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New wave of education policies ahead

Legislators are preparing for a wave of new education policies that will envelop students and their teachers.

Lawmakers plan to revisit some ideas they flirted with last year, including taxpayer support for private school education and changes in teacher tenure laws.

One of the first education proposals to come up will be a bill that will create the option of vocational high school diplomas that will declare students who earn them ready for community college.

Gov. Pat McCrory campaigned on enhanced high school vocational education, and legislators who support the idea say their plan will clearly identify students who have prepared for community college and technical careers.

Lawmakers have been working on a proposal to create three types of high school diplomas, said Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican and co-chairman of Senate Education Committee. He said students would earn diplomas with one of three “endorsements”: vocational/technical, college-bound or both.

The session also might be notable for considering ideas that have never been formally debated.

After eliminating the charter-school limit of 100 schools two years ago, the legislature may consider allowing school districts to convert traditional schools to charter schools and approve outside groups’ charter applications as opposed to having the State Board of Education do it.

“We’ve got to think outside the box,” Tillman said.

Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, will push a more detailed proposal for changing teacher tenure laws. He specifically mentioned a Colorado plan that ties teachers’ employment to their evaluations.

Rep. Paul Stam, an Apex Republican, is working on another proposal for paying private school tuition for students who leave public schools, either through direct payments or state-funded bank accounts accessible to parents.

“Someone will present a bill that will allow private school choice with some income limitation,” he said.

Staff writer Lynn Bonner

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