The 150+ pages of special provisions  contained in the Senate’s budget bill meander well outside the bounds of budgetary policy and into the arena of pure educational policy, including over 30 pages of text cut and pasted from an omnibus education bill that was already passed by the Senate. That bill (Senate Bill 795 – The Excellent Public Schools Act ) is modeled on the seriously-flawed policies currently employed in Florida  that are currently resulting in plummeting test scores .
The education-related special provisions contained in the Senate’s budget would have significant policy impacts:
Student Retention – Puts third graders who do not pass their end-of-grade reading tests in jeopardy of retention solely on the basis of a test score.
- In the first year Florida implemented this retention policy, 13.2% of third graders were retained.
- This year, only 56% of Florida’s 3rd graders demonstrated proficiency on the end-of-year writing assessment, meaning that almost half of all 3rd graders are now in serious jeopardy of being retained. Only 27% of 4th graders  demonstrated proficiency on the writing assessment.
- Almost half of North Carolina 3rd graders would also be in jeopardy of retention next year under this law.
“Grades” for Schools – Assigns letter grades to schools but provides no additional resources to schools with poor grades.
- In Florida, state education administrators project that this year, the number of ‘A’ schools will drop from 1,636 to 1,086.
- The number of ‘F’ schools will more than triple from 38 to over 130 .
- To avoid chaos and growing outrage from parents, the state is lowering state standards to make it easier to demonstrate proficiency and will not allow schools to fall more than one letter grade in its grading system.
Doing Away with Career Status – Makes attracting highly qualified teachers more difficult by doing away with career status for teachers and putting all new teachers—and even some experienced teachers—on one-year contracts.
- Given that teachers earn about 20% less than other members of the workforce with similar education and work experience, policies such as career status for teachers are needed to recruit the best and brightest to the profession that has the greatest impact on student achievement.
Rather than burying this bill amidst a sea of special provisions, the far-reaching educational impact of these suspect policies should be scrutinized by both houses of the General Assembly and the public at large to determine how and if they should be implemented.