Senate Passes Compromise to Lower K-3 Class Sizes, Address Concerns about Special Subject-Area Teachers


A bipartisan North Carolina Senate on Tuesday passed a House Bill 13 compromise that continues reducing elementary school class sizes over the next two years while addressing local concerns about keeping special subject-area teachers in the classroom. The compromise is supported by authors of the original House bill and the N.C. Association of School Administrators.

To continue forward progress toward smaller class sizes in kindergarten, first, second and third grades – which research shows lead to improved student outcomes – the bill requires local school districts to achieve: 

  • A district-wide average class size of 20 students in grades K-3 and a single class maximum of 23 students in the 2017-18 school year; and
  • A district-wide average class size in grades K-3 that is equal to the teacher-to-student ratio currently in law and a single class maximum of three above that number in the 2018-19 school year.

And to address local concerns and ensure a smooth transition, lawmakers have also pledged to work on funding issues surrounding teachers in special subject areas like art, music, drama and P.E. going forward.

The current K-3 class size requirements have been on the books for years, and the General Assembly has appropriated tens of millions of dollars to fund them. However, not all school systems used the extra funding to reduce class sizes, and many systems could not or would not provide data on how they spent the money – choices that led to their concerns about implementation and fears that special subject-area teachers could be fired.

So to correct that, the bill also strengthens accountability measures for local school districts, including requiring superintendents to submit regular and accurate reports on their class sizes, total numbers of classroom and special subject-area teachers and corresponding funding sources.

This compromise preserves our longstanding and research-backed goal of lowering class sizes in the early grades, on a timeline school administrators say is reasonable,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham.) “It will also help improve school transparency and accountability and shine a light on what is needed to keep special subject-area teachers in the classroom – steps I am confident will help our students receive a higher-quality, more well-rounded education.”