Wake County Schools

Class size law could lead to WCPSS teacher layoffs, eliminated classes

Posted April 18
Updated April 19

— Wake County school Superintendent Jim Merrill said Tuesday the future doesn’t look bright because of legislation calling for smaller class sizes.

A provision in the 2016-17 state budget requires smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade beginning in the 2017-18 school year, but Merrill said meeting those requirements would require hundreds more teachers and millions of dollars.

Merrill said options to meet the new requirements include laying off teachers in classes like art, music, drama, physical education and dance. Currently, the district employs more than 350 teachers for those subjects.

"Our students deserve art, music, physical education and language classes taught by specialized educators," said Rahnesia Best with Wake NCAE>

Other options include eliminating those classes entirely or increasing class sizes in higher grades.

Republican state lawmakers said school districts have been funded to reduce class sizes but Merrill said that’s not the case, pointing to funding cuts in past years.

So far, no final decisions on what to do have been made.

“No solutions today, merely the enormity of the potential disruption within multiple options,” Merrill said. “I’m going to just put a lot of numbers out there, and you’ll see it’s at least a three-dimensional Gordian knot.”

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 allows individual classrooms to go over by up to six students, if needed.

Merrill said the bill would lower the cost of the class size law from $26 million to less than $2 million.

"I think the genuinely want to help us out, so I am still optimistic about that," he said.

The proposal passed in the House but is stalled in the Senate. Lawmakers said they will likely not take up the bill until they have released a budget.

Without House Bill 13, Merrill said he doesn't like his options.

"Almost any one of these has major impact and disruption in the school system, either in the human factor or in the financial factor. So, I think part of what administration always has to be able to do is contemplate as many solutions as possible and then folks start analyzing," he said. "They're tough to come up with, I don't really like any of them, but I'm afraid we're going to have to employ some portions of those."


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  • Fred Neopolitano Apr 19, 11:48 p.m.
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    That's what I was thinking. Smaller class sizes are a good thing. The PE and Art teacher could just teach a regular class instead. These scare tactics are used every couple years to get more money for the over bureaucratic school system. While we are doing smaller class sizes, lets do smaller school systems - wcpss is too big.

  • Travis Perry Apr 19, 2017
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    That is a huge part of it. School systems are so reluctent to remove problem students. They are so willing to sacrifice the education of all the others students in a class.

  • Travis Perry Apr 19, 2017
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    I am assuming you do not realize how the education lottery was past... you know with Bev Perdue and her followers. Yet you want to blame the GOP.

  • Deanna Dula-Upchurch Apr 19, 2017
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    Instead of laying off teacher, maybe they could multitask and make the pe, art, music, etc teacher a class teacher and then they could teach the special classes along with whatever other things they are teaching in their grade. I don't understand what the big deal is....there is more than one way around this. Smaller classrooms means more individual attention per child and shouldn't that be a good thing? What am I missing?

  • Benjamin Gani Apr 19, 2017
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    I am so happy I'm fortunate enough to have my kids in Private School. The School Board in Wake County should be ashamed of themselves. Year and year one issue after another with no end in sight and no improvement in quality of education.

  • Teddy Fowler Apr 19, 2017
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    Your comments are blatantly biased and untrue... We didn't even have a lottery until fairly recently because the Republicans opposed it strongly... it took shenanigans from the Democrats to get the lottery passed

  • Samara Lupold Apr 19, 2017
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    Last I checked, my kindergarteners were not taking PE, dance, or art. They were taught by one teacher (and sometimes a TA) in one classroom. Laying off teachers in secondary schools makes absolutely no sense.

  • Jim Dunn Apr 19, 2017
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    I went through school in NC back in the 70s. Class size was much higher (never in a class smaller than 30 until high school). But yet, with those larger classes, high school grads were testing higher and preforming better in college than today (all colleges report remedial classes needed for about 50% of freshmen - mainly science and math).

    Do you think it was the stricter environment that required all students to behave, unlike today? If a student was a disruption to the class back then, they were out. Period. Teachers were not forced to deal with out of control children. You just didn't have the discipline problems then we have now.

    Travel around the country and you find, school districts that spend the most money do not have the best or even average performing schools. Look at DC. Over 25k per year per student and less than 30% graduate reading/writing at a high school level.

  • William Price Apr 19, 2017
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    the NC lottery is just a scheme to put money directly into NC politicians pockets.... was just recently all the republicans freaked out because gov. cooper wants to use 100% of education lottery for education.....reason the republicans freaked out.....it would stop putting free money in their pockets

  • Brian Tucker Apr 19, 2017
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    The district wants more money, new law says smaller class sizes (what are they now ?), and what will be the cap on classroom size ? Do we really need smaller classes and what for ? Guess I missed this new law details. So, laying off teachers and cutting programs and/or classes will save money and make up for what the district wants ? Sounds like Wake schools doesn't really know what they need .... maybe the public needs to move in and take over ?