Bill delays new class size limits for 1 year
A bill recently passed by the North Carolina Legislature postpones new requirements for class sizes that would have put Mitchell County schools in a budgetary bind.
House Bill 13 approved Thursday, April 27, delays stricter limits on classroom size for grades K-3 until the 2018-2019 school year. Mitchell County Schools faced the possibility of needing three to four additional teachers in the fall with no extra funding for the positions without the change.
Maximum class size for grades K-3 will drop from its current limit of 24 students to between 19 and 21 students, depending on the grade, beginning in 2018-2019.
Lawmakers originally set the change, part of this past year’s state budget, for the 2017-2018 academic year, but did not include funding for more teachers. Resistance to the new requirements grew as school districts around the state realized a necessary cut to art and physical education educators to create funding for more classroom teachers.
“I think they’re going in the right direction,” said Chad Calhoun, Mitchell County Schools superintendent. “It’s a lot easier looking at having to cut one position instead of three or four.”
Calhoun thanked Mitchell’s state Rep. Josh Dobson and Sen. Ralph Hise for helping to revise the law.
Calhoun said the school district will have a better handle on how to deal with the changes in 2018 because the state will have its biannual budget set later this year.
The originally bill passed the House unanimously in February before it stalled for two months in the Senate.
A compromise on the bill was announced April 24 that includes requiring school districts to send information to the state about the duties of each teacher, the number of students assigned to each class and the number of program-enhancement teachers – those who teach arts, language, theater and physical education – to use for determining funding levels.
Gov. Roy Cooper signed the bill Thursday and released a statement in which he said the Republicans who control the House and Senate need to make investing in public education a priority.
“While this legislation addresses immediate concerns, the failure of legislative Republicans to properly fund our schools has risked the jobs of educators and jeopardized our children’s future,” Cooper said in a press release. “It’s imperative that we quit kicking the can down the road. Instead of continuing to offer tax giveaways to millionaires and giant corporations, I urge legislators to work with me to invest in our schools and make North Carolina a top-10 educated state.”
Republican House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore said the compromise responds to local education leaders and provides more transparency to taxpayers on how public schools spend hundreds of millions in increased funding provided by North Carolina House Republicans since 2012.
North Carolina Association of Educators President Mark Jewell said in a press release he was proud of the state’s educators, parents and residents for putting House Bill 13 in the spotlight.
“Without (the compromise), 5,500 arts, music, PE, world language teachers and teacher assistants would have lost the ability to educate the whole child,” he said. “This is a short-term, stop-gap measure. NCAE will not rest until next year to assure funding for these critical teaching positions. We will continue to fight for these resources in this year’s budget and for a long-term solution, which means elevating per-pupil spending to the national average. Senate leaders created this problem in last year’s budget, and it was shocking to hear some of the disrespectful rhetoric toward North Carolina’s school leaders who were trying to assure teachers had jobs.”