RALEIGH, N.C. Lawmakers added momentum Wednesday to bills that would let community colleges refuse to offer low-interest federal student loans and allow parents to protect their children from corporal punishment at school, as the North Carolina Legislature continued to winnow through changes to multiple education policies.
The House voted 107-9 to allow parents to tell school administrators not to paddle their child if they attend one of the 17 school districts in the state's southeast and west, where corporal punishment is practiced. The state has 115 public school districts. North Carolina is one of 19 states that allow corporal punishment.
"I think this is a good issue to put in the hand of parents," said Rep. Linda Johnson, R-Cabarrus.
The measure returns to the Senate after a House change. It passed the Senate unanimously last month.
The bill blocks corporal punishment from being administered on a student whose parent or guardian has objected to it in writing. Parents and guardians would receive a form to make their choice at the beginning of the academic year or when the student enters the school. Failing to return the form means paddling remains possible.
Last year, the first for which school districts were required to report data on corporal punishment, there were 1,160 cases statewide, led by Robeson County schools with 296 cases, the Department of Public Instruction said.
Current law requires paddling be administered away from view of other students by a teacher or principal, and under the observation of a witness.
A law passed last year allowed the parents of disabled students to opt-out if their local school district used corporal punishment. The new measure would extend that option to all parents,
The state Senate voted largely along party lines on three local bills designed to sidestep one of Gov. Beverly Perdue's vetoes. The measures would allow about two dozen community colleges to refuse to offer low-interest federal student loans. Perdue can't veto local bills.
Republicans are working to change a law that requires all 58 campuses in the nation's third-largest community college system to offer the loans beginning next month. College presidents have said they fear if student loan defaults go too high they'll lose all federal financial aid, something that rarely happens.
Lawmakers were also taking action on bills that would:
- allow parents to choose whether their twins or triplets are assigned together in the same classroom, a decision that had previously been left to school principals. The siblings can be separated if experience shows educators that keeping the children together proves disruptive. The bill passed the Senate and returns to the House.
- change laws governing how and why teachers can be fired, including specifying that inadequate performance means "performing in a manner that is below standard." The bill passed the House 115-0 and returns to the Senate.
- make it a firing offense for a school principal to not inform law officers if he or she knows or has been told by other school workers that a crime may have occurred on school property. Principals are required to report to police news of major crimes like assault, rape, or kidnapping, as well as weapons or drug possession. The bill passed the House vote and is headed to Perdue.
Emery Dalesio can be reached at -http://twitter.com/emerydalesio