- Aidan McInnis
May 11th Legislative Update
May 11, 2023 Legislative Update The North Carolina General Assembly continues to carry on with the 2023 Session; this past week was Crossover. So far, we have seen the House version of the budget, and now they have completed Crossover by moving all the bills out of its respective chamber to the opposite chamber. Even though this is a deadline for bills to be heard, there are many other ways to move legislation. Good examples of other ways to move legislation would be by using the state budget or conference committees used to negotiate legislation. In short, all ideas and legislation are always on the table if there is the will to move it. Important Education Bills Heard During Crossover HB 823 Opportunity Scholarship Bill Opportunity Scholarship is not a new name in the legislation world. Its genesis dates back around ten years ago. It was introduced as a saving grace for students who were not being served by public schools. The legislation has always had an income cap that gave priority to lower-income families. The cap has increased each legislative session, and a steady rise in funding was baked into the base budget years ago. Just this week, the House passed HB 823 in the House Education Committee and sent it to the Appropriations Committee for funding. This bill makes some significant changes to current law, by completely removing the income cap. Furthermore, it vacates the current law that requires eligible applicants to come from the public school system before they can apply. By removing this language, students in a private school who have never attended a public school can apply for a scholarship. Proponents of the bill say that funding will be used for lower-income families first, but the bill does not give priority to them. The legislation is set to increase the program funds by over $200 million in 2025-2026 and steadily increase by another $100 in 2031-2032. Another issue with this bill outside the amount of funding that is being allocated to it is that it does not provide any accountability. Our public schools are literally graded, assessed, and criticized about performance while this program has zero accountability. Since this program is obviously a competitor for the public schools, it would be nice to see how they stack up to the same scorecards as our public schools. The bill is very likely to become law. It has enough bill sponsors to ward off a veto by the governor, and it is likely to be included in the state budget. A point to note is that amendments were run to place some accountability measures in this bill, but they have all failed. We will keep you posted on this legislation. HB 219 – Charter School Omnibus Bill This bill has appeared in the education committee for several weeks but was pulled each week it appeared. Fortunately, through advocacy efforts made by PENC and other education groups in North Carolina, section 7 which would have shifted funds away from traditional public schools to charter schools was removed. The original section prevented local superintendents’ ability to set aside some funding allotments in Fund 8 that would not be shared with the charter schools. Our position is that we never should take from one entity that is already struggling to give to another. If the legislature wants to fund charter schools at a greater capacity, then we ask that they do so without taking from the traditional public schools and simply make the appropriation. Dividing the funding allotments further will only hurt our traditional public schools. PENC Advocacy Team: Tammy Beach Bryan Holloway Robert Mitchell For information about specific issues, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the North Carolina General Assembly, click here. To identify and contact your legislators, click here.