The North Carolina Senate is working on revamping public school policies ranging scrapping job-protecting tenure laws for teachers to protecting home-packed bagged lunches from child nutrition oversight.
While the state House shapes a $20 billion annual state budget that decides how much North Carolina should spend on education and where the money goes, the Senate is taking on more than a dozen changes on how schools will operate with that money.
"The state spends more on public education than anything else in our budget," Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in discussing the education overhaul he's pressing to pass before lawmakers end their annual session in about a month.
With Berger's weight behind it, the "Excellent Public Schools Act" could move through the last of a series of committees and be approved by the Senate this week. Berger said he's not certain about ultimate passage in the state House.
The proposal's most controversial provision would do away with tenure for veteran public school teachers who now receive certain job protections — given to most after a four-year probationary period working in the same district. Tenured teachers are able to appeal their firings to school boards and ultimately to an impartial judge, a step that critics say makes it hard to fire poor-performing educators.
A lobbyist for the North Carolina Association of Educators, which represents teachers, asked senators why they would scrap tenure altogether after last year adopting reforms to the job protections that haven't yet had time to work.
The NCAE worked with lawmakers last year after asking "what are the tools you need to get rid of poor teachers?" lobbyist Brian Lewis said. "Allow that to take full effect."