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NC Bills On Reading, Summer School Head To Governor With Bipartisan Support

Second-graders at Oakdale Elementary School in Charlotte do a phonics lesson.
Ann Doss Helms
Second-graders at Oakdale Elementary School in Charlotte do a phonics lesson.

Two major education bills are headed to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office after winning bipartisan support in the North Carolina General Assembly on Thursday.

The House voted 113-to-5 for a reading bill that was introduced Monday and passed the Senate unanimously on Wednesday. That bill requires public schools to use a phonics-based approach to instruction labeled “the science of reading.”

Democrats John Autry of Charlotte, Vernetta Alston of Durham, Verla Insko of Orange County, Grier Martin of Wake County and Graig Meyer of Hillsborough cast the dissenting votes. Forty-five House Democrats joined Republicans in backing the bill.

Senate Leader Phil Berger said the consensus of experts and North Carolina education leaders — including the state Board of Education — supports this approach to reading instruction.

Meanwhile, a bill requiring North Carolina school districts to offer K-12 summer school unanimously passed the state Senate. It had already won unanimous House approval in February.

The six-week programs are designed to help students make up learning loss caused by the pandemic and will be paid for with federal COVID-19 relief money.

Participation is voluntary for students and teachers. The bill requires $1,200 signing bonuses to recruit highly qualified teachers.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has already announced it will provide summer camp for 50,000 students, just over one-third of its enrollment. The district is taking sign-ups now.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.