Bill Summary for S 692 (2023-2024)

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Summary date: 

Sep 21 2023

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2023-2024 Session
Senate Bill 692 (Public) Filed Thursday, April 6, 2023
Intro. by Galey, Johnson, McInnis.

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Bill summary

House committee substitute to the 4th edition deletes the content of the previous edition and replaces it with the following. Makes conforming changes to the act’s titles.

Part I.

Enacts new Article 15A in GS Chapter 115A establishing the Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience (School), with the purpose of expanding student opportunities for educational success through high quality instructional programming in the northeastern region of the state. Allows the School to serve grades 7-12. Makes students domiciled in the counties of Beaufort, Bertie, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Edenton, Edgecombe, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Hyde, Martin, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Pitt, Tyrrell, and Washington eligible to attend the School. Requires the Board of Directors to establish criteria, standards, and procedures for admission. Allows the admission criteria to give priority to first generation students, defined as a student who has no parent who has completed a two- or four-year degree. Requires the admission criteria to include demonstrated academic achievement, demonstrated student interest in attendance, and documented parental support for student attendance. Requires students to be accepted by lot when the number of eligible students exceeds seats available.

Houses the School within the Department of Public Instruction for the purpose of distribution of State funds only. Specifies that the School is exempt from statutes and rules applicable to local boards of education or local school administrative units, except as otherwise provide in this Article and Article 7B.

Establishes the regional school board of directors (board) as the School’s governing board, consisting of members who meet the specified qualifications and residency requirements who are appointed by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Board of Education, Parent Advisor Council, and an institution of higher education partner. Members serve four-year terms. Provides for filling vacancies and removing members. Sets out requirements for board meetings. Requires the election of a chair and vice-chair who serve two-year terms; the chair may only vote to break a tie. Sets out the board’s corporate powers. Also sets out the board’s 25 powers and duties, including: (1) establishing the School’s academic program, including meeting specified requirements; (2) complying with the reporting requirements established by the State Board of Education in the Uniform Education Reporting System; (3) the board of directors must comply with the purchasing and contract statutes and regulations applicable to local school administrative units; (4) the board of directors must develop a plan to provide transportation to the students enrolled in the School, which may include entering into interlocal agreements with local school administrative units; and (5) the board of directors, to the extent practicable, must provide school food services to the School.

Requires a Parent Advisory Council (Council) that will be a resource and provide input to the board. Requires the board to consult the Council when considering changes to the School’s operations that may significantly impact students. Requires members to be parents or guardians of students enrolled in the School. Appointments to the Council are made by the Superintendent of Public Instruction and members serve for four years or until the member's child is no longer attending the School.

Requires the board to appoint all certified and noncertified staff and sets out provisions related to personnel requirements, including that the board must employ and contract with a principal for a term not to exceed three years and with necessary teachers, at least 50% of whom must hold teacher licensure (unless waived by the State Board of Education).

Requires the board to adopt a policy on whether and the circumstances under which school personnel are required to undergo a criminal history check. Sets out the requirements for the background checks. Requires the board to review the criminal history it receives on an individual and determine if the results of the review indicate that the individual: (1) poses a threat to the physical safety of students or personnel or (2) has demonstrated that he or she does not have the integrity or honesty to fulfill his or her duties as school personnel. Requires this information to be used when making employment decisions and decisions on independent contractors. Requires the board to make written findings with regard to how it used the information. Allows this duty to be delegated to the principal. Also requires the Board to give the State Board of Education the criminal history it receives on a person who is certificated, certified, or licensed by the State Board, which must then determine whether the person's certificate or license should be revoked. Sets out confidentiality provisions for the records. Provides that there is no liability for negligence on the part of the board or its employees, or the State Board of Education, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, or any of their members or employees, arising from any act taken or omission by any of them in carrying out the criminal history record check requirements. Makes it a Class A1 misdemeanor for any applicant for employment to willfully furnish, supply, or otherwise give false information on an employment application that is the basis for a criminal history record check. Allows the board to adopt a policy for uniform periodic checks of criminal history of employees.

Allows the board to contract with a local school administrative unit to serve as the board’s finance agent. Allows the School to request appropriations directly from a city.

