House sends bill establishing new K-12 standards commission to Senate

By: - April 27, 2023 3:45 pm
students in an American history classroom

Photo: Getty Images

A bill creating a new commission to recommend the standards taught in K-12 subjects was approved by the House on Thursday and sent to the Senate.

An amendment to House Bill 756 giving the governor the authority to appoint six members to the Standards Advisory Commission was also approved by the House.

An earlier version of the bill called for the Senate President Pro Tem and the Speaker of the House to each select eight members to the advisory panel. Each leader and the governor would now have six selections if the bill becomes law.

Rep. John Torbett

“I inadvertently … left out a chance for the governor to select any members,” said Rep. John Torbett, a Gaston County Republican and the bill’s primary sponsor.

Explaining why HB 756 is needed, Torbett said that lawmakers are responsible for educating children under the state’s constitution.

“We shouldn’t shrug from that responsibility,” Torbett said.

The goal, he said, is to seat a commission to bring multiple perspectives to the work of creating state standards.

HB 756 was approved on a 71-43 vote largely along party lines with Republicans voting in favor of the bill and most Democrats against it.

The standards define what students are expected to know, understand and be able to do by the end of each grade or course. The state Department of Public Instruction currently recommends to the State Board of Education the concepts to include in the standards.

Rep. Julie von Haefen, a Wake County Democrat, said the state board already has an effective process for revising and updating the standard course of studies that’s led by professional educators with input from a variety of stakeholders.

“This proposed commission would diminish the state board’s authority by delegating the standards development process to a legislatively appointed commission,” von Haefen said.

Rep. Julie von Haefen

Von Haefen is concerned about a provision in the bill that requires changes in standards adopted by the state board to be submitted to the General Assembly. The board must then wait 30 days before implementing them. The changes adopted could not take effect if legislation is filed during the waiting period to block them.

“This essentially gives the General Assembly a veto over changes to the standard course of study, and it gives a single member the ability to greatly delay a change to the standard course of study,” von Haefen said.

HB 756 injects politics into public schools and the K-12 curriculum, von Haefen said.

“This General Assembly should let professional educators and the state board continue to develop our state standards,” she said.

HB 756 also requires the commission to review the state’s social studies course of study during the 2023-24 school year and to bring recommendations to the state board no later than Jan. 1, 2025.

Those standards sparked partisan debate in 2021 when conservative lawmakers and their state appointees complained that the new social studies standards paint a picture of America as a racist nation.

Supporters of the standards argued that the standards offer students multiple viewpoints and perspectives about the nation’s history.   

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Greg Childress
Greg Childress

Education Reporter Greg Childress covers all aspects of public education in North Carolina, including debates over school funding, curricula, privatization, and teacher pay and licensing.