Republicans were so proud of their orders to cut class sizes in elementary schools in public classrooms in North Carolina. And, there’s no question that smaller classes are preferable, particularly for young children who may need intense instruction.
But, like so many actions from conservative lawmakers, the consequences of their actions were not thought out and not followed up with action.
Now teachers are worried about losing their jobs (for budget reasons) and schools are thinking about cutting arts classes and physical education classes to make up the money shortfall the smaller class initiative will create. James Daugherty, president of the state’s Music Educators Association, said, “It’s as though someone thought of this great idea but didn’t see how this would affect real people when it was implemented.”
And systems like Wake County are worried about how they’re going to maintain arts and P.E. programs and still follow the legislative mandate to cut class sizes.
Veteran Wake school board member Bill Fletcher, a Republican by the way, said, “Right now, we’re trying to figure out how we can continued to provide great arts services for our elementary schools. We’re working to undo this change because we believe most of the legislators who supported this didn’t understand the unintentional consequences of what they thought was a good decision.”
Fletcher said Wake County could have to come up with $27 million more dollars to keep the special programs and cut class sizes. Local systems have used the money saved from larger class sizes to fund those arts and P.E. programs. They’re not going to be able to have the classes in special programs and have the additional resources it will take to cut class sizes.
Rep. Craig Horn, a Republican, offered some wisdom for his colleagues in the GOP caucus: “It was not as fully thought through with regard to unintended consequences. So now we’ve got a chance to straighten it out and still have lower class sizes.”
Horn clearly knows what may be on the minds of other Republicans: If arts and P.E. classes are cut, parents are going to rise up, and loudly so, and they will demand that something be done. Legislators will have no choice but to listen, and the Republicans don’t want this to become a partisan issue, because they’ll lose if they don’t fix the potential problem.
Smaller classes are fine, great, constructive, a good idea. Arts and physical education are vital for many children. North Carolina’s public school students can have both. Lawmakers need to deliver.