2/25/2019 6:42:00 AM School Board Meets With Legislators
Sen. Ted Alexander and Supt. Dr. Lory Morrow
Rep. Jason Saine and School Board Chair Cathy Davis
Wayne Howard Staff Writer
State Representative Jason Saine and State Senator Ted Alexander met with the Lincoln County School Board Friday morning (Feb. 22nd) to hear concerns from the board that will require action by the North Carolina General Assembly.
The duo was presented a list of priorities that included giving more control to local school boards over their academic calendars. Saine, who introduced a bill that would exempt Lincoln County from the requirement that the school year be started on or about August 26th, said his was one of numerous bills introduced in the opening days of this year's session to address that issue. "We're hoping to put them all together to create a single piece of legislation that might change the policy," he told the gathering. A similar bill currently labeled 'local legislation' was introduced by REp. Mitchell Setzer of Catawba County and a Davie County representative to exempt those two counties from the current requirement.
Lincoln County Schools voted in November to attempt what might be called an 'end run' to rework the school calendar so the first semester could end before Christmas break. The Board adopted what is called a 'year-round' calendar that attempts to meet the requirement for being labeled 'year-round' by having teachers report on the last day of July and work into early June 2020. If it isn't overturned, the calendar they adopted will have school for students begin August 12th.
Other items on the School Board's legislative request list included asking that the state require equal accountability standards for all schools receiving public funding--including charter schools, virtual and private schools. One of those requirements that is not currently equal is the calendar issue: charter schools have been able to start their school year whenever they pleased while traditional public schools were limited by the state calendar requirement.
Not on the list but discussed at the meeting was the need for more state funding for school construction.
Dr. Aaron Allen, Associate Superintendent, told the legislators that unless the state provides more money for construction, the schools will 'never catch up' with their needs.
Lincoln County Planning Director Andrew Bryant recently presented the School Board and County Commissioners with a projection of school enrollment based on the new residential development that is underway in eastern Lincoln County. Bryant's prognosis indicates that four elementary schools: Catawba Springs, St. James, Iron Station & Pumpkin Center; and East Lincoln High School will be beyond their capacity by 2022. While the School Board is looking at ways to handle the situation in the short-term by moving mobile classrooms and shifting attendance lines, they have essentially agreed that a new school will be necessary in the next few years.
Governor Roy Cooper said recently that lawmakers in the 2018 short session should have authorized placing a $1.9 billion statewide school bond referendum on the November 6th ballot.
The Governor said that in part thanks to destruction of some schools by the hurricanes of last summer and previous years, there are more than $8 billion in identified school facility needs statewide. Educators estimated the need back in 2016 as $13 billion through 2026.
The Governor had proposed a statewide school bond referendum in his budget requests to the General Assembly for the 2018 session, and Republican lawmakers had filed bills the year before seeking to put a $1.9 billion school bond on the November 2018 ballot. Only the House gave either bill a committee hearing.
House Speaker Tim Moore of Cleveland County said recently that lawmakers were hesitant to expand state debt for school facilities since they had already approved Cooper’s proposal to authorize up to $3 billion in new debt over the next 10 years to keep pace with statewide road-building needs. Moore said he believes the bond issue for education will get much further this year, although Senate Republicans want a 'pay-as-you-go' plan instead. While the bond issue bill Moore has talked about has yet to be introduced, the Senate approved SB 5, a pay-as-you-go school construction funds bill, on a 33-14 vote last Wednesday (Feb. 20th).
It's been estimated, by the way, that a new school in southeastern Lincoln County would cost $20-25 million.
Lincoln County Principal of the Year Shanti Clancy, who also attended the meeting, expressed another concern. Since principals are paid in part based on school performance--a part of the accountability standards adopted by the state--Clancy told the legislators, "If Dr. Morrow says she needs me to move to a low-performing school that needs help, I might be resistant--because it would mean a cut in my pay."
School Board member Joan Avery also talked about pay--for teachers and administrators. "There's been so much emphasis on trying to get new teachers that we've all but forgotten about career educators who provide so much knowledge and experience." The School Board's list for the legislators included a request for better compensation for all educators 'to attract and retain the best and brightest.'
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Posted: Monday, February 25, 2019
Article comment by:
If the lottery paid out a higher percentage of revenue to build schools as originally intended, and the legislature appropriated money directly for other purposes instead of redirecting it from school building money, would we even be having this school funding question? And putting all schools on equal footing, not just with calendars, but everything, makes sense to me.