Commentary

NC teacher decries legislature’s class size scam, promotes January 6 rally to demand action

In case you missed it over the holiday weekend, be sure to check out the op-ed penned by Charlotte educator Justin Parmenter regarding the impending crisis in out public schools that is the result of the General Assembly’s bogus plan to mandate K-3 class size reductions without providing the money to do the job. As Parmenter explains in “N.C. Senate ignores the class-size crisis,” the upcoming January legislative session ought to be used to address the issue, but lawmakers continue to proffer bogus excuses. After debunking the claim by some that the issue is somehow ineligible for consideration in January, he concludes this way:

“Another argument being made to defend the lack of action on class sizes is the claim that the General Assembly has already funded K-3 class size reductions. During the October session, when the Senate declined to take up class sizes, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said ‘those reductions have already been fully funded.’ Yet the technical corrections bill introduced at that same session admits the additional teaching positions have not been funded, stating the GA intends to ‘fund a new allotment for program enhancement teachers … beginning with the 2018-2019 fiscal year.’ Local school districts are still waiting for the $293 million needed to avoid the slashing of arts and physical education programs that may be required to adhere to the unfunded mandate.

Finally, despite failing to provide one specific example, a number of senators have contended they are reluctant to move on class size because school districts have misspent funds that were intended to reduce class sizes in the past. Senate majority leader Harry Brown said, ‘It’s obvious to us that money has been spent on something other than class size reduction,’ while education committee chair Chad Barefoot asked, ‘What did they do with the money?’ Using data readily available from the Department of Public Instruction, former NCGA fiscal analyst Kris Nordstrom determined that school districts spent more than 99.97 percent of their classroom teacher allotments on teachers for school year 2016-2017. The claim that districts have mishandled funds is simply a smokescreen.

The vast majority of school districts in North Carolina are required by statute to submit budgets to their county commissions by May 15. If the Senate is unwilling to repeal the unfunded class size mandate well in advance of that date, districts will be forced to take drastic action in order to comply with the law – including purchasing expensive mobile classrooms to provide the necessary additional space, cutting arts and physical education course offerings, and swelling class sizes at grades beyond 3rd. Concerned parents will gather at Halifax Mall, adjacent to the North Carolina State Legislative Building, on Jan. 6 to ask that the Senate stop making excuses and deal with the class-size crisis before it’s too late.”

For more information on the January 6 rally, click here to visit Save our Schools NC.

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