HB 13: How it can Affect Your Child

What parents of North Carolina public school students need to know.

One of the many things that affects the education of our children is class size. The North Carolina legislature recognized a need for smaller classes for grades K-3 by pushing through a bill that reduces classroom size from 24 to 19-21 for grades K-3, taking affect in the 2017-18 school year. That sounds good on the surface, but it comes with costs. 

HB 13 rolls back the new classroom cap for grades K-3. There was a rally in Raleigh last urging lawmakers to vote against the smaller class size and there's been a good bit of news coverage in Wake County about how this may affect the schools there, including possibly very large (think 40 or 50 students) fourth and fifth grade classes as a way to open space for smaller classes in lower grades. The NC Justice Center published a Class-Size Chaos report that breaks down the class-size cap dilemma even more.

Each school system is in charge of figuring out the best way to put the mandate of smaller classes into play, but below are a few possible scenarios.

If HB 13 doesn't pass, here's what could happen:

  • By reducing class sizes to a mandated 19-21 students in K-3 grades, schools have to find more classroom space to accommodate the overflow of students in classes that exceed the mandated cap. For schools that are at or near capacity, this means pushing to spaces that are designated for art, music and other "connect" classes (as they are called in my son's Charlotte-Mecklenburg elementary school) or adding mobile classrooms (aka trailers).
  • Once you find the space, you need a teacher. North Carolina still struggles with teacher retention and simply having enough teachers. With the lower classroom size, more teachers are needed. One way some schools (including a large kindergarten class at my son's school) are dealing with overcrowded classrooms is to have a larger class size with two teachers — not a teacher assistant, but actually two teachers. This model seems to be working well in some situations. It saves space, but still requires the teachers. 
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leaders say the new cap on class size would require $23.3 million more dollars to pay an additional 353 teachers, as well as a need for mobile classrooms.
  • When you have a lack of space and a lack of funding for teachers, those connect classes I mentioned also become easy targets to be pushed to the side to make room for another classroom. Many art, music and "specials" teachers are worried about losing their jobs.

Though the idea behind smaller classes is good, the trade off isn't. HB 13 is up for discussion tonight, Monday, April 24, with the NC Senate Education Committee. You can voice your opinion by writing or calling your state senator

Update: Gov. Roy Cooper signed a "compromise bill" voted on by the N.C. General Assembly that puts a one-year respite on a lower class-size mandate for grades K-3 in North Carolina public schools. The compromise gives schools districts time to plan for class-size mandates of 18 students in kindergarten, 16 students in first grade and 17 students in second and third grade beginning in 2018-19 (the same school year Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools school boundary assignments are to be implemented). GOP lawmakers also "pledged" to review funding of school's specialty teachers (i.e. art, P.E., music, etc.) over the course of the next year.