HAMLET — A state mandate expected to be discussed in the North Carolina General Assembly as early as next week could, if passed, limit class sizes for kindergarten through third grade in the state’s public schools — resulting in a budget crisis some fear will force schools to ditch arts and physical education programs.
“I am aware of the new kindergarten to third grade class size requirement,” said Richmond County Schools Superintendent Dr. Cindy Goodman in a statement to the Daily Journal. “My husband, State Representative Ken Goodman, has spoken with leadership in both the House and Senate and feels confident that the unintended consequences of that bill will be corrected.”
Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, said the subject of House Bill 13 — the proposed legislation in question — came up during Wednesday’s opening session of the General Assembly.
“I had a long talk this morning with the chairman of Education Appropriations Committee about that, and we’ve talked to leadership in the Senate today,” he said. “That was a Senate initiative, so we talked to them and they were amendable to that. We’re going to try to take measures so it will be avoided.”
He said those measures could include the creation of funding to make up the difference in additional costs incurred by school districts due to any mandated class-size restrictions, or allow schools more flexibility on class sizes.
The wording of H.B. 13 states that “at no time exceed the funded allotment ratio of teachers to students in kindergarten through third grade by more than three students. At the end of the second school month and for the remainder of the school year, the size of an individual class in kindergarten through third grade shall not exceed the allotment ratio by more than six students.”
The allotment ratio for kindergarten, as defined in the bill, is one teacher per 18 students. For first grade, it is one teacher per 16 students, and for second and third grades, one teacher per 17 students.
“In grades four through 12, local school administrative units shall have the maximum flexibility to use allotted teacher positions to maximize student achievement,” the bill proposes.
Upon becoming law, the act would take effect beginning with the 2017-2018 school year.
“We are going to introduce a bill in the House soon, maybe as early as next week, so school systems will have time and so they will know what they need to do for next year,” Ken Goodman said. “That’s what I’m working on with the leadership in the House and in the Senate.”
State Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Richmond, is a co-sponsor on a bill introduced Wednesday that would create a joint legislative task force on education finance reform which would “study various weighted student formula funding models and develop a new funding model for the elementary and secondary public schools of North Carolina based on a weighted student formula.”
As part of the process, the task force would:
• Review the state’s current public school allotment system and undertake an in-depth study of various types of weighted student formula funding models, considering models used by other states.
• Determine the base amount of funds that must be distributed on a per-student basis to cover the cost of educating a student.
• Identify the student characteristics eligible for weighted funding and the associated weights for each of the characteristics.
• Decide which funding elements, if any, would remain outside the base of funds to be distributed under a weighted student formula.
• Study any other issue the task force considers relevant.
Cindy Goodman said Richmond County Schools will be contacting lawmakers about House Bill 13.
“Some superintendents have been vocal about the potential cuts and other negative consequences; however, I think it’s important not to alarm our teachers,” she said. “I will be asking our school board to send a resolution to our representatives in Raleigh asking for relief from the requirements.”
William R. Toler contributed to this story. Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.