A new school year, the same problems. The North Carolina General Assembly wants smaller K-3 class sizes, however, they refuse to fund smaller class sizes. This means students in grades 4 and above will experience bigger class sizes in the coming years to accommodate this new law that will be put into effect 2018-2019. Teachers will likely have classes in trailers and schools may have to cut their art and PE teachers. Not only this but while some teachers have been given small raises this year ($25-30 a month), they weren’t given supply stipends, meaning they still have to buy the majority of supplies for their students with their own paychecks.
Last year, parents and school officials spoke out against a state law that requires schools to cut class sizes in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Their concerns got the cuts pushed back to 2018, but districts have to spend the next year figuring out where to put hundreds of new classrooms.
The rule, originally a part of the 2016 state budget, required schools to have a maximum 18 students in kindergarten, 16 students in first grade and 17 students in second and third grades. Before that, K-3 classes could have up to 24 students. After school leaders said they would be forced to cut arts and PE teachers to make room for more, smaller classes, North Carolina legislators passed a compromise that bumped the cuts back a year.
Legislators also said they would consider giving more money to arts and PE, but this year’s state budget does not do that. The budget became law June 28 after Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto was overridden; advocacy group Save Our Schools has since created an “N.C. Education Pledge,” asking legislators to commit to arts and PE funding.
Brunswick County Schools has already made the required K-3 cuts, adding a mobile classroom to Belville Elementary and converting computer labs at other schools to classrooms.
“We are fortunate that reductions to our fine arts and physical education programs were never part of the conversation in Brunswick County,” Superintendent Les Tubb wrote in an email. “Class sizes in grades 4-12 will be impacted this school year with even more significant impact in the 2018-19 school year.”
New Hanover County School leaders say they could have to do a planned redistricting a year early — in 2018 — if the K-3 cuts move forward. Pender County Schools Superintendent Terri Cobb said Pender schools have started looking for more classroom space.
“With several schools over capacity, meeting the requirements of recent K-3 class size legislation that goes into effect in 2017-18 and will be fully implemented in 2018-19 has caused us to convert spaces such as media centers and computer labs in these schools,” Cobb wrote in an email.
As it has in every recent budget cycle, teacher pay is likely to be a hot political topic again this year.
The budget passed this summer gives teachers an average pay raise of 3.3 percent this year, and an average 9.6 percent over the next two years.
The raises favor teachers with more years of experience, with some of the largest raises coming around the 15-year and 21-year ranges. Beginning teachers would not get a raise, while teachers with one and two years of experience would get $25 and $30 more each month, respectively.
Absent from the budget is a stipend for teachers to help them buy classroom supplies, something Cooper had pushed for.