News, Special Session

Legislators move to address major impacts of mandated class size reductions

Lawmakers in a House education committee have signed off on a hastily arranged fix to a budding problem for North Carolina public schools.

House Bill 13, co-sponsored by a handful of influential House Republicans, will seek to address a problem covered in detail in a November Policy Watch report. 

It’s not a simple problem, but put as simply as possible, lawmakers’ mandated class size reductions in grades K-3 would have the impact of forcing local districts to spend millions more hiring teachers or nix teachers in “specialty” subjects such as arts, music and physical education.

Smaller class sizes are a largely bipartisan agenda item in Raleigh, but critics said lawmakers did not account for all of the impacts when they forced through smaller class sizes.

“There’s one school of thought that this is another strike against public schools,” Larry Cartner, superintendent of Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools told Policy Watch in November. “There’s another that the legislature didn’t know what it was doing. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.”

The legislative “fix” filed Wednesday offers some flexibility on a state law forbidding districts’ average class sizes from surpassing the state’s preferred funding ratio, which ranges from 1 teacher per 16 students to 1 teacher per 18 students in grades K-3.

The measure seems to have the support of both local school board advocates and lawmakers. It’s bound for the House floor in the coming hours.

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