A measure fast-tracked through the N.C. House on Wednesday, June 9 would delay implementation of new social studies standards that focus on racism, identity, and discrimination.

Under Senate Bill 654, the revised social studies standards would not go into effect until the 2022-23 school year. The standards had drawn criticism from Republicans — including Lt. Gov. Mark Robison, who called them “politically charged” and “divisive” — before the Democrat-controlled State Board of Education approved them in February.

The House passed the bill Wednesday, 74-34.

“Delaying the adoption of the standards is a sensible decision, given that board members have yet to approve a package of supplementary resources and materials that the State Board delayed due to the identification of numerous deficiencies in the documents,” said Dr. Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation.

The new standards add a particular focus on “indigenous, religious, gender and racial groups” as early as the second grade. They also redefine racism, moving away from personal prejudice and toward a “complex system of racial hierarchies and inequities.”

Before the new standards were approved by the education board, some of the most controversial language was toned down: “Systemic racism” was replaced with “racism,” while “gender identity” was revised to “identity.”

S.B. 654 would also make key COVID-19 learning loss adjustments, including distributing $1,000 grants to disadvantaged students in need of tutoring, instructional materials, or other services.

Additionally, the measure delays a scheduled reduction in the size of kindergarten classes for the fall in anticipation of an influx of new student enrollments after a year of remote learning. And the measure waives school performance reporting requirements for the 2020-21 school year due to the effects of COVID-19 and prohibits the State Board of Education from using 2020-21 data to identify low-performing schools.

Stoops criticized a provision of the bill that imposes a 10% cap on virtual academy enrollment.

“Families should have access to online learning if they believe it offers the best educational environment for their children,” he said.