The State Board of Education approved a “refined” version of the new K-12 social studies standards that requires more diverse voices and viewpoints in social studies and history classes but removed the words “systemic racism,” “systemic discrimination,” and “gender identity.” The 7-5 vote reflected a partisan divide, with Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson continuing to protest that the new standards “unfairly portray America as systematically racist.” Republicans Olivia Oxendine, Amy White, Todd Chasteen and State Treasurer Dale Folwell also voted against the new standards.
A bill to require an in-person learning option for K-12 public school students received a favorable vote Thursday in the NC Senate. SB37 requires all state school districts to offer an in-person, full-time option with minimal social distance requirements to special needs students, and to offer this option or an alternative plan that includes 6 feet of social distancing to all students. Gov. Cooper has urged K-12 schools to reopen with or without social distance requirements, but wants to allow local school boards discretion rather than mandating statewide requirements. Teachers are in the next tier for vaccination, and Sen. Don Davis (D-Pitt) also wants to delay the start of reopening to give teachers time to get the shots. After a final vote in the Senate sometime this week, the bill will be sent to the House for review.
House Republicans introduced a bill that would substantially expand eligibility and funding for North Carolina’s three school voucher programs. Estimated to cost the state $159 million over 9 years, H32 increases the amount of taxpayer funds used to subsidize the cost of private school enrollment. In addition to increased subsidies to families, the bill allows some existing but unused funds to be used by “a nonprofit corporation representing parents and families” in an effort to further market the program.
Gov. Cooper is recommending one-time bonuses for teachers, principals, community college workers and non-certified public-school personnel as part of his coronavirus relief recovery budget. These allocations will require using state funds because federal guidelines prohibit use of federal funds for bonuses. Some of the governor’s recommendations for using federal funds overlap with those already passed by the NC General Assembly, including broadband internet expansion, vaccine distribution support and help to support schools’ reopening safely.
Health Care Policy
Attorney General Josh Stein announced that North Carolina will receive approximately $20 million for opioid abuse abatement as the states’ part of a nationwide settlement with the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. The company, which had been accused of telling the makers of OxyContin to “turbocharge” sales of the drug despite addiction concerns, agreed to the settlement to avoid a lawsuit related to their work. The settlement requires the money to be spent on issues related to the opioid epidemic, which might include specialty drug courts, addiction programs in jails, needle exchanges, helping local governments to fund paramedics, or helping treatment centers stay afloat.