Controversial changes in North Carolina's school calendar could be reconsidered next year, House Speaker Thom Tillis said Monday night.
The Cornelius Republican also indicated that another voter ID bill could be offered in the spring legislative session, and he suggested lawmakers will seek more money for early childhood education.
Tillis made the comments at a town hall meeting in Matthews, where he spoke to more than 100 people. For more than an hour he answered questions about everything from state Medicaid cuts to ferry rates to state-required auto inspections.
In response to a question about changes to the school year, he said lawmakers are likely to revoke the change passed earlier this year that would lengthen the school year by five days to 185.
Last week state school board members said the change should take effect when the new school year starts next August.
Supporters say the change will benefit student performance. Critics say five extra days will cost school districts thousands of dollars to, among other things, run school buses and heat or cool classrooms.
"My guess is that will likely come off the books next year," Tillis said. "I'd put the odds at 70 percent or 80 percent."
He said later the change could come with revisions to the state budget during the so-called short session of the legislature that starts in May.
Tillis also said lawmakers could try to pass a compromise voter ID bill next year.
The Republican-led General Assembly passed a bill requiring voters to have a photo ID, but Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed it. House Republicans have been unable to muster enough votes to override her veto.
Responding to a critic who said a voter ID would depress voter turnout, particularly among groups such as the elderly and African-Americans, Tillis said the requirement could instill more confidence in elections.
"Now more than ever you try to remove things that, they say after the election, can have people crying foul," he said.
He said a compromise could be in place for the 2012 election. Later he said a compromise could be fashioned on an earlier version of the bill, which would have allowed voters to use IDs without a photo.
Tillis also said lawmakers "disproportionately" cut money for early-childhood programs.
In the name of efficiency, lawmakers combined a pre-kindergarten program known as More at Four with Smart Start. Both are aimed at helping poor and at-risk students. They cut $16 million from the pre-kindergarten budget and $37.5 million from Smart Start.
Tillis said the money for students in third grade and younger is inadequate.
Asked about car inspections, Tillis said lawmakers might try to curb the program, saying "it's illogical" to require inspections of newer model cars. The Observer recently did a series on abuses in the car inspection program.
At least one listener later applauded the speaker's meeting. "The more openness we have in government, the better off we are," said Judy Kidd, president of the Classroom Teachers Association of North Carolina. "At least they're listening."