Proposed bill phases in smaller class sizes, removes Pre-K waiting list

RALEIGH, NC (WWAY/AP) — School districts across the state will have a little longer to reduce classroom sizes for grades K-3, under a new bill announced this afternoon.

Republican state lawmakers unveiled the bill which phases in smaller class sizes and lowers student-to-teacher ratios in kindergarten through third grade classrooms, provides millions of additional state dollars to fund special subject area teachers and eliminates the state’s Pre-K waiting list.

The chairs of the House and Senate education committees held a news conference this afternoon to discuss legislation that would push the mandate back until the 2021-2022 school year. This would allows schools time to take the necessary steps to meet the class size requirements.

Lawmakers passed a bill last year that would require smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. Under the law, the average class size in those grades would drop from 21 to 17.

This coming year, school districts would receive an additional $60 million in funding for program enhancement teachers, such as art and physical education.

By the time the mandate goes into effect, schools across the state will have received  nearly $250 million to fund special subject area teachers by the 2021-2022 school year.

“From parents to educators to lawmakers to Gov. Cooper, nearly everyone agrees that lowering class sizes is an important priority that will have a real positive impact on academic outcomes for our students,” said Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake.) “After months of work reviewing the data and hearing from stakeholders, I believe we’ve arrived at a data-driven solution that will achieve the smaller classes that we all support and that taxpayers have paid for, with a timeline and framework that our local schools should be able to implement successfully.”

This plan also includes a provision to eliminate the state’s PreK waitlist. Lawmakers say they have committed to put enough money aside to allow every eligible child access to the NC PreK program, adding close to 3,000 slots for low-income children to the program.

North Carolina Republicans have offered wide-ranging legislation that fixes anticipated class-size challenges next fall in the public schools, but is also loaded with other provisions that give Democrats heartburn.

A bill negotiated by House and Senate GOP leaders unveiled Thursday would phase in the lower averages over the next three years. But the measure also addresses an agreement related to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the combined elections and ethics board.

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