Bill to Provide In-Person Learning Option Receives Bipartisan Support in House Education Committee
Raleigh, N.C. - Legislation to allow North Carolina students to choose whether to return to the classroom for in-person instruction or continue learning remotely received bipartisan support in state House committees on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 37 In-Person Learning Choice for Families lets parents maintain the option of distance education for students if they choose, and was approved by the House Education Committee and the House Rules Committee today.
The bill directs North Carolina schools to provide in-classroom instruction, and is supported by more than $1.6 billion in new federal funds included in separate legislation signed by Governor Cooper today.
Among the state's largest school districts, for example, Charlotte-Mecklenburg received $141 million in new funds, Wake County schools received $95 million, Guilford County schools received $88 million, and Forsyth County schools received $66 million.
Experts agree that closed classrooms hurt vulnerable young people the most and widen education gaps between low-income and affluent students. Special education students are hit particularly hard by the loss of in-person learning.
The legislation gives school systems flexibility to adjust student assignments to facilitate in-person instruction.
Rep. John Bradford (R-Mecklenburg) presented the legislation in House committees on Wednesday and said school closures have had a devastating impact on student achievement while exacerbating socieconomic disparities.
"This legislation delivers on our shared priority of getting North Carolina students back into the classroom safely, supported by powerful new funding sent to local school districts this week," Rep. Bradford said.
"Parents, healthcare experts, and education leaders agree that safely reopening schools is essential for the wellbeing of vulnerable students. Through budget appropriations and bipartisan collaboration, we are delivering on this need to provide in-person learning choice for families."
Expert medical guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control, the Harvard School of Public Health, and other leading healthcare organizations demonstrates that there is limited risk of infection in education settings that are prepared safely.
Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said that S.B. 37 addresses education, economic, and mental health crises that are resulting from classroom closures in North Carolina. The state's school districts face some of the tightest restrictions on reopening in the nation, forcing parents of struggling students to miss work or seek education alternatives that burden families economically.
"School closures are not just an education crisis for students in North Carolina, they are also causing disastrous economic and mental health outcomes for struggling families," Moore said Wednesday.
"We are listening to health and education experts, working in a bipartisan manner, and securing the necessary budget funds to support a safe reopening of North Carolina schools to help desperate parents and their children overcome the learning loss of the last year."
Floor votes by the full House of Representatives are expected for the bill on Thursday.