Officials from Sampson County Schools are showing support for a bill designed to give schools flexibility on class sizes.
Impending legislation from House Bill 13 will require districts to have a set number of students in K-3 classrooms for the 2018-2019 school year. Currently, for the kindergarten level, it’s one teacher for 18 students and 16 students for a single first-grade educator. For second and third grades, it’s 17 students per teacher. Many school school leaders throughout the state believe this requirement may be a money problem, since no financial plan was established.
N.C. Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) recently filed a bill with the original language, but was re-written to allow a little more space for student totals. It reads that the average class size for K-3 grades will not exceed the funded allotment ratio by more than three students. At the end of the second school month and for the remainder of the year, it should not exceed the ratio by six students.
“We need to solve the class-size problem now, not next month, and not during the short session,” Chaudhuri stated in a news release. “We need to solve this problem now.”
Like many other opponents, Chaudhuri believes the mandate could be a financial burden for school districts.According to figures in the bill sponsored bury Chaudhuri and other supporters, it’s estimated that North Carolina would need an additional 4,750 teachers and that would cost $300 million. According to previous estimates, it’s 30 teachers for Sampson County Schools (SCS) with a cost of $1.5 million.
Dr. Eric Bracy, superintendent of Sampson County Schools, supports the idea presented by Chaudhuri.
“Anything that give us more flexibility as school systems, I fully support,” Bracy said. “We said all along that if you asked any superintendent in North Carolina if they’re for smaller classes, they’ll say ‘yes.’
“But when a mandate like this comes along and there’s no funding attached, it makes it difficult to implement,” Bracy said.
Another concern is that the class-size mandate would take away funding for positions associated with art, music and physical education.
“Our district is supportive of enhancements, particularly the arts,” Bracy said. “We don’t want anything to jeopardize the arts in our school system.”
Wendy Cabral, SCS assistant superintendent of personnel services, applauded Chaudhuri’s comments related to passing a law and not putting money behind it.
“Sampson County Schools believes in providing smaller class sizes while also offering enhancements classes including physical education, music and art,” Cabral said. If the law goes into effect on July 1 as written, our current funding can’t provide for both smaller class sizes (16-18 students per K-3 class) and enhancement classes.
Cabral said the Sampson district does not have the additional elementary teachers and classrooms required to implement the law. For the current 2017-2018 school year, laws allowed an average of 19 to 21 for K-3 rooms. Enhancement classes also continued through funding.
“It is our hope to see this same flexibility in 2018-2019,” Cabral said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.