Class Size Phase In and Funding Legislation
This week, the General Assembly introduced legislation (House Bill 90) to phase in over four years the class size reduction mandates for grades K-3, which were set to take effect July 1, 2018. The bill would also eliminate the current waitlist for NC Pre-K, and set aside a separate funding allotment for enhancement teachers. The bill passed the Senate on Friday and will likely gain full legislative approval early next week.
K-3 Class Size Reduction Phase In
Under House Bill 90, the class size reduction would 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 would 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 would 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 would not be reduced to pay for enhancement teachers. School districts would 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.
House Bill 90 also includes additional provisions concerning the Atlantic Coast Pipeline mitigation fund that could potentially redirect mitigation funds to LEAs in counties through which the pipeline runs, as well as modifications to Personal Education Savings Accounts, and new changes to the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement in response to a recent N.C. Supreme Court decision.