K-3 Class Size Restrictions Delayed One Year
On February 8, Republican legislative leaders introduced HB90, allowing a phase in plan for smaller class sizes in grades K-3 until 2021-22 instead of the rigid mandate for the 2018-19 school year. In addition, legislators included in the bill a new allotment for enhancement teachers that grows to about $246 million by FY 2021-22. This funding is calculated on one enhancement teacher for every 191 students in grades K-5. School districts welcomed this additional funding while noting that many districts currently have a lower ratio with more teachers than this allotment pays for currently employed, meaning the legislature again fails to fully fund these teachers. House Bill 90 is awaiting Governor Cooper’s signature.
School officials and parents across North Carolina have been loud and vocal in their concerns about meeting the mandates to reduce class sizes by this school year. Since 2016, school districts reported to NCGA members the need for thousands of extra classrooms. They also reported they would be forced to fire arts, music, world languages and PE teachers to pay for additional K-3 teachers needed to meet the mandates. Further, school officials said they could not recruit and hire enough experienced, qualified teachers in time to lead the additional K-3 classes.
More on HB90
House Bill 90 also includes a plan to eliminate the Pre-K waiting list by adding funding for approximately 3,000 additional Pre-K seats over the next two years. This funding will expand NC Pre-K funding by about $26 million in FY 2019-20, growing to $36 million in FY 20-21. This replaces the nearly 6,000 slots cut since 2011. This funding is a positive step forward and validates the value of children coming to kindergarten better prepared to learn. Pre-K has a positive long-term effect on academic success for children who participate in the program. Some Pre-K experts think more funding will be needed to eliminate the waiting list, but all agree that this is a solid step forward.
House Bill 90 includes two other education funding provisions.
Low-wealth schools in counties “directly impacted by placement of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) within their respective jurisdictions shall receive the benefit of any funds provided or gifted for the benefit of the State or the people of the State as a result of the ACP.” This money had been earmarked to mitigate any environmental impacts caused by the pipeline. The schools in this district currently need more funding. That funding should not be tied to unreliable sources from a negotiated settlement that may not be forthcoming since it is an agreement that can be abandoned without legal consequences. Next year when the biennial budget is developed, it must include improved funding for all low-wealth school districts as outlined in the Leandro case (that all children must have access to sound basic education).
HB90 is expanding VOUCHERS—Eligibility for Personal Education Savings Accounts (PESA) was also included in HB90, which expands the eligibility criteria for the Personal Education Savings Accounts (PESAs) voucher program, granting eligibility to grade 2-12 students who had not previously been enrolled in a public school. Expanding eligibility will lead to the need to expand the funding for this program and does not “save the state” money with this new eligibility plan. This type of program has been rife with abuse in other states, and will expand privatization of public education.
What is Class Size Chaos?
The North Carolina General Assembly included new class size restrictions for grades K-3 in the 2017-18 budget, requiring school districts to reduce those class sizes while simultaneously taking away the funding flexibility districts have long relied upon to fund enhancement teachers for art, music, PE and world languages in those schools. The only funding for those positions was districts’ flexibility to use the classroom teacher allotment for enhancement teachers. The unfunded mandate leaves school districts to find more classroom space and hire more teachers to comply with the mandate, and potentially means the loss enhancement teachers.
Read our Quick Facts: Understanding Class Size Chaos to learn more.
- Quick Facts: Understanding Class Size Chaos
- K-3 Class Size Mandate, Wake PTA & PSFNC, Dec. 13, 2017
- K-3 Class Size Webinar NCPTA & PSFNC, Dec. 7, 2017
- K-3 Class Size Conversation (Facebook Live), NC Justice Center & PSFNC, Dec. 18, 2017
- Top 10 class size chaos talking points by Kris Nordstrom, Dec. 18, 2017
- NC School Board Association Resolution Regarding K-3 Class Size Reduction Implementation, Nov. 12, 2017
- The Unraveling: Poorly Crafted Education Policies Are Failing North Carolina’s Children (NC Justice Center report includes analysis of multiple failures in mandating K-3 class size reductions), Dec. 2017
- Class Size Chaos Report by The Education & Law Project
Last updated Feb. 15, 2017