Lawmakers moved a bill forward Wednesday that would exempt some non-public schools offering before and after school child care from obtaining licensure.

House Bill 712, which initially dealt with expert witness compensation, was stripped by Sen. Tamara Barringer (R-Wake) and replaced with language that primarily makes changes to the state’s disability voucher program.

But the bill also contained one small provision that would allow some non-public schools that offer childcare wraparound services a way out of licensure requirements that hold schools to higher health and safety standards.

“What is the public policy rationale…to not require child care facilities from being licensed?” asked Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) of the bill’s sponsor.

Former N.C. Senator Richard Stevens, who represents the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools, explained to committee members that many non-public schools have long offered before and after school child care, but recent interpretations of the law have subjected them to onerous licensure requirements that this bill seeks to remove.

“This bill allows the non-public schools to do what they’ve always been doing, which is to have [the children] there all day – it’s a family friendly bill,” said Stevens.

Rob Thompson, director of children’s advocacy group NC Child, says moving away from licensure requirements for any facility that offers child care is a bad idea.

“Just because a child care center is co-located with a non-public school doesn’t mean that those health and safety standards aren’t still relevant,” Thompson told N.C. Policy Watch.

The bill also clarifies what kinds of expenses associated with special education are reimbursable to those who take advantage of a disability voucher.

Last year, lawmakers changed a law that awarded tax credits to parents of students with special needs who enrolled in non-public schools so that they would receive a voucher instead, reimbursing them up with to $3,000 a semester for special education expenses.

The New York Times had a great story this weekend that took took readers into the life of a 9-year-old student who is experiencing the bumpy transition from old, weaker academic standards to the new, more rigorous Common Core State Standards.

Chrispin Alcindor is a child of Haitian immigrants attending a public school in Brooklyn who is reeling from seeing his once stellar marks in math take a nosedive thanks to a more rigorous curriculum developed in response to the Common Core.

In math, Ms. Matthew’s [Chrispin's classroom teacher] mantra was simple: “Prove it.” It was no longer sufficient for students to memorize multiplication tables. They had to demonstrate exactly what three times five meant by shading in squares on a grid. If the topic was fractions, they would slide around neon-colored tiles on their desks until they could prove that three-quarters was the same as six-eighths. Math instruction had long been derided as inaccessible; the Common Core aimed to change that by asking students to explain their calculations and solve modern-day problems.

Taken together, the demands of the Common Core were daunting. But Ms. Matthew was persistent. In March, with a few weeks to go before the first exams, she knew exactly which students were struggling and which lacked help from their parents. She knew who needed one-on-one coaching and who was most at risk of failing and in danger of being sent to summer school. She kept a close eye on Chrispin.

Chrispin experiences test anxiety and struggles with the increased academic demands that are placed on his shoulders. Does he make progress? Is he on a path toward success? Click here to read his story, and hopefully the Times will follow Chrispin’s academic journey over the long haul.

Members of the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) green lighted one more charter school to move toward opening for thecharter2 2015-16 school year, after Board members decided in April to reconsider rejected applicants and give them a second chance to make their case for opening a charter school in the state.

Ignite Innovation Academy, which would be located in Pitt County, could serve 216 students in grades K-8 using a blended learning instructional model that relies heavily on technology in the classroom.

The proposed charter school initially received low marks from the CSAB subcommittee tasked with reviewing its application this past winter; while its mission was deemed “adequate,” the three other sections of its application that deal with finances, governance, and the educational plan were all deemed inadequate, citing insufficient funding and poor planning for professional development, delivery of instruction and educating children with special needs.

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During these past few busy months you may have missed the launch of ProPublica‘s “Segregation Now,” which takes a deep look at how how America’s schools have steadily resegregated since the Brown v. Board of Education federal ruling that was handed down sixty years ago.

The ProPublica series begins with Nikole Hannah-Jones’ investigation of Tuscaloosa’s city schools, which are among the most rapidly resegregating in the country. Not only is the story enriched with a beautiful visual layout and great interactive graphics, Hannah-Jones compels readers to put themselves into the shoes of the Dent family.

The Dents are a multi-generational family that has lived through it all in Tuscaloosa: Jim Crow-era public school segregation, the eventual efforts to desegregate after Brown, and today’s reality: public schools are moving back toward resegregation, and what that means for today’s Tuscaloosan youth.

Alabama is not alone in this trajectory. For example, here in North Carolina’s Pitt County, the issue of public school segregation has been front and center.

Pitt County has been under desegregation orders since 1965, when the federal court found that the district was operating racially-segregated, dual and unconstitutional school systems.

Pitt’s African American population stands today around 34 percent — but in its 35 public schools, African-American students make up the majority, according to district records. In 2012-13, close to 48 percent of its students were black, 38 percent white, and 10 percent Latino.

Last fall, a U.S. District Court judge lifted desegregation orders, finding the school district to have fully complied and achieved “unitary status,” or had fully desegregated its public school system.

An appeal of that decision will be heard in September the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Until then, check out the entire ProPublica series, “Segregation Now,” while you cool off by the pool this weekend.

Retired generals from North Carolina urged state lawmakers today not to repeal the Common Core State Standards, holding them up as the answer to maintaining a strong and highly qualified military force for the United States.

“It is alarming that poor educational achievement is one of the leading reasons why an estimated 75 percent of all young Americans are unable to join the military,” said Ret. U.S. Army Major General Bennie Williams. “Too many high school graduates do not have the skills the military needs.”

Ret. U.S. Army Lt. General Marvin L. Covault noted that 7,000 students drop out of school every academic day thanks to poor educational standards and resources – limiting the pool of highly qualified people the U.S. military has access to when choosing its soldiers.

“Common Core State Standards will increase the pool of qualified resources to select our ranks from,” said Gen. Covault, holding a report that details how North Carolina’s standards, which include the Common Core, help students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure the nation’s future military strength. Read More