NC Senate committee to discuss compromise on K-3 class size limits

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — There could finally be some movement in the North Carolina Senate on a bill that would ease the burden’s of a budget requirement to cap class sizes in kindergarten, first, second and third grade classrooms across the state.

According to a news release from the office of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), tonight at its 6 p.m. meeting, the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee will discuss a House Bill 13 compromise that would preserve the Senate’s goal of reducing K-3 class sizes while also addressing local schools’ concerns about unintended potential consequences of implementation. The release says the proposal would also strengthen accountability measures to ensure state tax dollars intended to reduce class size are used for that purpose.

Last year’s state budget put a cap on class sizes at 18 for kindergarten, 16 for first grade, and 17 for second and third grade. But educators across the state say the move would cost millions of dollars and have complained that many schools don’t have enough teachers or classrooms to handle the changes. Some districts have said they might have to cut gym, music and art teachers to have enough classroom teachers. New Hanover County Superintendent Tim Markley said his district would need 48 new positions, while Pender County estimates needing an extra 25 teachers. A Brunswick County Schools spokeswoman said earlier this year this district would need 47 more teachers.

According to the Senate news release, the changes to House Bill 13, proposed by Sens. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake), David Curtis (R-Lincoln) and Michael Lee (R-New Hanover), would phase in implementation of class size reductions over the next two school years by:

  • Requiring local school districts to achieve a district-wide average class size of 20 students in grades K-3 and a single class maximum of 23 students in the 2017-18 school year; and
  • Requiring local school districts to achieve a district-wide average class size in grades K-3 that is equal to the teacher-to-student ratio currently in law and being funded by the state (either 18, 16 or 17 students, depending on the grade level) and a single class maximum of three above that number in the 2018-19 school year.

The phase-in is supported by authors of the original House bill and the N.C. Association of School Administrators, the release says.

According to the Senate release, since 2014, local school districts across the state have received a total of $152 million to lower class sizes, and every year, they are guaranteed about $70 million in recurring dollars. But the release says not all school systems have used the extra funding to reduce class sizes, and many systems could not or would not provide data on how they spent the money

Educators have pushed for legislators to adopt HB 13. If passed, the proposed legislation would allow schools to go over the caps by three to six students within the first two months of school. The House adopted the bill unanimously earlier this year, but it has been stuck in the Senate since.

Stay with WWAY for updates on this story.

Categories: Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Local, New Hanover, News, Pender

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