Legislative Update

No Quick Move to Ease Class-Size Mandate, Lawmakers Say

Teaching Fellows Revival Moves Forward with Broad Support

NC Lawmakers Consider Letting Schools Start Earlier in August

NC Senate Bill Would End Some Retirement Benefits for New State Workers 

Should NC Borrow $1.9 Billion for School Construction? School Boards, Counties Propose Bond

School Boards Could Lose Right to Sue for More Money

Revised English Language Arts Standards Up for Action in April

Raleigh Teacher on ‘Good Morning America’ For Using March Madness in Math

Trump Nixes Obama-Era Rules for New Federal K-12 Law

NC CAP Annual SYNERGY Conference

Burroughs Wellcome Fund Accepting Applications for Student Science Enrichment Program

Public School Forum Programs

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Aside from the Thursday repeal of HB 2, the major education happenings this week at the General Assembly were as follows:
HB 339 North Carolina Teaching Fellows
  • Unanimously passed its first House Committee this week.
  • Next goes to House Appropriations.
HB 458 School Annual Report Card
  • On the School Performance Grades law, this bill would change the current 80:20 (achievement:student growth) formula to having two separate grades entirely:  one school grade for achievement and another school grade for growth.
  • It would also prescribe the State Board of Education’s state accountability plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) by requiring SBE to use:
    • the school achievement score and
    • specific school performance indicators (e.g., promotion rates from 3rd to 4th grade and from 8th to 9th grade, science test scores, high school graduation rates, and English language proficiency assessments).
  • Passed the House on Thursday; goes to the Senate.
School Calendar Flexibility
  • HB 389 would set up a 20-school system 3-year pilot program allowing calendar flexibility for opening dates on the Monday closest to August 10 and closing dates on the Friday closest to June 11.
  • HB 375 would permit an opening date of August 15 to align the date with the opening date of the community college serving that city or county.
Class Size Allotment Fix 
  • HB 13 has been sitting in the Senate Rules Committee since February 20.
  • Senators appear to be crafting their own Senate solution.
  • Music and Arts educators teemed the General Assembly on Wednesday’s ARTS Day with wonderful children performances all day (and strategic meetings with Senators).

State News

No Quick Move to Ease Class-Size Mandate, Lawmakers Say

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First graders (left to right) Vanessa Mendez-Moreno, Lilah Morgan and Blake Ward work on art projects in Jennifer McIntyre’s art class at Timber Drive Elementary School in Garner March 2, 2017. Photo Credit: Chuck Liddy, News & Observer.

State senators said Tuesday there would not be a quick change to state requirements on K-3 class sizes, despite calls from school districts and parent-teacher organizations.

Multiple senators say they are still gathering information from school districts before deciding if and how they will change a state law governing how many students can be in each classroom in kindergarten through third grade.

School districts around the state have warned that without changes to a law passed as part of last year’s budget they will have to let go of specialists such as art, music and physical-education teachers. “Time is getting very short,” said Leanne Winner, director of government relations at the N.C. School Boards Association.

But senators say they are skeptical of that claim, pointing to millions of dollars earmarked for reducing K-3 class size over the past few years. “We’re still trying to get some information rather than just reacting,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, an Onslow County Republican. “It’s obvious to us that money has been spent on something other than class size reduction.”

The state has for years set goals for keeping class sizes low – typically 16, 17 or 18 students in early grades. But the law has long allowed schools to have average class sizes of 21 students in elementary grades and individual classes to have as many as 24 students.

That difference between aspirational and actual size first arose during former Gov. Jim Hunt’s administration. And the gap has long been used to fund specialty teachers, according to current and former officials with the Department of Public Instruction.

The budget provisions that kick in for the next school year eliminate that leeway, putting pressure on local districts to find money for more teachers and more classrooms. And school officials point out that as lawmakers were lowering class-size requirements over the past six years, they also were cutting their budgets in other ways, such as asking them to find unspecified cuts and hand state tax dollars back to the state through so-called “negative reserves.”

Teaching Fellows Revival Moves Forward with Broad Support

It might be the easiest bill Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, ever has pushed in the state House.

House Bill 339, which calls for reviving the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, already has more than 70 of the 120 House members backing it.

“Given that there are 70 co-sponsors and four sponsors, all I can do is lose,” Horn told the House Education – Universities Committee on Tuesday while explaining the bill. “I shall not burden you any further and allow that opportunity to occur.”

The Teaching Fellows program was created in 1986 to recruit top students to enter the teaching profession by providing them with tuition help and leadership training in exchange for a promise to teach in North Carolina for at least four years. Lawmakers dismantled the program as part of budget cuts enacted during the recession, and the final participants graduated from college in 2015.

The proposal would provide forgivable loans of up to $8,250 a year for up to four years to pay for tuition, fees and books for students studying to teach special education or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes. The program would include five schools – either University of North Carolina campuses or private colleges – that will be selected based on their track record of training teachers.