Repeals Part 10 of Article 16 of GS Chapter 115C, concerning regional schools. Makes conforming changes throughout the following to refer to regional schools as the one established in this act (under new GS 115C-229.5) instead of regional schools created under GS 15C-238.62 (allowing any two or more local boards of education to create a regional school): GS 14-458.2(a) (concerning definitions applicable to Cyber-bullying of school employee by student); GS 58-31A-1(2) (concerning definitions applicable to Part 1, Public Education Property, of Article 31A); GS 115B-2(a)(6) (concerning tuition waivers by the constituent institutions of The University of North Carolina and community colleges); GS 115C-238.50A (concerning definitions for Part 9, Cooperative Innovative High School Programs, of Article 16); GS 126-5(c1)(8a) (concerning exemptions to the Chapter); and GS 143B-931(b) (concerning criminal record checks); GS 160A-700(d)(5) concerning funding for public education).

The above provision are effective July 1, 2024.

States the NCGA’s intent to provide funding to the School beginning with the 2024-25 school year.

Terminates the terms of members serving on the board as of the date this act becomes law on June 30, 2025. Requires initial appointments to the board to be made for terms beginning July 1, 2025. Sets out the terms for appointments that begin on that date.

Vets the title to and ownership of all property of Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience, established as provided in Part 10 of Article 16 of GS Chapter 115C, both real and personal of every kind and description, in the School established in this act by July 1, 2024. Passes all claims and demands to the School by July 1, 2024, and gives the board the same powers and authority to enforce said claims and demands. Makes obligations and liabilities of the previous school the obligations of the new School by July 1, 2024, and allows such obligations and liabilities to be enforced against the board to the same extent that they might have otherwise been enforced

Part II.

Amends GS 116-209.25 (establishing parental trust funds for higher education) to enact new subsection GS 116-209.25(c2) setting forth protections for North Carolina education savings and investment accounts as follows. Exempts funds located in an education savings and investment account of the Parental Savings Trust Fund or withdrawn from the account and used for expenses permitted under section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRS Code) (governing qualified tuition programs) from liens, attachment, garnishment, levy, seizure, any involuntary sale or assignment by operation or execution of law, or the enforcement of any other judgment or claim to pay any debt or liability of any account owner, beneficiary, or contributor to a plan.  States that the new subsection (c2) will not affect any protection from creditors under GS 1C-1601(a)(10) (setting forth exemptions of certain property from the claims of creditors) for education savings and investment accounts that are not part of the Parental Savings Trust Fund.

Makes conforming changes to GS 1C-1601(10) (governing the educational savings plan creditor exemption) to refer to the new subsection and to change references to "college savings plan" to "education savings and investment account." Changes the permitted use of exempted funds from the college or university expenses for a child of the debtor to expenses for a child of the debtor permitted under the IRS Code. 

Adds new section enacting GS 147-86.47 to Article 6F of GS Chapter 147 exempting funds located in an ABLE account (savings accounts for people with disabilities where the disability occurred before the age of 26) or withdrawn from the account and used for expenses permitted under section 529A of the Internal Revenue Code (governing qualified tuition payments) from liens, garnishment, attachment, and judgment and other debt collection devices.  Specifies that funds may still be distributed upon the death of the account holder as provided by law. 

Applies to actions filed on or after November 1, 2023.

Part III.

Enacts new GS 160D-913.1 (pertaining to school sites in residential zones), providing as follows. Defines school to mean a building or group of buildings that are primarily used for the instruction of students in a pre-kindergarten program or in a grade from kindergarten to grade 12, and includes both (i) schools within public school units and (ii) nonpublic schools.

Requires that schools be permitted, by right, in an area zoned for residential use if: (1) the site of the school is located on 30 or more contiguous acres of land, which may be comprised of one or more parcels of land; (2) the site of the school is not situated within an existing residential subdivision as to cause discontinunity in the subdivision, but may be adjacent to an existing residential subdivision; (3) the county in which the school is to be sited has a population of at least 200,000 residents as of the most recent decennial census; (4) the county in which the school is to be sited has a population density of at least 300 people per square mile as of the most recent decennial census; (5) the county in which the school is to be sited has a land area of at least 200 square miles; and (6) the site of a school containing any combination of kindergarten through grade eight has at least one boundary located along either a State-maintained road or highway or a city-maintained street or the site of a school containing any combination of grades nine through twelve has at least one boundary along a major or minor thoroughfare, as designated by the thoroughfare plan approved by the metropolitan planning organization or rural transportation planning organization with jurisdiction over the area, that is maintained by either the State or a city.

