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N.C. Lawmakers Put Brakes on 'Open Enrollment' Bill

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A bill that would have cleared the way for North Carolina students to enroll in any public school in the state has been shelved.

Members of the state's Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee voted Monday to delay the bill, according to a story in the Charlotte Observer. Lawmakers opted to review the bill further and confer with local superintendents. Committee members told the newspaper that the legislation would not be considered for approval by the General Assembly this year.

The so-called "open enrollment" bill was modeled after the state's charter-school enrollment process, giving parents more freedom to choose which school their children may attend. Under the bill, school districts would be required to develop a plan granting parents permission to enroll their children in a school anywhere in the state. Not every request would be granted however, especially due to classroom overcrowding.

The open enrollment bill drew criticism from both parties. Rep. Edgar V. Starnes, the Republican majority leader, told the Observer the bill would have caused "utter chaos" for school districts because it would have been difficult to manage student enrollment. Democratic Rep. Marvin W. Lucas said offering "open enrollment" without providing bus transportation for students would have "widened the chasm between affluent schools and poor schools."

Meanwhile, according to the Observer, three bills did receive enough votes from the committee to be considered by the General Assembly. The bills would:

• Grant local school boards and individual schools in the University of North Carolina system the permission to preliminarily approve charter-school applicants. The state board of education would provide the final approval.

• Establish a charter-school applicant appeal process.

• Allocate $2.6 million to allow private-school and home-schooled students to take up to two free online courses a year from the N.C. Virtual Public School.

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