NCGA Mandate Could Mean Fewer Specialty Teachers, Larger Class Sizes After 4th Grade
In a legislative mandate, there was a new formula for smaller class sizes for grades K-3 in North Carolina. Specialty teachers, like music and art teachers, would likely have to be cut and it would cost millions to hire new teachers to account for the smaller classes and to build more classrooms at every school. This will likely be discussed in the legislature's long session beginning in January, however it appears when passing this that legislators didn't consider the repercussions.
“Lower class sizes are desired, but how the legislature has chosen to implement them presents significant challenges for districts and will result in either local budget cuts or local governments may have to increase taxes to pay for this change,” said Todd LoFrese, assistant superintendent for support services for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
According to LoFrese, Chapel Hill-Carrboro district enrollment—which exceeds 12,000—is currently at capacity and additional classrooms would be “impossible” to build by next year. LoFrese added that the district would also have to funnel an additional $3 million in local cash to fund teacher supplements for new positions and maintain specialty courses.
Other districts are reporting similar headaches. This month, Cartner told school board members in his rural district, which serves nearly 6,000 students, that they may have to choose between axing specialty courses, increasing class sizes in grades 4-12 or asking for a hefty injection of cash from their local board.
Cartner said his district would need at least 20 new teachers to meet the new funding formula requirements, an increase that would cost the small district roughly $1 million, not including the possibility of even greater costs if the district were forced to expand to house new teachers.
“I dare say we would not be able to come up with 20 new classrooms,” said Cartner. “Creating new classrooms out of thin air would be an exercise in futility.”
In some of the state’s larger districts, which far outstrip Elizabeth City-Pasquotank in terms of enrollment, the impacts are expected to be much more expensive.