Specifies that further expansion of any such school cited under GS 160D-913.1 is subject to all applicable zoning ordinances and cannot receive permitted use beyond the original boundaries. Provides that a permitted school will not  be subject to any changes or additions made to the restrictions and requirements placed on schools by the governing body for five years from the date the permit is issued. Limits any restrictions placed on a school as part of the permitting process to those that are the restrictions and requirements the governing body could impose under any other law or ordinance.  Requires the governing entity of the school to inquire in writing, of the public water system, public sewers system, or public water and sewer system, currently serving the site or closest to the site as to whether that public system has capacity to serve the proposed school facility. Sets forth process and timeframes for response by the public systems listed above. Provides for the public system to reserve resources for the school for 24 months from the date of the written inquiry unless it does not have capacity or under a moratorium precluding expansion.  

Enacts new GS 160D-917, requiring that in areas zoned for commercial use, zoning regulations must permit, by right or by special use, the siting of a school building that is primarily used for the instruction of students and is under the control of a public school unit.

Part IV.

Requires all constituent institutions offering degrees, certifications, or training related to health care to provide the public with the criteria for evaluating applicants for admission to the institution or program. Requires that the public information include a rubric detailing the weight placed upon each admissions criterion, including standardized test scores, grades, class rigor, personal statements, interviews, and any other factors used to determine admission. Requires each of these institutions to annually report to the UNC Board of Governors (BOG) on the prior year's applicants for admission to programs related to health care. Sets out items that must be included in the report with information de-identified separately for both applicants and admitted students, disaggregated by race. Requires the BOG to create and annually update an electronic dashboard of all reported information that consolidates the information submitted by each constituent institution. Also requires the BOG to update the specified NCGA committee when the dashboard has been updated. Requires the BOG to designate the degrees, certifications, and trainings that relate to health care. Applies beginning with reports due September 15, 2024.

Part IV-A.

Amends GS 115C-81.45 (pertaining to civic literacy, amongst other things) to now require that either the week of Patriot’s Day (September 11) or the week of Constitution Day (September 17) be a civic focus week. Requires that local boards of education give civic youth groups (Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Boy Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Future Farmers of America, or Girl Scouts of the United States of America) opportunities in each school to address students during these weeks to address how involvement can further students' educational interests and civic participation to improve their schools, communities, and themselves. Sets out the procedure for the group to provide notice to the school’s principal and for the principal’s approval. Requires the group to be given at least 10 minutes during the instructional day to address students. Allows a principal to designate a single event to observe a civic focus week when all civic youth groups may address students, with time allocated equally among the groups; sets out additional time limitations on such an event. Requires the same opportunity to be given by charter schools (GS 115C-218.75), regional schools (GS 115C-238.66), and laboratory schools (GS 116-239.8). Applies beginning with the 2024-25 school year.

Part IV-B.

Enacts new GS 145-52, adopting the Kidzu Children’s Museum as the official State children’s museum.

Part IV-F.

Amends GS 115C-12 (powers and duties of the State Board of Education [Board]) as follows. Removes the Board’s power to accredit schools. Changes the Board’s power from submitting a budget request directly to the Director of the Budget to preparing a budget request for the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) to be submitted in conjunction with the SPI’s request for the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Removes the Board’s power to develop and make available to teachers and parents support materials, including teacher and parent guides, academic content standards and instead gives this power to the SPI.  Expands GS 115C-21(a), the administrative duties of the SPI, to also include: (1) enter into contracts equal to or less than $2.5 million; (2) to review comprehensive plans to revise content standards in core academic areas and to provide recommendations, and (3) to create advisory councils or commissions as DPI deems necessary. Makes conforming changes to Board and SPI duties.

Enacts new GS 115C-420 (Board approval of contracts) to require the SPI to present contracts larger than $2.5 million to the Board for approval. Provides that the SPI does not have to present contracts for $2.5 million or less to the Board. Specifies that contract amounts cannot be aggregated with other contracts.