How the 2021 General Assembly handled education – EdNC

Sometimes it can feel as though the entire long session of the General Assembly was about the budget. After all, the state hadn’t had one since 2018, Gov. Roy Cooper and legislative Republican leaders were playing nice for the first time in a long time, and the judge in the Leandro case was threatening to force the General Assembly to spend about an additional $1.7 billion on education. But, as the name suggests, the session was long, and a lot has happened since lawmakers gaveled in back in January.

From requiring teachers to post lesson plans online to critical race theory to dealing with COVID-19, here is what happened this long session.

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In-person education

When the General Assembly convened for the long session in Jan. 2021, many schools were still virtual. At the start of the 2020-21 school year, Gov. Cooper told schools they could open under a hybrid in-person and remote learning option or an all-remote option (either plan B or plan C). In Oct. 2020, Cooper allowed elementary schools to open fully in person under plan A, but grades 6-12 remained in either hybrid or fully remote learning.

One of the first things legislators tackled this session was returning students to school. The Senate rolled out legislation that would require schools to provide in-person learning for exceptional needs students under plan A and either fully in-person learning (plan A) or hybrid learning (plan B) for all other students. No school would be able to remain under plan C, or fully remote learning. That bill made it all the way through the General Assembly before being vetoed by Gov. Cooper.

At that time, vaccines were first being rolled out in North Carolina, and teachers were not yet eligible to receive them. They became eligible on Feb. 24, and things moved rapidly from there.

After lawmakers failed to override Cooper’s veto of their in-person learning bill, the House started moving a bill that would allow select districts the ability to bring all students back for in-person learning.

One day later, on March 10th, Cooper and legislative leaders announced a compromise to bring students back to classrooms. Under the plan, elementary schools had to return students to classrooms under plan A, and districts had the option of having students in grades 6-12 in class under either plan A or plan B. The compromise took the form of legislation, which quickly cleared the General Assembly and was signed by Cooper. Thus, nearly one year after schools were closed due to COVID-19, state leaders ordered them almost fully reopened.

Summer learning

A big focus of concern for state leaders was dealing with the aftermath of a year and half worth of schooling that was anything but normal thanks to COVID-19. One of lawmakers’ first attempts to deal with this came in February, when House Republicans put forward a bill that would require every district to offer a summer …….


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