Protesters in Raleigh gather to stop what they call ‘Class Size Chaos’

Protesters on Saturday in Raleigh. Photo by Kelly Kennedy/CBS North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Freezing temperatures did not stop hundreds of parents and educators from protesting outside the North Carolina legislature Saturday.

The group wants lawmakers to repeal a class-size mandate that they believe will cause chaos in their children’s classrooms.

The law mandates smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade and is set to go into effect this fall.

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Many parents and teachers from across the state are fighting back against the mandate and spreading awareness with the #ClassSizeChaos phrase on Twitter and Facebook.

“It is chaotic for school systems,” Cumberland County music teacher Tamika Walker-Kelly said. “It is chaotic for my former colleagues, for schools and planning budgets.”

Critics say that in order to make class sizes smaller, schools need more teachers and more space, which means some programs like art, music, and physical education could be cut. Parents say that’s will negatively impact their children.

“I have a child with special needs those are the classes where he learns things beyond what they teach for a test,” said parent Stuart Egan. “It’s vital for him.”

Walker-Kelly is just one of the many teachers across the state whose job could be in jeopardy.

“Smaller class size is ideal,” said Walker-Kelly. “It is a goal that most teachers would appreciate. We don’t have to make the choice between specials and having smaller class sizes. We can have both.”

Governor Roy Cooper is urging the General Assembly to take the pressure off the school districts and provide funding for the smaller classes when they return for a special session Wednesday.

“I believe smaller class size can be a good idea, but we can’t force this on our schools without the funding to do it,” Cooper said.

Parents and teachers who were protesting agree.

“Even if they aren’t gonna drop the issue entirely they need to put a hold on it and take a closer look at the ramifications for all students and all teachers,” said parent Sherri Bolton.

Representative Craig Horn, a Union County Republican and House Education Committee Co-chair, told CBS North Carolina he wants to change the mandate as well.

He believes they will make some adjustments to the class size mandate before the short session begins in April, but he says he does not think they will have enough time to come up with a sensible solution next week.

Senate Leader Phil Berger’s office sent CBS North Carolina this statement:

“Since 2014, local school districts across the state have received roughly $222 million to lower student to teacher ratios and reduce class sizes – and every year, they are guaranteed about $70 million in recurring dollars for that purpose.

Senate Republicans will continue working with our schools to provide parents certainty about what will happen next school year – while making sure taxpayers are getting the smaller class sizes they’ve paid for. As a reminder, HB 13 required school districts to report specific information on class sizes and how they are spending the funds they are given for teachers. The law requires information to be submitted in February, and we need to review the data before determining any next steps.”

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