Raleigh, N.C. — S 795, Sen. Phil Berger's education reform bill, passed the Senate on a 31-17 vote Monday night. The measure now goes to the House, where lawmakers have been noncommittal on its future.
My summary of the bill as well as full legislative explanations are on this blog post.
Monday's debate featured an attempt by Democrats to amend the measure.
The Democratic amendment, offered by Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, would have rewritten several parts of the bill, including:
- added an exception to the bill's requirement that all students pass basic reading tests before graduating from third grade. The Stein amendment would have given principals the ability to promote students who they believed shouldn't be left behind.
- allowed teachers to keep tenure while a 2011 law changing how teachers are dismissed was evaluated. Berger's bill would require all teachers be placed on contracts running from 1-to-4 years.
- ordered the State Board of Education to come up with a new model for grading schools rather than implement the A-through-F scheme outlined in the Berger bill.
The Senate voted down the Stein amendment on a party-line vote.
"I have no problem adding a provision giving the principal a greater say, but I don't think it should be the last word," said Berger, R-Rockingham. "That's the system we have now."
In general, Berger said, Stein's five-page amendment would slow changes to the public school system he wanted to make.
Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, said the bill merely punished teachers and schools without providing them the money needed to do their job.
"At its essence, it's taking another slap at teachers and we don't need to be doing that," Nesbitt said.
Berger defended the bill, saying lawmakers has protected the classroom from harsh cuts.
"I am a little disappointed in the characterization of the bill as an attack on teachers," Berger said. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
The measure now goes to the House, where it's future is uncertain. Lawmakers there did not account for it in the budget they just sent the Senate.