The Legislative Committee of the Guilford County Board of Education on Wednesday, Nov. 27 approved a funding and legislative agenda to recommend to the full school board. The Legislative Committee also planned the school board’s annual legislative luncheon, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 10 or 11, 2019.
The legislative agenda is an annual wish list of laws and money the school board wants from the North Carolina General Assembly but probably won’t get. The legislative luncheon is an annual lobbying event at which the Guilford County state legislative delegation listens uncomfortably to the list, while eating free food and making noncommittal noises.
Traditionally, the school board has asked for everything but the kitchen sink from the state legislators. This time around, to reduce the eye-glazing effect of the luncheon, the committee reduced the list to four main asks.
Guilford County School Superintendent Sharon Contreras, who is showing signs of independent thinking for a Guilford County schools administrator, said, “We have not been very successful when we have had a much larger legislative initiative.”
The proposed requests by the school board this year are the repeal of a state-mandated reduction in class sizes for kindergarten through third grade; increases in pay and incentives for principals and teachers; funding for school-safety technology and programs; and funding, regulatory relief and tax incentives to improve career and technical education in Guilford County schools.
School board and legislative committee member Pat Tillman suggested that, since the Board of Commissioners is the local funding body for Guilford County Schools, having them in the same room with the legislators might be a good idea.
“They will be invited after we get the Guilford delegation locked down,” said school board member and Legislative Committee Chair Linda Welborn. “They don’t get a say – I’m not giving them a say – in when it is.”
The school board coordinates its lobbying with the North Carolina School Boards Association, which isn’t pushing hard for the K-3 class size repeal this year, a fact which Welborn bemoaned.
Welborn said, “This is Berger’s baby, and no one thinks he’s listening, but I’m not willing to give up.”
“Berger” is state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, who supported House Bill 13, passed by the General Assembly in 2017 to reduce class sizes.
Committee members said the bill forces the school system to add new classes at the last minute to meet new enrollment, sometimes hiring teachers from the very bottom of the teacher pool. Welborn said, “By doing that, you’re really hurting children, if you’re picking up a really weak teacher in the middle of the year.”