North Carolina lawmakers on an emergency COVID-19 committee will consider a full slate of education waivers, including waivers for a planned reduction in early grade class sizes, testing, teacher and administrator performance reviews, low-performing schools and a controversial school takeover program called the Innovative School District.
Legislators put an omnibus draft bill before the panel Thursday afternoon, with plans for revisions in the coming days.
“It will be comprehensive. It will be the result of everyone having had time to review the proposals, the explanations,” the committee’s co-chair, Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican, said Thursday.
Horn encouraged lawmakers on the specially convened committee to bring forward their local district concerns as the bill is readied.
But with schools in all 115 public school districts closed with no sign of a return in sight, Horn added that the committee has yet to take up calendar flexibility. Calendar flexibility will be a key discussion as lawmakers weigh the benefits of ongoing remote learning against the loss of classroom time.
NC Gov. Roy Cooper ordered all schools closed until May 15 and issued a statewide stay-at-home order that is set to expire at the end of April. But it’s possible, likely even, that both orders could be extended.
“It is incredibly complex,” Horn said of the calendar issue, noting that the panel is reviewing the latest info from federal officials and Cooper’s office.
A quick round-up of other legislative news:
- At least one Democrat, Greensboro Rep. Cecil Brockman, asked if lawmakers were prepping a plan for teacher raises, noting discussions were ongoing on this front prior to the pandemic. “Especially with what’s going on, we need to be working on a deal,” Brockman said. However, committee leadership indicated that the panel was tasked with focusing its efforts on responding to novel coronavirus-related concerns.
- Waivers for class size reductions will be particularly important for school districts. Democrats and Republicans warred over the GOP’s mandated class size cuts in recent years. Democrats said Republicans were seeking smaller classes, but weren’t budgeting enough to pay for it. GOP leadership stepped back on their initial orders after a wave of criticism from educators and school districts.
- Rep. Hugh Blackwell, a Burke County Republican, said legislators should be, if they are not already, communicating with Gov. Cooper over his plans for $95 million in emergency K-12 cash from the federal government.
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