Republican lawmakers in North Carolina want more say on what’s taught in public schools, including potentially revising the state’s controversial new social studies standards. 

The N.C. House K-12 Education Committee backed a bill on Tuesday that would create a new commission appointed by lawmakers that would recommend the standards that would be taught in each K-12 subject. One of the first jobs of the new Standards Advisory Commission would be to review the recently adopted social studies standards. “No doubt there have been some questions about the standards and how they are taught in the classroom and who decides and who determines those standards,” said Rep. John Torbett, a Gaston County Republican and the bill’s primary sponsor. “Right now it’s pretty much relegated to the State Board of Education.” But Democratic lawmakers questioned what they said are GOP efforts to take over setting what’s taught in schools.

”This commission also gives the General Assembly basically a veto over anything that’s made in the Standard Course of Study, which is also very worrisome,” said Rep. Julie von Haefen, a Wake County Democrat. “I believe this commission is just injecting politics into a process that should be done by people who are professional educators who know what they are doing.” 

Standards Setting Process 

Currently, the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) recommends to the State Board of Education what concepts to include in the Standard Course of Study. The state board then adopts the standards for each subject. DPI is leading teams that are currently working on new science standards and new healthful living standards. DPI also convened the teams that recommended the new social studies standards adopted in 2021. The standards had split the state board’s Democratic and Republican members. The board’s Democratic members said they were more inclusive, while the GOP members said they were too negative about American history. House Republicans have tried multiple times in the past two years to block the standards from being implemented.

Under House Bill 756, the Standards Advisory Commission would be formed to recommend the standards for each subject to the state board. The bill directs the commission to recommend potential changes to the social studies standards to the state board by Jan. 1, 2025. Torbett said there’s precedent for the commission because one was formed by lawmakers to suggest changes to the Common Core standards that were used in math and English classes. 

Lawmakers would pick commission 

The Republican-led General Assembly would appoint 16 of the new commission’s 17 voting members. The state superintendent would be the other voting member. Von Haefen questioned Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper having no appointments to the new commission. The commission would be required to include specific categories such as superintendents, principals, teachers, curriculum specialists, parents, business members and “at-large” members. They’d be chosen for four-year terms. The state board would have to either approve the commission’s recommendations without making major changes or reject them. If they are rejected, the state board would have to give the commission reasons, as well as another chance to revise the recommendations.

The state board could develop the standards itself only after rejecting the commission’s recommendations a second time. But the bill says any changes in standards or content adopted by the state board would have to be presented to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee. The changes would be blocked if legislation is filed within 31 days to delay the changes. “It’s the state board’s constitutional responsibility to define what our students should know, and in my opinion this is a major change to how that would happen,” von Haefen said.

This article appears courtesy of our media partner The Charlotte Observer. 

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