Education

Governor signs reprieve on smaller class sizes

The deal to ease reductions required for elementary school class sizes won final legislative approval on Thursday as lawmakers sought to save art and physical education classes.

The House voted 112-3 on House Bill 13. Gov. Roy Cooper signed it soon after it passed.

A public education advocacy group, Public Schools First NC, wanted the House to reject the bill to get a promise of future state funding for art and P.E., but no serious objection materialized among House members.

Some 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. Some districts were preparing to lay off art and P.E. teachers so they could hire more classroom teachers.

Cooper said in a statement that Republicans in the legislature should invest more in education.

"While this legislation addresses immediate concerns, the failure of legislative Republicans to properly fund our schools has risked the jobs of educators and jeopardized our children’s future,” Cooper said. “It’s imperative that we quit kicking the can down the road.”

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.

The deal announced Monday requires smaller classes this fall, but not as small as originally intended.

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, a Republican from Wilkes County, said the information the bill requires school districts to give the state on teachers and how they’re funded will help the legislature figure out how to pay for classroom teachers and art, P.E., and other “enhancement” teachers.

In a statement, Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, called the bill “a short term, stop-gap measure.” A long-term solution will require raising per-pupil spending to the national average, Jewell said.

 

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner

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