RALEIGH — Gov. Beverly Perdue promised teachers Friday that she would fight proposals to deal with the state's budget shortfall by increasing the average number of students in public school classrooms.
One more student to a classroom would eventually grow to two, three, or four more, Perdue said, giving teachers less time with each student.
"The language around increasing class size is slick and smooth talk," Perdue, a Democrat, told teachers at the N.C. Association of Educators convention in downtown Raleigh.
Republican leaders in the legislature have proposed increasing class size by two students, to bring the average size in North Carolina to 23. They said such a change would save the state $300million a year, and that there is no evidence that smaller class sizes make better schools.
Republicans presented their ideas as alternatives to Perdue's budget, which proposes higher tobacco and alcohol taxes, spending cuts and an influx of federal stimulus money to patch an anticipated $3.4billion shortfall in the state's $21billion budget.
Perdue has said repeatedly that she intends to protect education from state budget cuts, but public schools are still likely to show the strain brought on by the severe recession. School districts are talking about laying off teachers and cutting programs for struggling students.
Even teachers at the convention who said they were not worried about their jobs feared what the budget crunch could mean for having basic school supplies.
Annie Reid, a media coordinator in Durham, said she anticipates some supply shortages at her elementary school, where many students cannot afford to buy their own materials.
Perdue pledged to back what she called NCAE priorities.
Her proposed budget includes money for teacher step increases -- pay raises based on qualifications and experience.
Perdue's mention of her proposal to cut $2million in money for state testing to eliminate "unnecessary or duplicative tests" drew applause from the crowd.
She received an enthusiastic reception. The NCAE was a strong backer last year of Perdue's campaign for governor.
Perdue invited the teachers to visit the Executive Mansion. As she left, "Bev!" twirled in red on screens on each side of the stage.