One of the big issues we’ve been writing about recently is HB-13 and the need to properly fund changes mandated to school systems across the state by the NCGA. It was also one of the bills pushed through last week during Crossover Week.

Rep. Darren Jackson and Public Schools First both sent out a good summary of what needs to come next, so we wanted to share those with you.

Temporary HB 13 Fix Passes; Real Fight Ahead to Fully Fund Schools

HB 13 is a temporary reprieve from a no-win situation. Without HB 13, our schools and kids will suffer. It would lead to firing arts, music, and other specialist teachers in exchange for hiring more early grade teachers. No one wants that and it is good that HB 13 will become law.

I believe that we do not need to choose between the kindergarten teacher and the art teacher – we need both.

Year after year of tax cuts focused on the wealthiest have left us with only bad choices. Incredibly, the Republicans are pushing another $1 billion in tax cuts to make the bad options even worse.

We need to follow Governor Cooper’s proposed budget. No more tax cuts for the wealthy or tax increases on working families. Increase teacher pay by 5% this year and next. Fully fund lower class sizes and the specialist teachers down the hall. Start making North Carolina a leader in public education again.

Cooper signs class size fix into law (WRAL)

Gaston would face budget crunch over smaller class sizes (Gaston Gazette)

Legislature merely delays the inevitable on class sizes (Charlotte Observer; column by 7th grade language arts teacher)

Editorial: A compromise saves classes, but more funding is the real answer (The News & Observer)

What Issues Remain?

Three issues related to the new class size requirements are still big issues:
1) School districts over the state will need to find thousands of teachers who are certified and experienced for these new classes in the next two years. Without a serious effort that is way beyond the current proposal to reinstate the teaching fellows program, school districts across the state are likely to see significant shortages in licensed elementary school teachers. We need a strong short- and long-term plan along with waivers for some school systems to implement over 3 to 5 years instead of two years. School districts will have to recruit and retain teachers better than ever and the NCGA will have to help. NCGA must reinstate programs like Teaching Fellows and provide a more expansive tuition reimbursement/enhancement programs, provide better pay and benefits, reinstate employment rights, and improve other working conditions to keep teachers and lure many back to the classroom. This is not a quick fix.

2) Creating new class rooms (this will take some time to determine at the local level). The need for new classrooms: the lower class sizes in K-3 grades will increase the number of K-3 classrooms needed. This is a serious issue for many local school districts across the state. Over the next few months, local school boards will need to examine ways to increase the number of classrooms. Renovating current space or building new schools will require additional capital funds from local revenues, mostly property taxes. It will take time to raise the money and construct the space. The short-term alternative to the newly required space needs could be to increase class sizes in grades 4-12 to free up class space, using undesirable space such as lunch rooms or sharing space (putting two teachers and their classes into one room). We hope that as school districts determine their needs that NCGA members will reconsider the implementation schedule on a case-by-case basis allowing large districts a longer phase-in period to deal with capital needs. Keep involved with your local school district as this issue develops over the next 2-6 months. Encourage your school board to resist larger class sizes in grades 4-12 as a solution. Keep talking to your NCGA representatives about restoring class size caps in grades 4-12.

3) Funding for specials teachers for 2018-19 and beyond (Senators can fix immediately). HB13 did not provide funding for the 2018-19 school year. The good news is that when Senators passed the amended HB13 they pledged to supplement with new funding for specials (enhancement) teachers in 2018 when class sizes will be lowered again. Without this supplemental, new funding, school districts will be right back in 2018 fighting the same battle for adequate funding to keep class sizes at required levels while keeping their specials teachers.

NEXT STEPS: It is critical to ask our Senators act now to assure funding for “specials” teaching positions. This year, the Senate goes first in presenting the 2017-18 – 2018-19 biennial budget, House member have signaled that they will support adding this expenditure! PLEASE ASK Senators to put the estimated $325 million in there proposed two-year budget now to cover the 2018-19 costs for specials.

It is not fair to let these teachers worry for another year about having a job! And it is not good business practice to hamper the fiscal and space planning activities needed at the local school district for another year.