NC Governor Roy Cooper wants lawmakers to fully fund decrease in K-3 class sizes

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - NC Governor Roy Cooper visited Cotswold Elementary School on Friday. His message to lawmakers was to fully fund the initiative to create smaller class sizes in grade K-3.

"Sounds like a good idea right, Well it is on paper, but in reality it's a nightmare without the money to do it," Gov. Cooper said.

In 2016, NC lawmakers passed legislation to make K-3 class sizes no larger than 18 students in Kindergarten, 16 students in first grade and 17 students in second and third grades. Cooper says if lawmakers don't fully fund this classroom decrease, school districts could be forced to make some drastic changes.

"Some of the alternatives are cutting computer science classes, art classes, music classes and physical education classes," Cooper said.

Charlotte Mecklenburg School District (CMS) says it needs to hire 353 teachers to fund the mandate.  That would cost the district $23.3 million.

"There either needs to be an infusion of funds to help them with this, or we need to phase in this and do it the right way,"  the Governor said.

The governor is optimistic the Republican-controlled General Assembly will address this issue when lawmakers return on Jan. 10.

The class size change was to go into effect during the 2016-2017 school year, but lawmakers gave school districts more time. The law is now supposed to go into effect during the 2017-2018 school year.

Superintendents hope lawmakers will help them out before they start working on their budgets for next school year.

"Good public policy I think demands that we don't spend money unnecessarily," CMS Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox said. "Yet we probably are going to be in a position within the next month where we have to order millions of dollars' worth of portable units to house kids."

Cooper didn't mention Friday how much it would cost to fully fund the decrease in K-3 classrooms. He just gave this advice to lawmakers.

"What they need to do is step back," Cooper said. "See how much this would be in the long run and phase it in over a period of time."

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