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Politics

Bill OK'd By NC House Wants Social Studies Change Delayed

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A proposed coronavirus relief fund and policy bill for North Carolina’s K-12 schools also would delay by one year the implementation of new social studies standards that conservatives criticized strongly.

The measure approved by the state House on Wednesday also determines how to spend an additional $338 million in American Rescue Plan money for schools.

The spending includes $100 million to give veteran or certain high-performing public school teachers an extra month of pay if they agree to work longer to help students who fell behind academically during the pandemic. Another $10 million would allow low- and middle-income parents to receive $1,000 grants to help address learning loss, according to media outlets.

A key House Republican said the delay on social studies standards until the 2022-23 school year was inserted into the bill because state education officials have yet to complete the documents that teachers will use. The legislation, which said more time is needed for teacher professional development delayed by the pandemic, also orders a one-year delay on course details for a new personal finance class that will be a graduation requirement.

“Could you imagine if you were in charge of curriculum at the local level and this is still not completed and it may be completed by the end of the month?” said Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, a Wilkes County Republican. With teacher training yet to go and school starting in August, he added, “it doesn’t matter what’s in it. It’s just logistically impossible.”

Democrats objected to the delay, saying the late change to fall schedules would harm students and teachers.

“Delaying the implementation of these classes will cause even more work for our hardworking educators because of rescheduling, readjusting and rewriting their lesson plans for next year,” said Rep. Julie von Haefen, a Wake County Democrat. The bill still passed 74-34, with a dozen Democrats joining with all Republicans backing the measure.

The State Board of Education narrowly approved the new social studies standards in February. They tell teachers to discuss racism and discrimination and the perspectives of historically marginalized groups more explicitly. The board’s majority said the new standards will address both the nation’s accomplishments and failings. But other members on the board said the standards are overly negative and anti-capitalist.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, a Republican, said in a prepared statement that schools “need clarity as soon as possible.”

“While this proposed delay benefits the department to ensure we can provide the proper professional development and appropriate implementation of the new standards, as well as train our teachers for the new economic and personal finance course, I find it discouraging that it has unfolded at the 11th hour,” Truitt said.

The bill now returns to the Senate, which passed a different version in May that lacked new spending. The House and Senate will likely have to negotiate a final compromise.