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Legislative roundup | Senate budget passes, debate on masks in schools continues

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The big news this week was the unveiling and passage of a Senate budget. To see what’s in the budget for K-12, click here. To see what’s in it for community colleges, click here. To read more about the debate over the budget, click here.

For analysis from the NC Justice Center, click here.

For analysis from the Public School Forum of NC, click here.

The other major development was the passage of a bill in the House that would essentially put an end to the statewide mask mandate in schools. Local boards of education would have the authority to make face masks optional next school year. Additionally, if a district wanted to keep masks in their schools, their boards of education would have to hold a vote every month to make it so.

The bill is a revision of a Senate bill that originally had nothing to do with this, so it now goes back to the Senate. By the way, the bill is called the “Free the Smiles Act.”

Another Senate bill that was originally about putting carbon monoxide detectors in public schools passed the House. But it, too, will have to return to the Senate, because the House changed it so that it now requires “municipalities to provide water, sewer, or water and sewer services to properties used as charter school facilities when certain conditions are met, and require municipalities to grant qualifying voluntary annexation petitions for those properties,” according to the bill summary.

In other news, Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law a bill that would let people with college degrees teach certain high school classes without a teaching license. It would let college graduates teach as adjuncts in high school in “core academic subjects, fine and performing arts, and foreign language in the individual’s area of specialized knowledge or work experience.” Before such individuals could teach, however, they would have to take some classes at a community college or educator preparation program.

Finally, a Senate bill that passed the House this week includes a provision that would change the term length of State Board of Community College members from six years to four.

Language from bill

Since the bill originated in the Senate and was changed in the House, it goes back to the Senate now for a concurrence vote.

Anniversary of charter schools

This week marked the 25th anniversary of charter schools in North Carolina. We published this perspective from the executive director of the North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools.

Additionally, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, held a press conference that also featured state Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt and others.

Berger said in a press release:

“There’s a philosophical war underway right now. It’s between bureaucrats and unions on one side and parents on the other side. Real school choice should be available to all, not restricted only to the elite who can afford it.”

Moore said:

“Charter schools provide North Carolina students with more options that help them thrive in their learning environment. We owe our students nothing less. As charter school enrollment and waiting lists increase year after year, we must do what we can to support North Carolina families and their education needs.”

And Truitt gave the following remarks:

“This is an exciting day as we celebrate the growth of public charter schools, and the momentum of school choice, here in North Carolina over the course of the last 25 years. Charter schools continue to provide a unique educational opportunity for our students – encouraging innovation while inspiring flexibility and creativity in order to set our students on the path to a successful future. I look forward to seeing how public charter schools continue to serve to North Carolina’s students and parents alike in the years to come.”

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.