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by Emily Tamilin

In 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) passed a bill requiring class sizes for kindergarten through third grade (K-3) to be reduced over the next two years. While lower class sizes can help teachers provide more personalized instruction to children, the mandate could inadvertently hurt children because funding was not allocated to support this change.

The K-3 class size mandate comes at a high price; one that the NCGA seems unwilling to pay.

  1. CMS officials have estimated that the mandated K-3 class size reduction will require 353 additional teacher positions and cost over $20 million.
  2. North Carolina currently has over $1 Billion in reserves which could fund the K-3 class size reduction but the NCGA is forcing cash-strapped districts to make cuts—to the detriment of children—in order to implement the law in 2018.
  3. School districts across our state are scrambling to determine how they’ll reduce class sizes without additional funding for staff and space. Options under consideration include increasing class sizes for grades four and up; increasing the use of mobiles; cutting physical education, music, art, and language arts classrooms; and, using one classroom with two teachers for two classes of K-3 students. None of this will benefit our children, but districts have few options when it comes to funding the mandate.

One thing is certain: without action from the NCGA, the K-3 class size reduction obligation could have unintended, negative consequences for children.

Our state legislators are putting our school districts in a difficult position with no good options: either reduce class sizes and deprive students of a well-rounded educational experience in classrooms conducive to learning, or ignore the NCGA’s mandate and figure out how to pay the superintendent’s salary with local, rather than state, funds.

While the K-3 mandate is already law, there is still a chance to help our school districts. Our House Representatives indicated that they are willing to delay the mandate or allocate funds but our Senators show no interest in these options.

The NCGA will convene for a special session on January 10th where they can discuss modifying the K-3 class size mandate. As of this writing, there is no current plan to discuss funding and/or delaying or repealing implementation at the January special session.

Fixing this NCGA-created problem CANNOT wait until the short session convenes in May. Districts need time to adequately prepare budgets; work is done in the spring.  Our elected officials need to do more than just talk; they have an obligation to our children to either fund this policy or delay its implementation now, before more harm is done.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY

Take a moment to Contact your NC representatives and urge them to put this important issue on the agenda during the January special session. Let them know that you believe they have an obligation to our children to either fund this policy or delay its implementation.

Don’t Know What to Say?

Here’s a script to get you started but, remember, a personal touch goes a long way.

“My name is _[name]_ and I am a constituent who lives _[in city/near intersection]_. I’m calling to voice my support for the House’s attempts to discuss the K-3 class size mandate during the January special session.

“I urge you to discuss this important issue during the upcoming special session and ask the General Assembly either to delay the mandate to allow schools to better plan for this change or to appropriate adequate funds to carry out this change without depriving our children of a well-rounded education or overcrowding them in classrooms that aren’t conducive to learning.”

Find your NCGA Senator and Representative here.

READ MORE:

N.C. Republicans might waste $100 million just by dragging their feet – The Charlotte Observer

Where is the Money for Smaller Classes?  – Greensboro News & Record

Everything on the Table to Meet Class Size Mandate – BlueRide Now

Top Ten Class Size Chaos Talking Points – NC Policy Watch


Emily Tamilin serves as Director of Research and Policy at Council for Children’s Rights.

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