The following information highlights the immediate legislative and policy needs for supporting public schools and their students in 2022 and beyond. The North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA) asks the General Assembly, Governor, State Board of Education, and other policymakers to work with our organization’s 7,000 members on these initiatives critical for the success of our school leaders and the 1.4 million students they serve.
Human Resources & Staffing Needs
- Compensation — As the cost of living continues to rise, many skilled employees (including bus drivers, teachers, and others) are leaving their careers in education to pursue higher wages not only in the private sector, but also in other areas of the government. For public schools to continue to recruit and retain qualified educators and other key staff, the state must focus on providing competitive compensation and bonus packages that reflect the importance of education in our state.
- Working Conditions — Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, school employees were being asked to work longer hours in more stressful environments and handle additional duties outside their defined role due to staff shortages or lack of funding for additional employees. For many educators, administrators, and support staff, the current working conditions in our schools and central offices are stressful and often overwhelming, causing many to consider jobs outside of education where they may feel more valued and supported.
- Employee Wellness — Since COVID-19 began, educators and other school employees have been working tirelessly in unprecedented working conditions to provide for their students, often at the expense of their own mental or physical health. Increased state support for employee wellness initiatives is needed to support the health needs of school staff who are critical to student success.
- Ensure ALL school employees receive compensation increases and benefits that are equitable with those of state employees, keep pace with inflation, and ensure NC schools remain competitive with private-sector jobs and schools in neighboring states.
- Expand staff recruitment and educator pipeline initiatives, both short-term and long-term, including those focused on creating a more diverse teacher workforce.
- Extend emergency licensure relief to address critical staffing shortages and revise principal licensure requirements consistent with recommendations from the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC) and the State Board of Education.
- Provide state supplemental funding to address salary compression among child nutrition, transportation, and other classified employees to help facilitate the 2022-23 change in mandated minimum pay.
- Provide funding for an Employee Assistance Program to enhance staff wellness support.
- Improve the Principal Pay Plan to align with the salary schedules of teachers and assistant principals, enhance compensation stability, and reflect career progression.
- Increase state support for Assistant Principals by enhancing their state funding formula.
- Restore advanced degree supplements to reflect the value of higher education attainment for school leadership and classroom success.
- Revise state funding formulas for Non-Instructional Support and Teacher Assistants to enhance early literacy development in K-5 classrooms, provide coverage for teachers’ needed planning and training time, and support overall student learning and well-being.
- Allow the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) test to be provided in Spanish or other languages and streamline the process to expedite licensing of more school bus drivers.
Adequate & Equitable Resources
- ADM Stability — The state’s current school funding model uses average daily membership (ADM) calculations of the student population to determine funding levels for teachers, other school personnel, and essential student resources. While public school enrollment is declining in many parts of the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic and increased state support for alternatives to district-led schools, the associated drop in ADM-based state funding creates sustainability challenges for many local education agencies (LEAs). Consider this scenario: a public elementary school loses 25 students throughout grades K-5, thereby reducing state funding for one teaching position. But because the students who left were not all from one grade level, all current teachers in that school are needed for supporting remaining students and meeting class-size mandates. Without the ADM hold-harmless protection provided in the 2021 state budget, LEAs were estimated to lose $132 million for the 2021-2022 school year, and they stand to lose additional funding, needed personnel, and other student resources in future years if the state does not stabilize this ADM funding model.
- FTE Definition — While K-12 students are funded based on ADM calculations, institutions of higher education are funded based on full-time equivalency (FTE). The 2021 state budget law directed the State Board of Education to develop a formula for determining the full-time equivalency (FTE) of a student in a public school, which poses challenges particularly for high schools with students receiving needed support through dual enrollment at a community college or through other external programs. This new FTE definition could hold severe unintended consequences for both K-12 and postsecondary school funding, while reducing student access to the higher education courses they need.
- School Capital — Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many students, and especially those in lower income areas of the state, were receiving instruction in outdated, unsafe, or temporary school facilities. In addition, the state in recent years has mandated smaller class sizes in grades K-3, creating a need for additional classroom space to be provided. With the 2020-21 School Facility Needs Survey identifying nearly $13 billion in needed school capital improvement projects over the next five years, immediate state action is needed to ensure students have safe and conducive places to learn and grow.
- Student Support — Funding caps for some state-funded allotments cause most school districts around the state to rely on increasing county funding to meet many of the special needs of their students. The state should remove arbitrary funding caps on support provided to special populations in K-12 schools and increase the overall investment in each student’s education.
