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Republican Education Bill Passes Senate Committee With Changes

A Republican-backed education bill has undergone some changes since senate leader Phil Berger proposed it. The bill the senate education committee approved Tuesday gives districts the option of offering teachers contracts longer than one year. The original bill would have done away with teacher tenure and this one still does, but it softens the blow a bit. Instead of only allowing districts to extend one year contracts to teachers, the new version allows up to four-year contracts. Berger said he made the change after meeting with education groups. "It's something that would recognize the quality of a teacher and recognize that a teacher has earned the ability to be employed on more than a one year basis," said Berger. Critics have said doing away with tenure, which takes three years to earn, would make it harder to recruit good teachers. Other changes to the bill include adding 2,300 slots to the state's pre-kindergarten program. That program is designed to give students from poor families a head-start on school. Before the senate's education committee voted on the bill, Senator Martin Nesbitt from Buncombe County said it was taking the wrong approach. He said lawmakers should instead look to add back teachers cut last year. The bill now proceeds to the senate's appropriations and finance committees. The House has not included the extra $46 million the bill calls for in its proposed budget.