Parents ask NC lawmakers for flexibility in implementing class-size reductions

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Some parents have a message for lawmakers at the North Carolina General Assembly.

They want the state to give school systems flexibility to address the mandate that lowers class sizes for kindergarten through third grade.

Many parents and school administrators say the money is not there to get the job done.

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“The time for delay is over,” said Renee Sekel, a parent whose children are in Davis Drive Middle and Elementary Schools.  “The time for making excuses has long passed.”

Christine Wilson said her child is in fourth grade at Briarcliff Elementary School in Cary and teachers are being reassigned from those classrooms to the lower grade levels to meet the mandate.

“There is much less teacher-student interaction,” she said.  “Those abilities to ask questions and have feedback.”

Democratic lawmakers are calling for flexibility to fix the mandate.

“We need to solve the class size problem now,” said Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, (D) Wake County, who plans to introduce legislation addressing the flexibility when lawmakers return Wednesday.

Governor Roy Cooper also weighed in while touring Penny Road Elementary School in Cary to talk with teachers and administrators about the impact there.

“What is happening is that school districts are having to make bad choices,” said Cooper.

“I personally believe that we do not need to be mandating,” said Rep. Craig Horn, (R) House Education Co-Chair.  “We need to be encouraging and funding to the greatest extent possible smaller class sizes.”

On the Senate side, Republican leadership says the General Assembly has funded the class-size reduction and teacher-to-student ratios.

“Part of the bottleneck that you’re feeling is the fact that superintendents in many school districts did not reduce the classroom sizes or hire additional teachers when they should have the money that we gave them,” said Sen. Chad Barefoot, (R) Senate Education Co-Chair.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement that the General Assembly, “will continue working with the school systems 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.”

“I am more inclined to look to teachers, principals and parents as to whether the money that has been appropriated is sufficient or not,” said Chaudhuri.

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