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Senate Bill 559 becomes law, providing charters with additional State Health Plan opportunity

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S.B. 559, which creates a new opportunity for charter schools to participate in the State Health Plan, is now state law. The General Assembly ratified S.B. 559 on June 28, and the Governor signed the bill (now Session Law 2024-42) on Monday.

Prior to passage of S.B. 559, charter schools wishing to participate in the State Health Plan after two years of operation had to go through the General Assembly. Now, they may apply directly to the State Health Plan’s board, expediting and simplifying the application process. In addition, the new law specifically provides for four named charter schools to join the State Health Plan this school year–a remarkable result of effective and expeditious advocacy!

The Coalition worked hard to secure this bipartisan legislative victory for the state’s charter schools, with lobbyist Lee Teague leading charter advocacy efforts on S.B. 559. Lee ensured the bill cleared an array of hurdles and moved at breakneck speed so our schools could have the provision in place for 2024.

Securing a legislative victory requires advocacy work on many fronts, and we wanted to share some of them with you below.

Strategic and tactical, Lee’s advocacy efforts included:

  • Working with Rep. Jeff Zenger to file the bill.
  • Negotiating with the State Treasurer’s Department to secure support.
  • Ensuring schools replied promptly to Fiscal Research for development of the bill’s fiscal impact statement.
  • Moving the language from a House to Senate bill to speed passage.
  • Working to secure agreement from Rep. Carson Smith, chairman of the House Pensions Committee, to hold a committee hearing just for the Coalition’s bill. This is highly unusual!
  • Pushing to get the bill moved from the Senate Rules Committee to the floor.
  • Working to include a provision allowing charters’ future participation in the State Health Plan.
  • Convincing the House to appoint conferees.
  • Ensuring no items were added that could draw a gubernatorial veto. There was no time for an override vote!
  • Working with Sen. Joyce Krawiec to ensure the Senate did not add items the House would reject.

Thank you, Lee, for your capable and sustained advocacy on this bill! We’re also grateful to Rep. Zenger, Rep. Smith, and Sen. Krawiec, who in addition to sponsoring the bill, worked behind the scenes to ensure a unanimous Senate vote.

School leaders react

As mentioned above, the bill enables four charter schools (and Coalition members) to join the State Health Plan for this 2024-25 school year. Those schools are: United Community School, North Carolina Leadership Academy, Alpha Academy, and Durham Charter School.

Tim Hedgepeth, the director of operations for United Community School, said:

We are very thankful to the Coalition for advocating on our behalf to be added to the NC State Health Plan. Lee went above and beyond with his communication and with his drive to see this through. There is no way our school would have successfully got on the State Health Plan this year without the advocacy of the NC Coalition for Charter Schools. It’s good to have this support in Raleigh!

Renee Faenza, the principal at North Carolina Leadership Academy, said:

For our charter school, joining the State Health Plan provides tremendous savings to our staff and allows our school to retain quality teachers! Words cannot express our gratitude!

Eugene Slocum, the CEO and superintendent of Alpha Academy, said:

We’re so appreciative of the Coalition’s effective advocacy in Raleigh, and especially in ensuring Alpha Academy could join the State Health Plan this year. Lee Teague worked tirelessly to secure this outcome, which will now directly benefit our teachers and staff in the upcoming school year. Charter schools have a strong and powerful ally in the Coalition.

Alex Quigley, the executive director at Durham Charter School, said:

Lee Teague has secured a significant legislative victory for Durham Charter School that will directly impact the month-to-month finances of our teachers. By securing S.B. 559, enabling Durham Charter to enter the State Health Plan, he has single-handedly given a raise to almost all of our teachers and enabled many of them to now afford providing quality insurance to their dependents. Lee kept us updated throughout the process and provided specific action steps for us to support him along the way. We’re very grateful for Lee and the Coalition’s leadership, and we believe this bill will pave the way for all charters to eventually have the option of participating in the State Health Plan.

We’re glad that charter schools can now get in to the State Health Plan at any time, but we will continue to seek flexibility for them to exit the State Health Plan as well, if desired.

Read more

  • View Session Law 2024-42. In addition to its provisions impacting the State Health Plan, the new law also addresses parental leave for certain charter school employees.
  • See the Governor’s press release outlining the 12 bills he signed into law on Monday (including S.B. 559). Read an article from WRAL.

*This post has been updated since its publication.