Senators mulling HB13 need to listen to educators

Public schools cannot afford to lose programs like art and music, classes which help make for a rounded child and, in many cases, offer arenas for young people to find their educational footing and, thus, success that keeps them in school and keeps them trying.

Yet that’s the road educators are being forced to travel these days as legislation approved last year moves closer to implementation.

That law reduces class sizes for grades K-3 in all non-charter public schools in the state. Taken on face value, the law is a good one, doing exactly what most, including educators, believe is needed. But the rub comes in what’s lacking from the mandate — funding. It was an unintended hindrance. No one thought about the additional space that would be needed when the class size was whittled down or where those extra classrooms would go.

Now, as implementation looms on the horizon, the realities have closed in: lower class sizes means the need for more classrooms and, thus, more teachers, all which costs money that was not built into the law.

And therein lies the problem. As school officials began looking at the reductions the law required and counting the additional teaches that would be needed, the red flags began to pop up.

In Sampson County, for example, an additional 26 teachers would be needed to fulfill the class size obligation. Estimated cost – $1.52 million. And where those teachers would be housed isn’t even factored into that equation, another likely problem.

For Clinton City, the numbers are much smaller — between 4-6 educators — but the problem is still just as daunting.

It rings just as true at other schools across the state. And that’s what is leaving educators in a quandary and programs such as art and music dangling close to the chopping block.

With other school funding cuts, like Low Wealth reductions, also in the mix, school systems like Sampson and Clinton City, are under immense pressure to meet the mandates, provide the critical needs and find the funding to do so.

And that’s why so-called non-essential classes are perilously close to getting the ax. While we contend that art and music are essential, we understand that math and science skills have a heavier weight. We just don’t want to see any of them cut.

House Bill 13 basically takes care of the problem, restoring flexibility in class sizes and giving educators breathing room to make choices that a non-funded mandate simply won’t allow.

The problem is the Senate hasn’t considered the bill yet. Many think they won’t entertain it. We would like to think they are wrong, giving senators credit for putting student needs first and listening to those who have far more insight into educational matters than they do.

Class size is important, but so are arts and music programs. In fact, given the choice in what shapes students more, we’d choose art and music every time.

We urge our state senators to listen to educators, assess the House bill which was designed, by Republicans and Democrats, to address the problems with the initial class-size law and pass it as soon as possible so educators across the state can plan wisely for the 2018-19 school year.