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Class Size Challenges – Time to Focus on Facts

Senator Dan Bishop and I have spent a significant amount of time over the past few weeks and months trying to understand the details of class size requirements. The issue is not as simple as parents, and even some principals, are being told. It is complicated by a convoluted funding system that has existed for decades with multiple modifications over the years.

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My goal is to focus on facts so that administrators, teachers, parents, and elected officials can begin to have conversations about policies and priorities. The emails parents have been receiving from outside groups – and from your own PTAs and schools – have been misleading and don’t identify all of the challenges.

As we try to understand all of the details of the funding and recent legislation, as well as the associated impacts, there have been many people who have tried to politicize the issue. That has caused additional challenges to the process of trying to chart the best path forward.

I am committed to ensuring that every dollar allocated to our schools is spent wisely while also working towards maximizing the educational opportunities for every student, both in our districts and across the state.

Facts from our Research: HB-13 and Other Distracting Issues

The emails many parents received from outside groups have been very deceiving. While there are a variety of issues with the past legislation which are presenting challenges – these including funding, space constraints, and others – the information presented a significant misunderstanding of facts. Here are some facts:

- HB13 did not change any language in law regarding class size requirements. Language is exactly the same as 2013 language. The 16 – 18 class sizes are required averages across the entire district, not across an individual school. Maximum class size in the law is actually 3 more than the funded average teacher – student ratio:

K – 1:21

1st – 1:19

2nd, 3rd – 1:20

– HB-13 only added some reporting requirements for superintendents and delayed implementation of class size requirements (for 3rd time) until 2018-19 school year.

– HB-13 (the final version which became law) passed with wide bipartisan support (Passed Senate 48 – 1, Passed House 112 – 3) and was signed into Law by Governor Roy Cooper.

– You have also been told that class size reductions are an “unfunded mandate.” That is also not true, but the funding piece is complicated, and we will try to explain in a future email. Funding was added for class size reductions for all school districts for Grades K-3 for the 2014-2015 school year, and added again for Grade 1 for school year 2016-17. From what we can find, those reductions have not occurred despite the funding. However, to be fair, there is still many conflicting funding issues which exist, so we are not yet prepared to declare this issue settled.

Running Out of Time?

There was a sense of urgency place upon you through these emails because the General Assembly was in Special Session last week. The class size issue was never on the calendar to be addresses last week, although many conversations took place among Members.

We do understand that the clock is ticking because school boards must get their budgets to County Commissions by May so planning can begin for the 2018 – 19 school year. Rest assured that we are continuing to work on this issue and we are likely to be back in Raleigh – perhaps multiple times – before May.

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NC Permitting Efficiency Act Passes House

HB794 Graphic Passing HouseRep. Scott Stone authored a bill to reshape how construction permitting is approved across the state. HB794 passed the NC House with overwhelming bi-partisan support 96-15.

The North Carolina Permitting Efficiency Act would hold local municipalities accountable for review deadlines, keeping the reviews to only the established standards, and minimize time and cost uncertainties for those investing and creating jobs for our state. There is also a provision which would delegate authority for permitting from NCDOT to the larger municipalities in the state. This eliminates a redundancy in the process without sacrificing standards or quality of design and construction.

We now look to the Senate to pass this legislation so that North Carolina can create a reputation as a national leader in permitting efficiency.