Last year, the General Assembly passed its budget with a section that limited class sizes for grades K-3 starting with the 2017-18 school year. Unfortunately, the unintended consequences resulted in an un-funded mandate that would require thousands of new K-3 teachers in public schools across the state, and more than 400 teachers in the Wake County Public School System alone. WCPSS does not have the actual classrooms for these 400 new elementary classes, nor do the certified teachers for these classes exist.
HB13, a bill introduced to fix this problem, was approved by the NC House last week which adds language giving school districts the ability to exceed those limits by six students per class. Unfortunately, the bill is now stalled in a Senate committee and has not been voted upon. If signed into law, the changes will basically bring the class size limits in grades K-3 back to where they have been traditionally.
If this law is not passed by the Senate, WCPSS would have to add more than 400 new teachers in grades K-3 next school year, according to school system estimates. Paying for that would mean eliminating other classes like art, music, PE, media, technology, and more. Few of these specialist teachers are certified to teach outside of their specialty even though they are elementary school teachers. So, this law would put experienced teachers out of work while requiring the hiring of hundreds of new, and possibly inexperienced, elementary school teachers.
Two other problems exist in this situation. For starters, there just aren’t 400 elementary-certified teachers clamoring to find work. WCPSS started the 2016-17 school year with certified teaching vacancies at all levels under current conditions. Filling an additional 400 new elementary-only slots is impossible.
The second problem is space. WCPSS Superintendent James Merrill estimates the school system would need to build more than 20 new elementary schools to house all of these K-3 classes.
The NCPTA encourages its members to contact their State Senator to urge them to vote soon and to vote yes on HB13. Time is of the essence in the passage of the law, as WCPSS is currently planning its budget for next year. Without a clear path forward, the school system will have to plan for cuts to programming, a severe teacher shortage and somehow find new facilities to house new classrooms.
Go to www.ncleg.net to find email addresses, phone numbers and names of your representative in the North Carolina Senate.
(adopted from Wake Ed Partnership "In Context", 2/13/17. Read more at http://www.wakeed.org/in-context/k-3-class-size-limits/)