@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

House approves weak school calendar bill

Posted April 29, 2015

— House lawmakers voted Wednesday night to give school districts the same calendar flexibility they already have.

House Bill 164 gives districts the ability to spread out the state's requirement of 1,025 hours of classroom instruction per year over fewer than 185 days. It also includes a study of school calendar policy.

"This would allow the option for local school boards to be able to get their exams in before winter break," said sponsor Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett. "This is an optional thing. The school boards don’t have to do this if they don’t choose to."

But school districts can already do that, and some are, critics pointed out.

"You’re just as well to send nothing over to [the Senate] because every single power that’s in there is already in place for every school system in the state. It does nothing," protested Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes. "This is no new flexibility."

Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, tried unsuccessfully to change the bill to return control over school calendars to local school boards.

"I think that's what's best for education," Cotham said, noting that the school calendar fight has been going on for years.

The state legislature took control of school calendars in 2004, a move that was largely prompted by the tourism industry's concerns about school starting dates creeping earlier every year.

But Lewis warned that Senate leaders wouldn't consider that change at all.

"The other chamber has indicated no desire whatsoever to move on the start or stop date for the school year," he said. "This is the art of the possible."

Rep. Marvin Lucas, D-Cumberland, argued the House shouldn't "kowtow to" the Senate, but Rep. Linda Johnson, R-Cabarrus, said lawmakers need to "do something" about the problem.

The bill passed 83-34 and is now headed for the Senate.

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