Like other school districts in North Carolina, Johnston County Schools have some flexibility in class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. Johnston County school leaders use the flexibility to fund teaching positions in non-core areas like art, music and physical education. That could be changing.
Due to a provision in the 2016 NC General Assembly budget bill, the flexibility could be taken away during the 2017-18 school year starting this Fall.
Currently, the state funds one kindergarten teacher for every 18 kindergarten students. But districts are allowed to have kindergarten classes as large as 24 students and the average class across a district can be up to 21 students, Chief Personnel Officer Brian Vetrano told members of the Johnston County School Board on Feb. 14th.
“Starting in 2017, the average class size in kindergarten will have to be 18 students just like the allotment amount,” Vetrano said. “This means districts will no longer have the flexibility to use some allotted positions for non-core teachers.”
Unless the state legislation is modified, Johnston County Schools could be forced to add 85 teaching positions in grades K-3 to meet the requirement. Unless additional funds are received, school leaders will have to consider drastic cuts in the number of enhancement positions like art, music and physical education, or a dramatic increase in class sizes in grades 4 through 12.
“The provision will also require our district to find new classrooms and add mobile units, which will result in increased costs,” Vetrano stated. At Polenta Elementary School, Johnston County Schools would be forced to add as many as 7 new positions and 7 mobile units in additional to instructional supplies for each of the new classrooms.
In response, the Johnston County School Board adopted a resolution that will be forwarded to members of the NC General Assembly in support of a bill that would offer relief and continue the offerings the school districts affords it students.
School Board Chairman Mike Wooten said unfunded mandates take resources and teachers out of classrooms. “It irritates me.”
Like Johnston County, other school districts are also urging state lawmakers to allow them to maintain existing class size flexibility.