State representatives file omnibus bill to address education waiver requests

On Tuesday, the first day of the short session, members of the State House of Representatives filed an omnibus bill requesting waivers for testing, class size mandates and calendar flexibility, among others.

House Bill 1035 Education Omnibus/ COVID 19 will address waiver requests submitted by the State Board of Education in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which forced Gov. Roy Cooper to order school buildings closed for the remainder of the academic year.

Many of the state’s nearly 1.6 million students are receiving instruction online. Cooper said last week that he’s optimistic schools will reopen in time for the 2020-21 academic year.

State Rep. Craig Horn, (R-Union), State Rep. John Fraley, (R-Iredell) and State Rep. Ashton Clemmons (D-Guilford) are the bill’s primary sponsors.

If approved by lawmakers, the bill would suspend end-of-grade and end-of-course exams for the current school year. The state would also table its controversial A-F grading scale for schools and districts. Some teachers would not receive bonuses linked to student performance.

Calendar flexibility would allow school districts to open as early as Aug. 17.  Under state law, schools cannot start earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 unless a weather-related calendar has been approved, or the school is year-round, a charter school or an innovative high school.

Additional waivers would:

  • Give beginning and early-career teachers additional time to meet state licensing requirements. Teachers with initial licenses set to expire June 30 would be extended for one year until they pass required tests by June 30, 2021.
  • New teaching graduates will be able to begin teaching without having passed the required exams, although education preparation programs have the option to recommend against licensure for candidates. And with approval by the legislature, the 16-week requirement for student teaching would be suspended for those students who had started that work before March 16.
  • Allow new teaching graduates to begin teaching without having passed the required exams, although education preparation programs have the option to recommend against licensure for candidates. And with approval by the legislature, the 16-week requirement for student teaching would be suspended for those students who started work before March 16.
  • Hold districts harmless from possible reductions in transportation funding for 2020-21 school year because of unexpected impacts from the COVID-19 closure. The board directed the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to develop a funding formula so that at a minimum, school districts will not face any reduction in their transportation allotment compared to 2019-2020 levels.

The House Standing Committee on K-12 Education is expected to discuss the bill at 4 p.m. You can see the live stream at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VhYcHA2NOQ&feature=youtu.be.

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