Members of the NC House of Representatives this week voted 72-23 in favor of a bill that would make several changes to virtual education and remote academies in our state. Senate Bill 671, as summarized by legislative staff here, would allow local education agencies (LEAs), as well as charter schools, to operate remote academies under certain conditions. Schools with a school code assigned prior to May 1, 2021, or those that submitted a virtual instruction plan for the 2021-2022 school year, could continue to provide full-time virtual instruction in the 2022-2023 school year, and PSUs would be allowed to establish new remote academies beginning in the 2023-2024 school year. The bill would also allow PSUs to utilize a limited number of “remote instruction days” for emergencies, rather than cancelling school for the day.
While S671 contains greatly-needed authorizations for remote academies and remote instructional days, the bill also contains some potentially problematic provisions, including a new 15% total LEA limit on enrollment in remote academies. During discussion of the bill by House lawmakers on Thursday, some legislators questioned why the bill places limits on LEA remote academies while allowing pilot virtual charter schools to increase enrollment up to 20% in 2022-2023 and in subsequent school years. NCASA plans to discuss these concerns with lawmakers over the next few days in an effort to have changes made before the bill gains final approval by both chambers.
In addition to Senate Bill 671, lawmakers this week also moved forward two other education-related bills, H159: Education Law Changes and H79: Clarify High School Insurance, both of which passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday and the Senate Rules Committee on Thursday. While H159 mostly contains technical changes to various education laws and policies, H159 also includes an NCASA-requested provision that would extend until August 2024 the principal licensure exemption currently set to expire in August 2022. The other bill, H79, clarifies that PSUs must purchase catastrophic insurance for high school athletics, but can purchase this insurance from the Commissioner of Insurance or on the open market.
For a complete list of K12 education-related bills that were either introduced or received action in the NC General Assembly this week, click HERE.