Triad Schools Brace For Impact of New Class Size Legislation

Triad Schools Troubled By Class Size

GREENSBORO, N.C.-- School could look a lot different for students in North Carolina next year -- all because of what Governor Roy Cooper is calling "Class Size Chaos."

On Tuesday, Governor Cooper posted a message on Twitter -- urging lawmakers to give schools more money to in order to meet new class size legislation requirements. 

“I believe smaller class size can be a good thing, but you have to pay for it,” Gov. Cooper said. “This is an artificial class size change—one that shrinks classes on paper but in reality hurts students and teachers.”

In 2016, the General Assembly required kindergarten through third grade classes be reduced from 20 to 18 students per class.

But lawmakers did not provide any additional funding for teachers and classroom space.

Now, many school districts scrambling to figure out how they're going to pay to meet the new requirements.

“The most challenging thing is coming up with the dollars to be able to do this,” said Darrell Walker with Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools. “Obviously, this is something where we would have to go back to our local county and have some conversation around about how to financially support this. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

Because the K-3 classes have to be smaller, schools across the state will be forced to increase class sizes for grades 4 and above.

That means every school district will need to hire more teachers and build new classroom space.

Walker says the requirements come at a challenging time for school systems as they prepare budgets for the upcoming school year.

“Timing makes it really uneasy in the recruiting process and trying to hire new teachers in the additional amount that everybody in the state is going to need,” said Walker. “How do you compete one against the other in order to get in and have enough teachers in the building? It’s going to be really challenging.”

To meet the requirements, Guilford County would need $11 million dollars to hire 170 new teachers.

The district would also need to find additional classroom space.

Alamance County-Burlington City Schools would need almost $3 million dollars for 55 new K-3 teachers.

Additional classroom space would also be necessary at many ABSS elementary schools.

Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools would need to hire 100 new teachers and build 300 additional classrooms.

Walker says it could cost between $10-20 million dollars depending on which type of facilities they build.

"Not to say that anybody would argue the fact that it would be great to have smaller classroom sizes but financially in order to be able to sustain that overtime is the big issue,” said Walker.

Many school boards across the state including Guilford County Schools have passed resolutions calling on legislators to give them more money. 

“We should be helping schools hire highly qualified teachers instead of forcing them to resort to measures that will set our students back,” Gov. Cooper said. “Squeezing public schools even further by forcing artificial deadlines could hurt student learning and leave some children and teachers in overcrowded classrooms.”

But at this time, lawmakers have no immediate plans to address the issue.

Governor Roy Cooper released this statement after the special session adjourned for the day without addressing the class size issue. 

“Today, legislative Republicans walked out on students, teachers and families concerned about overcrowded classrooms and safe drinking water. When legislators return home today, North Carolinians in their communities should demand they take action to fund our schools and protect our air and drinking water. These issues should have been addressed months ago and North Carolina families are waiting for action.”

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