Significant K-12 Legislation from the 2019 Long Session

By Brian Gwyn

This session, the General Assembly passed several bills that that will impact K-12 education. Here are some of the highlights:

A brief description of each of these laws is provided below. For more detailed information about each bill, you can go to the bill status page on the General Assembly’s website (see corresponding links). For summaries of the laws, click “View Available Bill Summaries” on the left side of the webpage. Be sure that you are looking at the most current summary under the “Last Updated” column. Please note that even the most current summary may not reflect the final version of the law.

S.L. 2019-71 (SB 219) (Modify Teacher Licensing Requirements)
SB 219 makes multiple changes to the teacher licensure laws to provide teachers with more flexibility in meeting licensure exam requirements. For example, the law gives teachers until the end of the third year of their initial professional license (IPL) to pass their licensure exams, rather than only two years. Additionally, SB 219 also creates a new type of license—a “limited license”—for either (i) teachers who did not qualify for a continuing professional license (CPL) due to a failure to meet the licensure exam requirements or (ii) out-of-state teachers who hold a current license in good standing from another state. This limited license is valid for 3 years and cannot be renewed.

S.L. 2019-110 (SB 399) (Rehire High-Need Teachers)
SB 399 allows retired teachers to return to work in certain high-needs schools without adversely impacting their retirement benefits. This law only applies to teachers at high-needs schools who retired on or before February 1, 2019, after attaining one of the following:

  • The age of 65 with 5 years of creditable service.
  • The age of 60 with 25 years of creditable service.
  • 30 years of creditable service.

The provision expires June 30, 2021.

S.L. 2019-154 (HB 362) (15-point Scale for School Performance)
HB 362 does the following:

  • Changes the statutory grading scale for A-F school performance grades from a 10-point to a 15-point scale.
  • Requires the State Board of Education, in consultation with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, to study (i) the weighting of the school achievement score and the school growth score in calculation of the overall school performance score to best reflect performance and progress for each school and (ii) the reporting methods used to meaningfully differentiate schools on the North Carolina annual school report cards.  The State Board must report on recommendations to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee by February 15, 2020.

S.L. 2019-212 (SB 621) (Testing Reduction Act of 2019)
SB 621 does the following:

  • Eliminates NC Final Exams beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Requires local boards of education to review local testing requirements every two years and issue additional reports if they are out of step with the State average.
  • Requires local reimbursement of up to $75 for graduation project expenses.
  • Provides technical fixes to SB 399 (Rehire High-Need Teachers), including requiring local boards to inform the Retirement System annually if it will not employ high-need retired teachers.
  • Clarifies licensure updates established in SB 219.

S.L. 2019-22 (HB 75) (School Safety Funds, Programs and Reports)
HB 75 does the following:

  • Appropriates funds for school safety ($38.8 million in 19-20 and $29.8 million in 20-21).
  • Requires the Center for Safer Schools to conduct an annual census of school resource officers.
  • Establishes school safety grant programs.
  • Requires local superintendents to submit annual reports on school mental health support personnel.

S.L. 2019-248 (SB 522) (Low-Perf. Schools/Adv. Teaching Roles)
SB 522 changes the selection process for the Innovative School District (ISD). Qualifying schools will now be any schools governed by a local board of education that are in the lowest performing 5% of school performance grades of all schools receiving Title I funds. However, this would not include alternative schools, cooperative innovative high schools, schools in their first or second year of operation, or newcomers (ESL-focused) schools.

Qualifying schools that do not improve will go through a four-year identification and intervention process (schools will move successively through the qualifying, watch, and warning lists). In the fourth year, if the school (i) is still a qualifying school; (ii) was on the warning list in the previous year; and (iii) is one of the lowest 5 schools that meet that criteria, then the State Board of Education must transfer it to the ISD in the next school year.

Additionally, SB 522 eliminates the cap on local boards of education that can participate in the Advanced Teaching Roles Pilot Program and exempts participating schools from class size requirements.