Several legislators send out regular updates on their work in the GA including Rep. Mary Belk, Rep. Cynthia Ball and Rep. Joe John. We’ve included this direct excerpt from Rep. John’s most recent posting because we believe it is important to hear directly from our representatives whenever possible.
“CLASS SIZE CHAOS CONTINUES
I continue to get hundreds of emails, literally daily, from parents across the state, including in District 40, concerned about the ramifications of the new school class size mandate.
To recap briefly, because the budget passed by the legislature in June—which I voted against—required each kindergarten-3rd grade classroom to have fewer students starting in the 2018-19 school year, the extra students from each current classroom must be assigned to new classrooms, obviously requiring more classroom spaces and additional teachers. No provision for any financial assistance to local schools was included in the budget, resulting in extreme budgetary difficulties for local school districts which some have called Class Size Chaos.
Locally, Wake County Public Schools, the largest system in the state, is facing the necessity of creating hundreds of new classrooms for the 2018-19 school year without additional funding from the state. This is causing headaches for teachers, administrators, and most importantly, students and their families. Among the solutions WCPSS has identified is reassigning students between schools to balance lower-grade populations. Understandably, that proposal is unpopular with parents and children who love their current schools and teachers. Also under consideration is moving art, music, and other “specials” teachers from permanent classrooms to mobile carts—or simply laying off many of these teachers, a highly unpalatable course. Indeed, in many of the schools I have visited, the most exciting and entertaining classes are those being conducted by “specials” teachers. Sorry to be partisan about this, but the blame rests solely with Republican legislators, particularly those in the Senate, who refuse to find a solution to help local schools comply with the mandate.
There are two ways of eliminating Class Size Chaos. The first is bipartisan. House Republicans, House Democrats, and Senate Democrats agree that local schools ought to have the flexibility to spend the limited state funds they receive. For reasons best known to themselves, Senate Republicans refuse to budge, and have signaled they will not consider this issue when the General Assembly comes back into session for a short time in January.
The second method should be bipartisan, but is not. While focusing on limited budgets, in many respects a commendable goal, the veto-proof majority has hyper-prioritized the growth of accumulated reserves. Yes, saving for a “rainy day” is also commendable, but North Carolina can do so while also investing in both lower class sizes and newer textbooks, in STEM teachers and in arts teachers. All North Carolina children need and deserve these vital services, not a stubborn refusal to act.
As I mentioned, the General Assembly will be back in session January 10th, but at this time, neither the potential length of session nor the agenda has been made public by leadership. Nonetheless, the session creates an opportunity to fix Class Size Chaos. I recommend contacting Senate leadership and your own state senator to advocate either a delay of the mandate or the provision of appropriate funding or flexibility to local districts.
North State Journal is a new resource for me and this article made me sign up as a subscriber. Entitled County Tier System Dictates Funding, the story explains the report generated by the NC Department of Commerce that ranks counties in to one of three tiers based on unemployment rates, median household income, population growth and property values. It details how funding decisions are made based on this information and how some believe it is time to develop a new system.
Courageous women step up! NC Democrats announce new candidates, and they’re almost all women. Get ready to step up to help these women in their campaigns next year.