A delay in extensive public school class-size reductions cleared a key hurdle Tuesday with the Senate approving a compromise that will spare elementary art and music classes from deep cuts for at least a year.
School districts were having trouble meeting a requirement to lower maximum class sizes in kindergarten through third grade from 24 students to between 19 and 21 students beginning this fall. The limits were written into the budget.
The House wanted to continue to allow larger classes, but Senate Republicans are suspicious of how districts are spending money intended to help lower class sizes.
Districts were preparing to cut art, music and physical education teachers to help pay for more classroom teachers.
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A deal announced Monday will require smaller classes this fall, but not as small as originally intended.
The Senate passed the bill 47-2, although some Democrats said it just puts off cuts to art, music, and PE for a year. Democrats lamented that Republicans avoided putting in writing the promise that the state would pay for those teachers beginning in 2018.
Sen. Mike Woodard, a Durham Democrat, compared the problem to the movie “Groundhog Day,” whose characters relive the same day over and over.
Without the commitment to fund art and music, “we’re going to be reliving ‘Groundhog Day’ next year with these teachers,” Woodard said.
Republicans said that they don’t know how much art and music teachers will cost because superintendents would not say how much districts are spending on them.
“What we’ve got to do is decide what it will cost to get enhancement teachers that are truly needed,” said Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican. “There’s a lot of hiding the facts and figures on their part. For us to speculate now would be crazy.”
The bill now goes back to the House, where the bill’s sponsors have agreed to the changes.