News: Quick Takes

Lawmakers, education officials rush to prevent temporary lay-offs of 220 teachers

[This story has been updated with additional information.]

Education officials and lawmakers are scrambling to prevent the lay-offs of 220 teachers at the N.C. Virtual Public School during the upcoming fall semester. 

State law requires a mandatory 31-day break in service for temporary employees. As a result, 220 teachers at NCVPS won’t be allowed to work the fall semester, and classes would be canceled. Canceling classes means more than 7,000 students won’t be able to take online courses at the virtual academy. 

NCVPS isn’t related to the two virtual charter schools: N.C. Virtual Academy and N.C. Cyber Academy. NCVPS is a state-run program that began in 2007 and serves more than 56,000 students, as of the 2017-18 school year. The virtual school offers six programs: Traditional, Occupational Course of Study, Flex Learning, Math Intervention, Middle School, and English Language Learners.

Since the 2013-14 school year, NCVPS has used the Office of State Human Resources Temporary Solutions to process payroll for NCVPS teachers classified as temporary employees of the Department of Public Instruction. 

On July 30, NCVPS notified teachers who worked the summer semester that, to comply with the state law on temporary employees, the teachers won’t be allowed to work during the fall. The late notice didn’t give teachers much time to plan or to find an alternate source of income.

OSHR told WRAL NCVPS could have told teachers about potential layoffs in May. But DPI contends NCVPS wasn’t notified about the possibility of layoffs until July. 

Without the more than 200 teachers to teach in the fall semester, NCVPS will probably have to cut courses and reduce enrollment, unless a fix is found. 

NCVPS, the State Board of Education, the Department of Public Instruction, the governor’s office, and lawmakers are all working to prevent the temporary lay-offs.

“Recognizing the negative impact this will have on students, NCVPS teachers and school districts, the State Board is urgently working to find a resolution to this matter,”  Cecilia Holden, director of Government and Community Relations at DPI, said in a news release. “They are working with the Governor’s Office and have requested a temporary waiver from OSHR.”

A waiver would be a short-term solution, and DPI and SBE have reached out to the House and Senate Education committee chairs for a more permanent fix. 

During an Aug. 5 House Rules committee meeting, lawmakers introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 295 to address the issue. The amendment exempts NCVPS from the 12-month maximum limit for temporary appointments. Committee members approved the amendment and the bill. S.B. 295 now goes to the House floor for a vote.