Some state lawmakers want to prevent North Carolina school districts from being able to cancel classes in the future to allow teachers to take off work to protest the legislature.
The state House Education budget released on Friday would change state law to say that schools can’t give permission for teachers to use personal leave on a school day unless they can confirm that a substitute teacher is available. School districts have cited the lack of substitutes to cancel classes, both for last year’s mass teacher rally and the one scheduled for May 1 in Raleigh.
“A local board of education shall not alter a school calendar once adopted unless necessary to address a severe weather condition, energy shortage, utility failure, public health crisis, school safety crisis, emergency related to a school building or school transportation, or act of God,” according to the budget documents.
At least 34 school districts and 10 charter schools representing a majority of the state’s 1.53 million public school students have canceled classes ahead of Wednesday’s protest in Raleigh.
Thousands of teachers are expected to march on the General Assembly to lobby for increased funding for education and Medicaid expansion.
Republican legislative leaders have been critical of the decision to hold the rally on a school day when more than 750,000 students will miss school. The GOP used its majority on the House Educations Appropriations Committee to reject Friday a budget amendment by Rep. Rosa Gill, a Democrat from Raleigh, to eliminate the changes in the personal leave language.
State law currently says that school districts have to grant leave requests if they’re made at least five days in advance and if a substitute is available. But districts often have been granting leave requests even if they’re not sure they’ll have enough subs.
Some districts though have been denying leave requests as they try to stay open May 1.
The budget prohibition was criticized by some teachers and other public education supporters, including the N.C. Association of Educators, which is organizing the May 1 march.
“We are deeply concerned about the attempt to prevent local boards of education from altering their schedules to accommodate local needs,” NCAE president Mark Jewell said in a statement. “The intent is clearly to prevent educators from coming to Raleigh to make our voice heard, as we will be doing on May 1.
“If lawmakers really want to stop educators from marching in Raleigh, they should work with us to address our legislative priorities in order to provide a high-quality, public education to all children in North Carolina.”