Senate Lawmakers Advance Principal Licensure Changes, Computer Science Graduation Requirement

While many legislative leaders were likely working this week on state budget negotiations behind closed doors, lawmakers in the Senate discussed and approved two education proposals not included in current budget proposals — a bill that would change state requirements for principal licensure and a bill that would require students to complete a computer science course before graduating high school. During the Senate’s Education/Higher Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, committee members briefly approved H8, Computer Science Graduation Requirement, which remained unchanged in the committee after gaining House approval in early March. Committee members also approved an amended version of H432, Principal Licensure Changes, which would now require at least 500 internship hours for principal licensure, rather than 350 hours as previously approved in the House. Both bills were later approved in Thursday’s Senate Rules Committee and must next be approved on the Senate floor before being sent to the Governor for final consideration.

House Bill 8 would require the State Board of Education (SBE) to establish a computer science graduation requirement, as well as require public school units (PSUs) to offer computer science courses to students in middle and high school, as previously reported by NCASA and as summarized by legislative staff. Unlike the initial version of the bill, which would have replaced the existing earth/environmental science course requirement with the new computer science course, the current version of the bill would instead reduce the number of elective credits required for graduation to accommodate the new course.

The bill would also require all public schools, including charter schools, to offer an elective introductory computer science course to middle school students, as well as a more advanced computer science course that would satisfy the new graduation requirement, which could be completed in middle or high school. While the bill and its requirements would become effective once signed into law, the bill sponsor noted during Wednesday’s committee meeting that qualifying PSUs could receive a waiver from the requirements until the 2026-2027 school year, in response to concerns raised by NCASA and others that some schools may be unable to immediately find teachers qualified to teach the new courses.

House Bill 432, as summarized by legislative staff, would update the state’s principal licensure requirements, which are currently waived until August 2024, as recommended by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and based on feedback received over the past year from the NC Principals and Assistant Principals Association (NCPAPA) and other stakeholders. While the bill retains some basic existing principal licensure requirements, such as the need for a bachelor’s degree, H432 would revise the internship requirement as noted above and replace the requirement for at least four years of classroom teaching experience with at least four years of experience as a “licensed professional educator,” thus allowing school employees such as counselors to apply if other qualifications are met.

The bill also replaces the requirement to pass an exam developed by the SBE, which historically had almost universal passage by applicants, with a new requirement for applicants to submit a portfolio that would be evaluated by an assessment developed by the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC), in conjunction  with DPI and the NC Principal Fellows Commission. Finally, the bill replaces the requirement for applicants to have at least a Master’s degree in Education Administration with “the successful completion of an approved administrator preparation program (APP),” which would ultimately lead to a Master’s of School Administration (MSA) or Master’s of Education in Educational Leadership, unless the candidate already held an advanced degree in an education-related field. The new requirements would not apply to individuals already eligible for a waiver under current law but would apply to all other applicants beginning July 1, 2024.

To access NCASA’s latest bill tracking list highlighting all K-12 education-related legislation with action this week, click HERE.

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