GUILFORD COUNTY, NC -- Your child's school could look a lot different next year!
Class sizes, teacher pay, and eight years of budget cuts are taking a toll on districts across the state including Guilford County.
Public school leaders across the state say legislation passed last year to decrease class sizes in the early grades may have a devastating impact on school systems across the state.
Under current class size legislation, Guilford County Schools is up against a $16 million dollar budget shortfall.
Guilford County would need to hire 242 more teachers and 52 teaching assistants to meet the new class size requirements for next year.
To make that happen, the district says 60 middle and high school teachers could lose their jobs.
GCS and other districts could also be forced to cut specialty programs like arts, music and physical education.
Nothing is a definite until the board votes on the budget but GCS Superintended Dr. Sharon Contreras says the planning process has been frustrating.
"It's like trying to plan for your home but not knowing what your salary is,” said Contreras. “It's difficult to do. It has a snowball effect because if employees are not sure that they will actually have positions, they're going to start working elsewhere. Parents will begin looking elsewhere if they're not sure what kind of programming will be in the schools."
Last year, lawmakers adopted a new formula requiring schools to bring their average class sizes in grades K-3 in line with the state’s prescribed teacher-student ratio, which varies by grade.
In kindergarten, it's one teacher per 18 students.
In first grade, it's one teacher per 16 students.
In grades 2-3, it's one teacher per 17 students.
Contreras says creating smaller classrooms for those grades could mean overcrowding for everyone else.
“The most important variable in schools is great teachers and great leaders,” said Contreras. “I would much rather invest in making sure that we have the most high quality teachers and leaders and we compensate them appropriately and ensure their continuous development.”
Lawmakers in Raleigh have proposed House Bill 13 -- which would alleviate some of the pressure on those K-3 class sizes.
If that bill passes, there will still be cuts, but Contreras says they will be minimal.
Still, school leaders are worried about how all this might impact student achievement.
“We are placing a lot of people at risk here in terms of knowing what they will be doing next year. It is imperative that a decision to be made soon so that we can plan accordingly,” said Contreras.
Again, all of the proposed budget changes in Guilford County Schools are just recommendations at this point.
The school board will have to vote on the final budget before it is officially adopted.
Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools, Rockingham County Schools, and Alamance County Burlington City Schools say they are currently not considering any budget cuts until they know more about the class size legislation.
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