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home : state news : e-state news February 18, 2018

2/9/2018 5:08:00 AM
State May Delay K-3 Class Size Mandate
Bill announced Thursday would phase in class size reduction over four years
Dr. David Curtis at meeting of local legislators with Lincoln County Board of Education Feb. 2nd at Union School.
Dr. David Curtis at meeting of local
legislators with Lincoln County Board of
Education Feb. 2nd at Union School.


Wayne Howard
Staff Writer


House and Senate leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly held a news conference Thursday afternoon (Feb. 8th) to announce a four-year, phase-in plan for reducing class sizes in grades K-3 and allocating $61 million in recurring funding for arts, music, foreign language and physical education teachers.

Lincoln County Senator Dr. David Curtis phoned County Manager Kelly Atkins to give him the news to pass along to Lincoln County Commissioners, who were holding a four-hour budget workshop session. Curtis told Atkins that meant the Commissioners wouldn't have to proceed with the quarter-cent local option sales tax vote they had approved to be put on the May 8th Primary Election ballot.

Commissioners had passed a resolution Monday night to put the local option sales tax to a referendum as a way to raise the money needed for a requested $5 million increase in local funding for the Lincoln County Schools. $2.6 million of that amount was to meet the state mandate for reducing classroom size in the lower grades, a measure that was passed in 2016 by the General Assembly, but without any additional state funding.

Atkins said, and Commissioners agreed, that the sales tax vote should proceed because other education needs and other increases in the County's 2018-19 fiscal year budget will require some $8-9 million more than the 2017-18 budget, and the small sales tax increase would bring in $2-3 million annually, which could help to avoid a big increase in property taxes.



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The measure announced by the state legislators were bundled into revisions of House Bill 90, which also seeks to seize control of an environmental mitigation fund for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that is slated to be controlled by Gov. Roy Cooper’s office. It's the latest round in the battle between Cooper and the legislature.

The deal will retain the “status quo” for class sizes in the upcoming 2018-2019 school year, phasing in the reduction in class sizes over the next four years. Some, including the North Carolina Association of Educators, had expressed concern that to meet the mandated reduction in K-3 class sizes, some school systems might cut art, music, foreign language and phys. ed. programs or increase class sizes in other grades.

The mandate would have required Lincoln County Schools to need 26 more teachers, but their budget request, the subject of a joint Commissioners/School Board meeting January 25th, calls for hiring 52 new teachers.

Katherine Joyce, executive director of the NC Association of School Administrators, called the bill a viable solution, saying “We believe this phase-in period will provide the time needed for those important next steps."

Both House Speaker Tim Moore of Shelby and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger expressed support for the pact which appears likely to pass.

While the change will cut some of the money needs for fiscal 2018-2019 for Lincoln County Schools, Commissioners seemed intent on going ahead with the other increased funding requested by Supt. Dr. Lory Morrow. Morrow is scheduled to give a synopsis of her presentation from the January 25th meeting at the Commissioners' mid-monthly meeting on February 19th.

The proposal includes hiring more teachers (not related to the class size mandate), increased funding for technology, and increased local funding for classroom supplies.


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