Legislative Wrap-up 2014: Education Policy

This article is the last of several wrapping up the 2014 legislative session. 

The Autism Society of North Carolina’s focus on education continued to highlight improving education for children with disabilities in public schools while also offering options to parents who need to find different academic settings.

Public Education: Per-student funding was not changed for special education in public schools. Public school teachers will see 7% raises on average, though the raise will vary from1% to 18%, depending on a revised pay scale that builds longevity pay into the pay scale rather than adding it separately. To reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, $41 million was added for additional teachers. Cuts to local educational funding include teaching assistants ($130 million recurring, $24 million non-recurring), textbooks ($900,000) and transportation funding ($8 million). Local school districts are given some flexibility in how they implement these cuts.

Department of Public Instruction: The NC Department of Public Instruction received a 10% funding cut and will eliminate 50 positions, including some in the Division of Exceptional Children (which serves children with disabilities), the office of early learning that assists hearing and vision impaired children, positions that support schools for the deaf and blind, in IT services, and positions that support struggling schools, accountability, and other areas.

H712 Clarifying Changes to Scholarship Bill: Last year, the General Assembly passed legislation to replace the tax credit for children with disabilities that was repealed with the passage of tax reform legislation. The law passed last year permits parents or guardians of children with disabilities to apply for scholarships up to $3,000 per semester for families who enroll their child with disabilities in private schools. This year, ASNC and other groups worked with the General Assembly to pass clarifying legislation for the scholarship to:

  • Clearly define a child with a disability
  • Ensure that the DEC 3 determination of a disability is the standard for determining eligibility for the scholarship so that an IEP need not be developed every three years to continue to qualify for the scholarship when a child has already left the public school system.
  • Define educational technology in a way that ensures that it keeps up with new technology and allow educational technology reimbursement to be part of the scholarship program.
  • Clarifies that students who are homeschooled may receive reimbursement for “related services” and educational technology as long as they meet the requirements. Note that recent rules changes from the NC Education Assistance Authority (NC EAA) confirm that different related services may be combined to reach the minimum 75 days of required services during a semester to receive reimbursement.
  • Requires the NC EAA to place information on its website advising families that placement in non-public schools ends a child’s rights to disability-related services under IDEA.
  • Requires the State Board of Education to ensure that local educational agencies are complying with the requirements to do evaluations and re-evaluations in a timely way and to comply with the requirements of the scholarship program.

Study Vocational Training in Persons with IDD: As noted in our budget update, the budget special provisions include language from H731, Study Vocational Training in Persons with IDD. Section 10.4(a) of the budget authorizes the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Education to study issues related to vocational training for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including model programs for training, developing vocational expertise, and job readiness; enhancing employment outcomes; barriers to employment; establishing partnerships between community colleges, universities, NC DHHS, VR and community organizations that offer job training; policies for ensuring students are prepared for higher education following high school; and policies for job training as students complete secondary school.

If you have questions about public policy issues, please contact Jennifer Mahan, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, at 919-865-5068 or jmahan@autismsociety-nc.org.

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