Proposed bill would delay class size changes, appropriate more money

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly will put forth a new proposal Thursday to address concerns raised about a pending law that would require smaller class sizes in certain elementary school grades.

Lawmakers passed a bill last year that would require smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. Under the law, the average class size in those grades would drop from 21 to 17.

Currently, the law is set to take effect for the 2018-2019 school year.

A draft of the newly proposed legislation obtained by WBTV includes language that would delay the full implementation of the class size requirements until 2022.

Charlotte - Mecklenburg School (CMS) Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox and other superintendents are breathing a sigh of relief and thanking legislators.

"Good job to the legislators," Wilcox said. "When they do something like this - when they listen to the people."

Educators, parents and school leaders contacted legislators about delaying the mandated class size. It appears lawmakers listened to them. Wilcox says he needed millions of dollars of money to purchase new trailers for the new classrooms. Wilcox now says since CMS has more time to prepare for lower class sizes, he will reallocate money to areas where it's needed in the district.

"K-3 literacy," Wilcox said. "A place we got to redirect people. Social-emotional health for kids is something we got to do."

The bill also allocates roughly $61 million in additional funds to pay for "program enhancement teachers," a term that includes physical education and arts educators, in elementary schools.

A separate provision of the bill would allow money allocated for program enhancement teachers to be used to pay for classroom teachers.

The draft legislation would also allocate more money to pay for the NC Prekindergarten program.

State Senator Joel Ford believes there is a reason behind state lawmakers' generosity.  It is an election year for state leaders.

"Any time it's an election year, people do some very interesting and strange things," State Senator Joel Ford said. "But at the end of the day, the kids will be better served and our local school district will not have the financial stress of trying to figure out these class size reductions."

NC State Superintendent Mark Johnson says this proposed law has nothing to do with politics.

"This is about the right thing to do for schools," Johnson said.

Lawmakers believe this new law will create smaller class sizes to help students perform at grade level in reading by 3rd grade.

"This means about 3,000 additional 4-year-olds in North Carolina will have access to free high-quality PreK programming," Johnson said. "That will help them come into Kindergarten ready."

Copyright 2018 WBTV. All rights reserved.