Special Edition -

Eagle Email
January 8, 2018

Districts are scrambling to meet new requirements by initiating layoffs and eliminating enhancement teachers.
Controversy over class-size requirements in early grades emerged as the biggest issue facing North Carolina’s public schools in the 2017 legislative session. Current law requires school districts (also known as local education agencies, or LEAs) to reduce class sizes in grades K-3 in the upcoming 2018-19 school year. However, the General Assembly has failed to provide the funding necessary to allow districts to meet the class size goals.

Special Session
The NCGA will return to Raleigh on January 10, 2018 for a special session. When they return, we are asking legislators to solve #ClassSizeChaos! Absent General Assembly action thus far, Districts are scrambling to meet the requirements by initiating layoffs and eliminating enhancement teaching positions (Specials) in subjects like art, physical education, and music, planning to double up classes (e.g. 2 classes / 2 teachers per classroom, trailers, 'mobile' classrooms on carts).
“In order to comply with this new class size requirement, schools will need to hire additional teachers and place them in additional classrooms. In CMS alone, this would mean 353 new teachers at an estimated cost of $23.3 million per year . In order to comply with the legislation, (CMS) would have to acquire and install an additional 200 trailers at an estimated cost of $20 million .”   
CMS Board Member
Make Your Voice Heard
Urge our Representatives to make it a priority to FIX #ClassSizeChaos ahead of the special session. Make contact with our Representatives through direct email, by signing an on line petition, using social media, or ALL of these.
Find out more about the issues, then BE VOCAL! Below are links to organizations advocating for Legislative action. Join their voices and/or send your own letter.

- Information and an editable, online petition

- #ClassSizeChaos on January 9

#ClassSizeChaos - In Depth
A Brief History
Instead of going all the way back to 2012 when the original legislation was introduced, let's fast forward to the 2017-18 budget. The North Carolina General Assembly included new class size restrictions for grades K-3 in the 2017-18 budget, requiring school districts to reduce those class sizes while simultaneously taking away the funding flexibility districts have long relied upon to fund enhancement teachers for art, music, PE and world languages in those schools.

The only funding for those positions was districts’ flexibility to use the classroom teacher allotment for enhancement teachers. The combined effect was a massive unfunded mandate that required larger districts to find both new classroom space and teachers, and districts of all sizes to reduce their enhancement staffing. Legislative analysts warned lawmakers that these complications would arise if class sizes and allotment usage were restricted in this manner.

In the ensuing months, as school districts commenced planning for the 2017-18 academic year, the problem became less theoretical and districts were on the verge of layoffs and staff restructurings that were unpopular with parents. The NC House unanimously passed a bill (HB13) that would allow average district-wide class sizes up to three students above the funded student-teacher ratio, and individual classes of up to six students above the new limits in order to restore the flexibility districts historically used to fund enhancement positions. However, NC Senate leaders accused districts of having misspent “tens of millions of dollars” (though clearly NC House members did not share those concerns) and refused to vote on the bill. Instead, the new legislative budget simply delayed the class size restrictions for one year and imposed onerous, duplicative reporting requirements on district officials.

In October 2017, lawmakers returned to Raleigh for a special session to pass budget corrections and override vetoes. The NC House included the original HB13's class size flexibility in its budget corrections bill, but the NC Senate did not, and it was the NC Senate version that ultimately passed both chambers. Now, as planning for the 2018-19 school year approaches, the unfunded mandate is threatening districts once again.

Do The Math
For those who prefer a math-based explanation, consider the following. In FY 2013-14,  school districts had to maintain an average class-size ratio of 1 teacher for every 21 students in grades K-3 . With North Carolina has  about 450,000 students in grades K-3 . Given that number of students, it takes about 21,400 teachers to have an average teacher-student ratio of 1:21.

Since FY 2013-14, the NCGA has increased teacher funding  by about $120 million . With each teacher costing  about $65,000 , $120 million is enough to hire an additional 1,850 teachers. That means the General Assembly has provided districts with enough teachers to bring the average class size down from 21 students to 19.4 students. Yet current law states that the average class size in FY 2018-19 has to be 18 in kindergarten, 16 in grade 1, and 17 in grades 2-3. The General Assembly is  about $300 million short  of reaching these levels. There is nothing unclear or ambiguous about this.

The NCGA has failed to fund their class-size requirement. There’s no appropriation for more teachers in the 2018 budget, and the technical corrections bill admitted as much. The math doesn’t work. Based on a recent email to parents at another CMS elementary , it seems clear at least one NC Representative is misinformed.