After some debate, a bill that would allow five of North Carolina’s lowest-performing schools to be taken over by the state as part of a major rehabilitation effort passed on May 25 in the House Committee for K-12 Education.

House Bill 1080,  Achievement School District, which was introduced last year by Rep. Rob Bryan, R-Mecklenburg, will move to the House floor for a vote. It is modeled after similar programs enacted in Tennessee and Louisiana that allow failing public schools to be removed from their original districts and placed under the supervision of an ASD superintendent. As part of the ASD, each school would be operated by a charter school management company and would operate under a more flexible school calendar.

The ASD would remain under the supervision of the North Carolina State Board of Education, which would be responsible for general oversight, and for holding ASD administrators accountable to the state.

Some debate surrounded the bill, with several legislators and members of the public questioning the wisdom of a government takeover of any low-performing school. Bryan, however, stood his ground during rounds of questioning, pointing to a history of sustained school failure as a reason to move forward with the legislation.

“For me, every year the kid stays in one of these failing schools is a year that is lost,” Bryan. “So we have an opportunity to make some impact in a much faster fashion than we’ve had [before]. Even in the sponsoring of this bill, you’ve seen lots of activity start happening because people realize that we’re focusing on this, and it’s a concern to us. Years of failure is bad for kids, and it’s our responsibility to make sure the dollars we’re spending, especially at these schools, are making great impacts for kids.”

While highlighting schools that could be assigned to the ASD, the bill contains other provisions designed to help boost the performance of failing schools that may not fall into the ASD category. Those options include Innovation Zones and the Principal Turnaround Model.

Innovation Zones would allow a local school board to create a modified schedule with some extra flexibility for up to three additional low-performing schools in its district — provided that one of the district’s schools already is in the ASD. That school board then must meet certain goals for student achievement and report those results to the State Board of Education each year.

The Principal Turnaround Model would allow a local board to reform a low-performing school by firing that school’s principal and replacing him or her with a “turnaround” principal who has a stronger track record. Such a hiring choice would require approval from the State Board of Education.

H.B. 1080 is not on the House calendar but could be taken up at any time.