K-3 Class Size: The Impacts of Not Addressing the Issue

by Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley

Recently, the North Carolina House of Representatives, in a rare show of bipartisanship, unanimously passed House Bill 13 – a bill to fix concerns with the current class size restrictions.

New Hanover County Schools has continued to reduce local K-3 allotment formulas, as the state has reduced class size.  The current local formulas are two higher than the state in       K-3; one higher in Grades 4-5.  The K-3 differential funds 50 of 72 art, music and PE teachers, and the 4/5 differential supports seven more.  To implement the state restrictions for next school year using projected student numbers, we anticipate the need for 47 additional K-3 classroom teachers.

Outlined below is the anticipated local impact of the K-3 Class Size change reflected in NC G.S.115C-301 (effective 7/1/17), which requires the LEA average class size to equal the funded teacher allotment formula and sets Individual Class Size Maximums to three above the formula.  The N.C. House of Representatives unanimously approved House Bill 13, which would limit the K-3 class size average to three above the allotted amount and the individual class size max to six above the allotted amount.

As K-3 class size allotments were reduced over the last few years, the class size requirements stayed the same, creating situations in which additional state positions were not used as intended by the legislature.  HB 13 would correct the problem using the traditional model for class size requirements of +3 for LEA average and +6 for individual class size maximums.  This model allows local flexibility to provide enhancement positions with state funding and to organize classes appropriately by grade, since students don’t arrive to school in groups equal to the formula.

It is also important to know that the +3 +6 model was used to apply to all grade levels, but was changed in 2011 when the legislature removed all class size limitations in grades 4-12, keeping K-3 the same. LEA’s across the state have been working in cooperation with NCASA to provide documentation to the Senate to show how positions are used, showing that class size reduction has been taking place.

We are looking at several different budget scenarios that will have to be considered if the Senate does not approve HB 13; all of the options would require the district to reduce the number of art, music and PE teachers. This most likely would be done through our Reduction in Force (RIF) policy. This RIF would impact 25 or more current teachers.

In additional to the budget impact, we are extremely concerned about the classroom space limitations. We have compared teacher projections with available space in each elementary school, and 13 schools do not have space for 30 of the 47 additional K-3 classrooms.  This analysis assumes we are already using any mobiles units, art rooms, music rooms, computer labs and any other spaces larger than 600 sq. ft. as regular classrooms.

We ask that the Senate support HB 13 or a similar fix to this problem.  Timing is also critical because if a RIF is necessary, teachers will need to be notified no as soon possible.

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