Governor Cooper signs three bills into law that address educational challenges exacerbated by the pandemic

volunteer mentors student as part of Friends in Schools Helping program
volunteer mentors student as part of Friends in Schools Helping program(WVIR)
Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 5:50 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - With the pandemic adding challenges to educational progress for numerous students this past year, many families have been wondering how their children will ever catch up.

The three bills signed into law by Governor Cooper Friday will help bridge the growing gap in academic achievement.

The Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021 uses in-classroom instruction, reading camps, other reading interventions, and data collection to provide consistent, high-quality literacy instruction that will address gaps in reading literacy for Pre-K through 3rd grade students.

Governor Cooper said in a statement, “Learning to read early in life is critical for our children and this legislation will help educators improve the way they teach reading. But ultimate success will hinge on attracting and keeping the best teachers with significantly better pay and more help in the classroom with tutoring and instructional coaching.”

Senate Bill 387, sponsored by three Republican Senators including Senator Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), builds on evidence-based learning legislation introduced by Sen. Berger in 2013.

“I want to thank Gov. Cooper for signing the ‘Excellent Public Schools Act’ into law,” said Sen. Berger in a statement. ”We have a shared priority of ensuring our students are proficient in reading by the end of the third grade, and I believe this will move us closer to that goal. All of our students, but especially those who are struggling to read, will benefit from the improved literacy instruction and interventions,”

Data from research studies shows children’s future academic and post-education success is directly impacted by reading comprehension by third grade. The Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021 outlines literacy interventions, individual reading plans, reading camps, and the Science of Reading as critical to improving reading and comprehension with instruction beginning as early as possible.

Sen. Lee sponsored the bill as he believes having the necessary programs and interventions will give teachers and parents the tools to help children flourish.

“I’m thankful Gov. Cooper signed the ‘Excellent Public Schools Act’ into law today,” said Lee in an email. “Significant time, energy and collaboration went into crafting this bill to ensure that students are proficient in reading by the end of the third grade. I’m proud to be one of the authors of this groundbreaking legislation that will have an impact on generations of North Carolina children and set them on a path for success.”

House Bill 82 establishes federally funded school extension learning recovery and enrichment programs to provide extended-learning, in-person instruction for K-12 students whose learning has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Summer Learning Choice for NC Families program is voluntary and offers additional instruction over the summer for students identified as at-risk of falling behind. The program will be provided in local schools and will include instruction, transportation, meals, and physical activity.

House Bill 53 applies to students of military personnel and authorizes attendance in a local school to ensure continuous enrollment regardless of the military orders of the parent. Additionally, it clarifies continuous enrollment for high school students once they are admitted to a state institution of higher education.

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