Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Class Size Cut Puts Some Courses at Risk; Lawmakers Seek Fix

— School leaders around North Carolina warn that nonessential courses, such as art and music, may have to be cut next year because of a state law reducing class sizes in early grades.

Lawmakers added a provision in the state budget last summer requiring schools to make steep cuts in class sizes for kindergarten through third grade, starting next fall. Kindergarten classes, for example, would have to shrink from a maximum of 24 students to 19.

Some local school administrators said the change would force them to find money to hire more teachers and to expand schools to hold the additional classes. Others said they would likely have to get rid of non-core areas, including music, art and physical education, and increase class sizes in fourth grade and above to free up teaching positions and space.

To remedy what they call an unintended consequence of the budget provision, lawmakers are now looking at putting the class size cut on hold or giving schools more flexibility to exceed it.

More than two dozen House members filed a bill Wednesday that would allow schools to go over the cap by up to three students per class. That bill could be on the House flood as early as next week.

“County commissioners are getting ready in March to start their budgets. They’ve got to know the impact as far as local dollars will be. School systems will be starting their budget next month. So, everybody needs to know. We need to have this thing clarified,” said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph.

Tillman said he believes school districts aren’t using state funding properly. Lawmakers are studying how the state pays for teachers and how districts are using the money.

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