- Stabilize the current ADM-based school funding model to account for increasing statewide fluctuations in student enrollment and increase the amount of state funding per student, while retaining crucial position allotments that fund school personnel.
- Ensure the new FTE definition for K-12 does not decrease funding for either public schools or colleges, or reduce higher education opportunities for high school students.
- Authorize a significant statewide bond referendum to address K-12 facility needs or provide a new state funding stream addressing school construction and renovation needs in all LEAs.\
- Expand waiver options for school districts struggling to meet K-3 class size requirements.
- Enhance state support for Exceptional Children and students who are Academically and Intellectually Gifted and/or classified as English Language learners.
Accountability Reform & Student Achievement
- Changes to A-F Scale — North Carolina’s current school performance grading system provides schools with an A-F grade that is based on 80% student proficiency on required tests and 20% student academic growth from the previous school year. Many educators feel this calculation does not accurately reflect the true progress being made in our K-12 schools. Because many parents and businesses rightfully place great importance on the performance of their local schools, it is critical that the state revise the current A-F grading model to include additional measures that provide a fuller picture of the progress occurring in each school building and identifying areas for improvement.
- Portrait of a Graduate — As part of State Superintendent Catherine Truitt’s four-year strategic vision entitled “Operation Polaris,” the State Board of Education has approved funding for the NC Department of Public Instruction to create a statewide “portrait of a graduate,” or a representation of the skills, attributes, and knowledge that students should possess when they graduate from an NC high school. This statewide initiative should build on successful graduate profiles already implemented by many LEAs across the state and reflect feedback from superintendents, principals, and other educators who are on the front lines in educating students daily.
- Modify school performance grades to include other success measures such as Career & College Promise enrollment, reducing absenteeism and suspensions, increasing parental involvement, and other “whole child” measures.
- Reform the state testing program to align with mastery and competency-based initiatives, while continuing pilots on alternate types of assessments.
- Ensure school administrators and educators greatly contribute to the shaping of North Carolina’s new “Portrait of a Graduate” under Superintendent Truitt’s Operation Polaris.
Virtual Learning Technology
- Virtual Academies — Senate Bill 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions, enacted as law in August 2021, requires “express authorization” from the General Assembly for any LEA virtual academies to continue to operate past June 30, 2022, unless a school code was obtained by May 1, 2021. Legislative action is needed early in the 2022 short session to extend LEA-based virtual academies as a viable option for students in the 2022-2023 school year and in the years ahead.
- Remote Instruction — Enacted Senate Bill 654: K-12 COVID-19 Provisions also authorized public schools to utilize remote instruction on a limited number of days in lieu of closing school for severe weather or other emergencies. This flexibility, which helps prevent extending the school year or making up lost instructional days on weekends when student attendance is low, was limited to the 2021-2022 school year. The General Assembly should extend this option as a permanent and helpful addition to the school calendar law.
- Internet Access — Reliable internet access has become a necessity for students, families, and businesses across the state, and the General Assembly and Governor are to be commended for ongoing investments to expand broadband internet access. As more teachers and students utilize the internet in daily learning activities, it is more important than ever that our schools and communities have adequate bandwidth and school districts receive needed cybersecurity training and support.
- Authorize LEA options for virtual learning beyond 2021-22 to include both academies with a school code and the school-within-a-school model, and do not cap or limit these LEA-based school choice offerings.
- Make remote instruction days (in lieu of emergency closures) a permanent addition to the school calendar law.
- Expand efforts to provide reliable “last mile” Internet access and adequate bandwidth to support students and families in underserved areas of the state.
- Expand ongoing cybersecurity funding and support LEAs as digital threats increase and online learning continues to grow.
Student Health & Safety
- Student Mental Health Needs — As our communities begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools and the families they serve remain concerned about the rise in mental health needs affecting their students. While the General Assembly approved a helpful investment in school psychologists in the 2021 state budget package, many districts remain in dire need of additional nurses, social workers, and school counselors to address the increasing mental health challenges of their students. In addition, public schools need a continuum of services and a tiered system of support for addressing student well-being.
- School Safety — Since students learn best in secure environments, enhanced and ongoing state support is needed for strong, effective measures for keeping school campuses safe.
- Increase state funding for Instructional Support Personnel to enhance each school district’s ability to hire the nurses, counselors and social workers who are crucial in helping to address the increasing mental health and other challenges their students face.
- Make the school safety grant program permanent with recurring state funding.
- Increase state support for the At-Risk Student allotment and provide additional School Resource Officer grants to help ensure safety on school campuses statewide.