The Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly’s latest bill to swiftly reopen schools falls flat in ensuring students across North Carolina have access to a safe and healthy learning environment. Senate Bill 37 leaves out various safety measures including funding to ensure health personnel are at each opened school, social distancing guidelines and funding for substitute teachers.
Legislators have been repeatedly shown over the years but refused to acknowledge, is that commands for action require understanding, planning, communication, resources and consensus. For some reason, legislators who often crow that local governance and decision-making is their strong bias, feel this one-size-fits-all solution is best. This legislation prevents communities from making their own assessment of local needs and conditions to make these sensitive decisions.
Last Thursday, Governor Roy Cooper called for the bill to include the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ guidelines for returning to in-person learning and wants local school districts to be able to respond to emergencies without being “hampered” by legislation, stating, “It is critical for teachers and students that we get this right”.
Gov. Cooper, along with the Republican state Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt have stressed their willingness to work with legislators to get students and educators back to schools while repeating that decisions on implementing returns to in-classroom instruction should be left to local school boards.
“Children should be back in the classroom safely and I can sign this legislation if it adheres to DHHS health safety guidance for schools and protects the ability of state and local leaders to respond to emergencies. This bill currently falls short on both of these fronts,” Cooper said.
Despite the governor’s repeated calls for legislators to comply with health and safety measures, Republican leaders in the NCGA seem to be focused more on confrontations than enacting a bill that would ensure adequate investments in health and safety of educators and students, with the consideration of science and safety measures in place.
Their continued efforts to refuse to pass common-sense measures, mirrors their reckless stunt in reopening schools last year — without the consideration of state and national health experts warnings.
Bottom Line: These safety measures are not excessive or radical. For the health and safety of our educators, students and parents, the NCGA needs to stand with Gov. Roy Cooper and enact meaningful legislation in order to guarantee safe and healthy learning environments for all.