Southern Elementary in Greensboro is just one of the schools facing major changes as a new mandate goes into effect in North Carolina for the 2018-2019 school year.
Both Kindergarten classes at Southern are at capacity this year with 23 students and those class sizes will need cut come next year. That's one of the reasons the Governor chose Southern as the backdrop to address what he calls “class size chaos.”
Heather Rayle's two daughters attend Southern Elementary School. She values small class sizes for her children.
"I do believe that the smaller class sizes will help with one on one education for some of the students," said Rayle.
“This is one of the schools that will feel the effects of this issue," said Gov. Roy Cooper as he addressed the media after a tour of the school.
In 2016, the General Assembly passed a mandate requiring that Kindergarten through third grade classes be reduced from 20 to 18 students, but lawmakers did not provide any additional funding to make that happen. Now, many school districts are scrambling to figure out how they'll meet the new requirements for the first time during the 2018-2019 school year.
While Governor Cooper agrees the legislation will be good, he says passing it as an unfunded mandate leaves districts with an impossible choice.
In Guilford County, they need to hire 200 more teachers at $11 million to comply with the mandate. The Superintendent says they'll likely need to cut programs like art and music to come up with the money.
"I would hate to see a lot of those classes cut, because I know a lot of those students really enjoy going to the extracurricular activity classes," said Rayle who has girls in both third and fifth grade.
Governor Cooper wants to see the General Assembly take up the issue now and allocate funding to school districts.
"If they don't do it now, they have to at the very least phase it in so that these schools can figure out how to handle this problem," he said.
Republican State Senator Bill Rabon released a statement to WFMY News 2, saying in part, "Since 2014, local school districts across the state have received roughly $222 million in extra dollars to reduce student to teacher ratios and every year, they are guaranteed to receive $70 million in recurring dollars to cover the expense of hiring additional kindergarten through third grade teachers."
Rabon said they're committed to finding a resolution that will ensure smaller class sizes while still funding enhancement teachers.
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