Manufactured Chaos in North Carolina as Legislature Mandates Class Size Reduction with No Funding

North Carolina public schools, once considered the best in the South, are under constant attack by the rightwing legislature. The latest salvo is an unfunded mandate to reduce class sizes in the early grades. It is a wonderful idea to reduce class size, but it is costly. Imposing the mandate without funding is a recipe for disruption and chaos.

The Republicans who control the legislature are crazy for privatization, for charters and vouchers and cybercharters. Are the Republicans trying to drive children and families away from public schools by inflicting chaos and stripping away activities that students love?

Despite warnings by district superintendents about massive layoffs of teachers of arts and physical education, the state senate has refused to back down.

“North Carolina’s largest public school system may be warning of “enormous disruptions” without speedy action from state lawmakers on a looming class size funding crisis, but key education leaders in Raleigh tell Policy Watch there’s little sign Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly will act soon.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s any movement planned,” says Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat who sits on the state Senate’s Rules and Operations Committee, a panel that includes some of the chamber’s most powerful lawmakers and sets the agenda for future committee talks.

“McKissick said he met late last week with Sen. Bill Rabon, the eastern North Carolina Republican who chairs the committee, but GOP leaders remain reticent to make any commitments regarding a legislative fix to the funding controversy, despite stiff warnings from district chiefs that thousands of teachers’ jobs are in jeopardy.”

Here is a report from Wake County, once considered one of the best school districts in the nation. Syracuse scholar Gerald Grant wrote a book called “Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Public Schools in Wake County.”

That was then. This is now:

“The state legislature’s plan to cut elementary school class sizes could lead to larger class sizes in all Wake County schools, including 40 or more students in some elementary classrooms.

“State lawmakers lowered maximum class sizes in kindergarten through third grade from 24 students this school year to between 19 and 21 students starting in July. Wake County Superintendent Jim Merrill warned Tuesday that unless the state provides relief, the district will have to consider options such as increasing class sizes for older students, cutting art and music classes, laying off teachers and reassigning students on short notice.

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