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Protestors call on General Assembly to fix class size requirements

A crowd of concerned parents, students, teachers, administrators, and others gathered in the freezing cold behind the General Assembly Saturday to call on lawmakers to fix the class size requirements slated to go into full effect next year. 

In the 2016 short session, the General Assembly passed requirements that would mandate lower class sizes in grades K-3. Due to a peculiarity of how district’s teachers are funded, the mandate seemed to amount to a defunding of enhancement (arts, Physical Education, music, etc.) teachers around the state. See this EdExplainer for the background. 

Lawmakers tackled the issue in the 2017 long session of the General Assembly. First, the House passed House Bill 13, which loosened the restrictions, giving districts the relief they wanted. But when the bill hit the Senate, lawmakers changed it, delaying the full implementation of the restrictions by one year. The Senate version became law. 

The class size requirements go into full effect in the 2018-19 school year. Those who attended the rally Saturday hope to convince legislators to take up the requirements during the special session slated to start Wednesday.  

Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, a chair of the House K-12 education and education appropriations committees, said in a phone call that he does not anticipate the requirements being tackled during this week’s special session.  Lawmakers are aware of the issue and will take up the problem, most likely before the spring short session, he said. Horn gave a timeline of February or March. 

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes, a chair of the House K-12 education and education appropriations committees, also said he did not anticipate the class size restrictions being taken up at this week’s special session. 

Below are the speakers from the rally Saturday. Click on the individual videos to hear what they had to say about the impact of the class size requirements. 

Justin Parmenter, Charlotte teacher 

John deVille, Macon County teacher 

Jennifer Mangrum, UNC-G assistant education professor

Esteban Garcia, parent of Yadkin County student

Tamika Walker Kelly, Cumberland County elementary music teacher

Maggie Fewkes, student at Davis Drive Middle school

Michelle Burton, Durham County librarian

Faisal Khan, founder of the Carolina Peace Center

Bob Etheridge, former North Carolina superintendent and member of United States Congress

Susan Book, mother of Wake County student on the autism spectrum

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.