Elizabeth Yelverton | NCASA Legal Affairs & Policy Manager
At the request of NCASA, Senate education leaders introduced a bill on Wednesday which would create a waiver from the K-3 class size mandate for schools experiencing teacher shortages or lack of classroom and facilities space. Senate Bill 397, sponsored by Senators Horner (R-Nash), Tillman (R-Guilford), and Perry (R-Lenoir) addresses the main concerns school administrators have shared relating to the class size mandate law, which is set to go into effect with the 2019-2020 school year.
Under the bill, the State Board of Education may grant a class size waiver to local boards of education, under the condition that the local board will then not receive funds set aside for program enhancement teachers for K-5 classes. Instead, schools who are not able to meet the class size mandate, and receive a waiver, will be given the flexibility to use funds for classroom teacher positions to hire program enhancement teachers. This waiver would be effective through July 1, 2021.
Current law allows class size waivers under various conditions, such as emergencies and natural disasters, or unanticipated increases in the student population. The law currently does not address the inability of schools to satisfy the class size mandate due to a shortage of teachers or inadequate classroom space, both of which are becoming increasingly significant issues in rural communities.