Victory for full-day kindergarten bill, but defeat for school choice measure

Monday's legislative pact also includes demands that local superintendents prepare regular reports on whether districts are meeting the state's class size mandate, also allowing for periodic audits by Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson.

Under Monday's deal, class sizes in kindergarten through third grade will be smaller in the coming school year, but not as small as the original plan called for.

House Bill 13 could relax the impending class size requirements, allowing school districts' average class size to exceed caps by up to three students and individual classrooms to go over by up to six students, if needed.

But, in the following year, districts would face a stiff mandate that they cut average class sizes to 18 students in kindergarten, 16 students in first grade and 17 students in second and third grade.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 3-2 on party lines Tuesday to defeat the bill, whose co-sponsors included Senate President Kevin Grantham and Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran. "That results in school districts not being able to properly look forward to what the revenues are going to be and will cause some significant concerns". Wake County Superintendent Jim Merrill said the district would need $1.8 million more to hire 32 additional teachers if HB 13 passes, compared with $26 million more and 460 extra teachers if the new rules go into effect.

"We've been working on this issue for months", Barefoot said.

The revised bill would re-examine funding after this school year once lawmakers get more information on how districts are spending money.

This bill would change that so districts offering full-day kindergarten would receive state funds at the full rate.

Requiring local school districts to achieve a district-wide average class size in grades K-3 that is equal to the teacher-to-student ratio now in law and being funded by the state (either 18, 16 or 17 students, depending on the grade level) and a single class maximum of three above that number in the 2018-19 school year.

Sununu recommended spending $9 million-a-year to target state funding to the neediest communities that opt to expand their kindergarten programs from half-day to full-day.

GOP legislators have made similar comments throughout the debate over class size funding, although no lawmakers have presented specific evidence of illegal actions by local districts.