Class Size Phase In and Funding Legislation
The House approved legislation passed by the Senate last week (House Bill 90) phasing in over four years the class size reduction mandates for grades K-3, which were originally set to take effect July 1, 2018. The bill also eliminates the current waitlist for NC Pre-K and sets aside a separate funding allotment for enhancement teachers. Governor Roy Cooper said this week he would allow the bill to become law without his signature. It goes into effect 30 days after the legislature adjourned on February 12th.
Capital Funding Enters the Debate
This week, as the General Assembly debated class size, lawmakers acknowledged the need to address the growing school capital needs throughout the state. Although House Bill 90 provided appropriations for operational costs associated with class size reductions, it did not include any assistance for additions, renovations, new construction or other capital costs needed to implement the class size reduction mandate. Former county commissioners Sen. Tommy Tucker (Union County) and Rep. Kevin Corbin (Macon County), among others, specifically brought up the need for more school capital funding during floor debates in both chambers. Additionally, Governor Cooper referred to public school construction needs in his remarks on the bill.
School construction needs throughout North Carolina exceed $8 billion, a figure established before the class size changes were taken into consideration. This issue is the number one legislative priority for the Association, and the NCACC will continue to advocate for increasing state resources for school capital during the 2018 session.
K-3 Class Size Reduction Phase In
The class size reduction will take place over a four-year period according to the following timeline:
- For the 2018-2019 school year, the average class size for kindergarten through third grade will remain the same as the current school year. Class size averages must not exceed 20 students, and any individual classroom cannot exceed 23 students.
- For the 2019-2020 school year, the average class size for kindergarten through third grade must not exceed 19 students, with an individual class size maximum of 22 students.
- For the 2020-2021 school year, the average class size for kindergarten through third grade must not exceed 18 students, with an individual class size maximum of 21 students.
- For the 2021-2022 school year and beyond, class size requirements will be as follows:
- Kindergarten average class size of 18, with a maximum of 21 students;
- First grade average class size of 16, with a maximum of 19 students;
- Second and third grade average class size of 17 students, with a maximum of 20 students.
Funding and Flexibility
House Bill 90 also creates a new, separate funding allotment for enhancement teachers, such as art, music, physical education and world languages educators. There has not been a separate funding allotment for enhancement teachers since the mid-1990s. The bill appropriates $61 million in 2018-2019 to fund enhancement teacher positions. This amount represents 25% of the total funding required to pay for enhancement teachers. The appropriation to fund the enhancement teacher allotment will be increased 25 percentage points annually as follows:
- 2019-2020: 50%
- 2020-2021: 75%
- 2021-2022 and thereafter: 100%
Current funding for classroom teachers will not be reduced to pay for enhancement teachers. School districts will continue to receive full funding allocated in 2017-2018 to pay for classroom teachers. Under the legislation, school districts may continue to use classroom teacher funds to pay for enhancement teacher positions until July 1, 2021. After that date, once the enhancement teacher allotment is fully funded and the class size reduction fully implemented, school districts may not transfer funds from classroom teacher allotments to pay for enhancement teachers. However, funds allotted for enhancement teacher positions may be used by school districts to hire classroom teachers in grades K-12.
Expanded Early Childhood Education Funding
In addition to the K-3 class size phase in, House Bill 90 provides $9.35 million in fiscal years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 with the stated purpose to eliminate the current NC Pre-K waitlist, further addressing an NCACC legislative goal to increase state funding to support access to early childhood education. The increase is a recurring appropriation that will go into the baseline funding for NC Pre-K taking the total funding to more than $82 million in 2019-2020 and more than $91 million in 2020-2021 and each year thereafter.