High school students, current college students who want to shift to an education major and graduates who want to return to school for a career change to teaching are eligible for the forgivable loans, Horn said, adding that enrollment in teacher training programs statewide has declined by more than 20 percent in recent years.

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Burns, M. “Teaching Fellows revival moves forward with broad support.” WRAL. 3/28/17.

NC Lawmakers Consider Letting Schools Start Earlier in August

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A state House committee on Tuesday backed a pair of bills that would let North Carolina school districts start earlier in August, but the proposed legislation faces opposition from the tourism industry.

The House Education Committee passed House Bill 375 that would let any school district start classes as soon as August 15 to align with the calendar of its local community college. The committee also backed House Bill 389 that would let 20 primarily high-poverty counties start the school year as early as the Monday closest to August 10.

Supporters of school-calendar flexibility said it should be school districts that determine the first day of classes. “Calendar flexibility is an education issue, not a tourism issue,” said Rep. Kevin Corbin, a Macon County Republican.

But some legislators said letting schools start earlier in August could have devastating financial consequences on the tourism industry. “I hope we’ll think long and hard before we put (20) counties, much less 69 counties or 100 counties into a program like this,” said Rep. Frank Iler, a Brunswick County Republican. “

Under state law, schools can start no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11. Charter schools and year-round schools are exempted from the law.

School districts have been trying to modify or repeal the school calendar law since it passed in 2004. School officials cite issues such as how the late August start means high school students don’t take their final exams until after they return from winter break.

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Hui, T. “NC lawmakers consider letting schools start earlier in August.” The News & Observer. 3/28/17.

NC Senate Bill Would End Some Retirement Benefits for New State Workers 

Future North Carolina state employees would retire without the promise of pensions and state-paid health care under a proposal to end for new workers some of the major perks that come with government employment.

Under Senate Bill 467, filed Wednesday, state workers hired after July 2018 would not be eligible for enrollment in the state health insurance plan when they retire. Health coverage would last only as long as they worked for the state. And most of those new workers would not be eligible for state pensions, but would be offered the option of enrolling in 401(k) plans. Unlike a pension, a 401(k) plan doesn’t guarantee a specific level of retirement benefits.

The changes would not affect current state employees.

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Bonner, L. “NC Senate bill would end some retirement benefits for new state workers.” The News & Observer. 3/29/17.

Should NC Borrow $1.9 Billion for School Construction? School Boards, Counties Propose Bond

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Construction workers laid the foundation for the new Bryan Road Elementary School in April 2016.

Photo Credit: Johnathan Alexander, News & Observer File Photo.

Voters could be asked to borrow $1.9 billion for statewide school construction needs next year under a proposal presented Tuesday by groups representing county commissioners and school boards.

The N.C. School Boards Association and N.C. Association of County Commissioners appeared before a House budget committee Tuesday to ask for help funding nearly $8 billion in expected school construction needs over the next five years.

The groups want to see a school construction bond on the ballot in 2018 – the first such referendum statewide since 1996. “We’re looking for a one-time infusion of cash by a statewide bond,” said Richard Bostic, a lobbyist for the School Boards Association.

Rural counties have been struggling to fund new schools through property-tax revenues, and some now have aging school buildings in poor condition.

If the legislature agrees to the bond proposal, the school board and county commissioners groups suggest that bond money could be allocated to districts using multiple criteria: Total number of students, poverty level of the district and size of the county. So while all counties would benefit, counties struggling to build schools could get a larger share. Counties could also be required to provide local match.

To continue reading the complete article click here.

Excerpt from:
Campbell, C. “Should NC borrow $1.9 billion for school construction? School boards, counties propose bond.” The News & Observer. 3/28/17.

School Boards Could Lose Right to Sue for More Money

Two years after a funding fight between Pender County’s school board and commissioners landed at the mediation table, state legislators could take away school boards’ right to sue for more money.

House Bill 305, simply titled “School Boards Can’t Sue Counties,” was filed March 9. All but one of the bill’s 13 sponsors are Republicans, representing counties from Forsyth to Onslow.

In North Carolina local appropriations for schools are set by the county, but school boards can sue if they feel they have not been given enough money. Brunswick County Schools did it in 1994, eventually netting $1.35 million in a settlement with the county.

In 1997 state legislators gave school boards the option to go into mediation with counties before suing. The Pender County school board has used that process twice: in 2006 mediation was scheduled, but the boards reached a settlement before the meeting. In 2015 the board again forced mediation over a $2.6 million budget shortfall, but did not end up getting more money. Mediation did, however, cost taxpayers about $118,000 in fees.

HB305 would still let school boards force mediation, but if that fails the county’s decision would be final.

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Bellamy, C. “School boards could lose right to sue for more money.” StarNews Online. 3/27/17.

Revised English Language Arts Standards Up for Action in April

State Board of Education members reviewed the third draft of revisions to the English Language Arts Standards in March in preparation for a vote in April. The revised standards will govern what students are expected to learn and be able to do in English language arts in each grade, K-12.

