N.C. House lawmakers to take up school calendar flexibility Tuesday

N.C. Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union

Given the spate of local bills filed this session intended to grant school districts greater flexibility in crafting their own calendars, it’s worth noting members of a key state House of Representatives committee are expected to take up a study of the impacts of such calendar flexibility Tuesday morning.

Members of the House Education Committee will consider a pair of calendar bills, one of which aims to allow up to 20 of the state’s counties—many of them situated in relatively low-performing, rural districts—the power to opt for smaller summer breaks.

It’s a nod to emerging K-12 research that suggests shorter summer breaks can blunt the impacts of “summer learning loss,” particularly among low-income students.

Another draft bill allows districts leeway to reschedule school opening dates to coincide with local community colleges. Advocates, such as the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, say K-12 district calendars are out of sync with community colleges.

From a Policy Watch report this month:

“These are counties that we’ve got to try something different,” said Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican who co-sponsored both bills. “Because what we’ve been doing is not working.”

Horn said House lawmakers have long sought to tinker with the school calendar, but failed to gain much traction in the state Senate.

This year, Horn said he believes there may be a greater willingness to take up the issue, pointing to the dozens of local calendar bills already in the works in both chambers and students’ greater access to digital education content.

“I’m not going to waste everybody’s time running bills that I know aren’t going to pass,” added Horn. “If I know I’m going to get whipped, I’m not going to get into the fight.”

The calendar study would require annual reports from the Department of Public Instruction on students’ performance. Districts would be able to begin the program in the 2018-2019 calendar year.

Tomorrow’s House committee meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

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