NC lawmakers gavel session out quickly


The House and Senate reconvened at midday Monday but adjourned within minutes and took no recorded votes. The two chambers are expected to hold perfunctory meetings Wednesday until the May 16 budget-adjustment session, which should last several weeks.

Republican legislators set aside a few dates this year like Monday to reconvene if redistricting changes were required.

House Speaker Thom Tillis was absent Monday and encouraged others not to accept expense checks unless they were going to Raleigh for other legislative activity.

About 75 protesters delivered petitions to the offices of Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger before Monday's session urging them not to override Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto of a bill requiring photo identification to vote.

Protesters walked up to Tillis' office with 4,000 signed petitions protesting the Voter ID bill. Many said the bill would make it harder to vote, cutting early voting time by a third and requiring picture ID, among other things.

The fact that Tillis was not there did not sit well with many.

"It doesn't matter where he is. The point is he's not here," said Gerrick Brenner, with Action NC. "And he has these crazy special sessions. They are a waste of taxpayer money, and he doesn't even show up for them."

There was some official business on the Senate side where a bill to overhaul Kindergarten through 12 education was put forward.

Here are the details of the proposed "Excellent Public Schools Act" introduced Monday by Senate Republican leaders at the Legislature. The reform package would:

  • spend $34 million in the 2012-13 school year to lay the groundwork for the "Ready to Achieve" program to provide more intensive instruction to children in grades K-3 at risk of failing to read at grade-level by the end of third grade.

  • prevent third graders who fail to demonstrate reading proficiency on a standardized test from being promoted to the fourth grade, with some exemptions.

  • give $11 million to school districts for the operating costs of holding five additional instructional days each school year. Last year's budget mandated the increase but most districts have gotten exemptions.

  • direct local school boards to hire teachers on annual contracts, thereby eliminating tenure for veteran teachers.

  • change the state's current system of grading school districts based on their performance on end-of-grade and end-of-course scores to a traditional grading method from A's to F's.

  • require K-6 teachers to meet minimum reading and math scores to get a teaching license.

  • establish a "North Carolina Teacher Corps" program modeled on the federal "Teach for America" program to help recent college graduates and older professionals move more easily into the teaching field, particularly in low-performing schools.

  • tweak a 2004 law requiring most school districts to start classes no earlier than Aug. 25 and finish by June 10. The proposal would have classes start no earlier than the next to last Monday in August and end no later than the second Friday in June.

  • require end-of-grade and end-of-course tests to be held in the final days of a semester or school year.

  • allow state employees to receive leave to volunteer in public school literacy program.

  • remove superintendent of public instruction from the list of statewide elected positions whose candidates can participate in a voluntary public financing program.

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