North Carolina reviews content standards for every subject taught in North Carolina schools on a regular basis. The latest revisions were made after gathering feedback from local school districts, from the Academic Standards Review Commission and from the public. The Data Review Committee and Writing Team were comprised of local English language arts teachers and others. These groups have been providing feedback and working on revisions since June 2016.

Revisions include a new format for the standards to provide more clarity to the standards, including glossary entries for terms. This change is designed to diminish confusion about what a standard means and to help English teachers statewide to have a common vocabulary. Other revisions expanded the description of the complete writing process, put more focus in some grades on grammar and usage conventions, identified new handwriting standards in grade 2 to focus on cursive writing, and focused more on reading persistence and the ability to connect prior knowledge and experiences to informational (non-fiction) text.

Overall, 125 standards had a major change as described above, 45 had a minor change and 179 standards remained the same. Eight standards were removed, and one new standard was added. Sixty-seven standards had the examples removed with no other change.

Reprinted from:

NC DPI. March 2017 From the Board Room. 3/28/17.

NC Highlight

Raleigh Teacher on ‘Good Morning America’ For Using March Madness in Math

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Durant Road Middle School teacher Alyssa Jackson helps seventh-graders Jayon Whitley, left, and Joe Abi-Najm during a lesson on statistics analyzing NCAA men’s basketball seeds in the NCAA championship tournament on March 16, 2017.

Photo Credit: Travis Long, News & Observer.

A Wake County middle school teacher got kudos Monday on ABC Television’s “Good Morning America” show for using the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to creatively teach her students about math.

Alyssa Jackson. a seventh-grade math teacher at Durant Road Middle School in Raleigh, was the focus of a “Good Morning America” segment called “How math comes in handy during March Madness.” Jackson had her students study experimental probability by filling out tournament brackets and seeing how well the teams performed based on their seed.

Jackson wasn’t mentioned by name on GMA, but her photo was shown on air. Robin Roberts, a GMA co-host, called Jackson “this wonderful teacher in North Carolina, Raleigh, North Carolina” who used the tournament as a math challenge for her students.

Roberts asked her co-hosts if they had teachers like Jackson who applied math in a way that challenged them.

“I always loved teachers who take something in the real world, something you’re interested in, something these kids hear about every day from their friends, from their family, from us and they turn it into something to learn from,” answered GMA co-host Michael Strahan. “They made it fun. It’s kind of like ‘Hamilton’ is to musicals.”

National News

Trump Nixes Obama-Era Rules for New Federal K-12 Law

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President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolled back two Obama-era

education rules Monday.  Photo Credit: Evan Vucci, AP.

President Donald Trump signed into law Monday the two resolutions that roll back Obama-era regulations that inform state education officials how they are supposed to implement the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Trump’s signature finalizes the months long spat between Democrats and civil rights groups, which slammed the move as rolling back protections for the most underserved students and pulling the rug out from under state education officials as they finalize their implementation plans, and Republicans who argued the Obama regulations went beyond the intent of the law as Congress originally wrote it.

The first resolution prevents the Department of Education from dictating prescriptive requirements for how states and school districts measure achievement, using metrics such as school ratings, timelines for interventions for failing schools and student participation in state assessments. The second resolution negates a rule that dictates specific requirements states must use to determine the effectiveness of teacher-preparation programs.

The elimination of the regulations, coming on the heels of a contentious confirmation process for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, is seen by many as the proverbial nail in the coffin for the milieu of goodwill that had built up in the education sphere over the last few years.

To continue reading the complete article click here.

Excerpt from:

Camera, L. “Trump Nixes Obama-era Rules for New Federal K-12 Law.” U.S. News & World Report. 3/27/17.

Opportunities

NC CAP Annual SYNERGY Conference

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Registration is open for the NC Center for Afterschool Programs (NC CAP) SYNERGY Conference. The 2017 SYNERGY Conference will be held April 3-5, 2017 at the Hilton Charlotte University Place. We invite you to join NC CAP to Spring into STEM!

This year’s conference will focus on STEM and healthy living in afterschool and expanded learning. We will continue the SYNERGY trend of engaging keynotes, a plethora of workshop opportunities, and networking with providers across the state! 

Burroughs Wellcome Fund Accepting Applications for Student Science Enrichment Program

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund has opened its application for the 2017 Student Science Enrichment Program (SSEP) grant awards. SSEP supports diverse programs with a common goal: to enable primary and secondary students to participate in creative, hands-on scientific activities for K-12 students and pursue inquiry-based exploration in BWF’s home state of North Carolina. These awards provide up to $60,000 per year for three years. The application deadline is April 18, 2017.

For more information or to access the application, visit http://www.bwfund.org/grant-programs/science-education/student-science-enrichment-program.

The Friday Report is published weekly by the Public School Forum of NC and is distributed to Forum members, policymakers, donors, media, and Forum subscribers. Archived editions can be found at www.ncforum.org.

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