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School Board Members Want Funds For More K-3 Classrooms

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Phil Roeder
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Flickr/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board members are concerned that state lawmakers have not designated money to pay for classrooms needed to comply with upcoming K-3 class size restrictions. They are also concerned that the district’s early college school programs are not funded in next year’s proposed budget.

Currently, schools can have a maximum of 24 students per class in grades K-3. But by the 2021/2022 school year, a kindergarten class can have no more than 18 students. The maximum size for a first grade class will be 16 students and 17 for second and third grades.

“Which all sounds great if you have the classes available and in many areas in the county we don’t have it,”  CMS school board member Margaret Marshall said. “We want time to build classes and address space needs so we can be in compliance. We want to put it on their radar that this won’t work well as it stands now for us.”

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CMS District 5 school board member Margaret Marshall

Marshall is one of three CMS school board members to raise concerns about the budget in a letter to House and Senate leaders. While lawmakers have provided funding for the additional teachers districts will have to hire, no funds were appropriated for the classroom spaces that some districts will have to build or purchase portables to meet space needs. CMS officials say it will cost $20 million for them to buy 200 trailers for the classroom size reductions.

“But we have campuses that really can’t accommodate additional portable classrooms so then you start to have to move students, which would be hard on families and in some areas, there’s really nowhere to move them,” Marshall said. “If we look at adding on or building classrooms, we’re up against some schools being already over utilized in terms of cafeteria and restroom space.”

CMS officials say without the funding, they will have to take space from higher level grades, making those classes crowded. But Rep. Craig Horn, one of the chairs of the House K-12 committee is optimistic that the concerns will be addressed.

“We’ll probably have to make some adjustments down the line but we will find the money to fund this,” Horn said.

If not, legislation is pending that would allow state boards of education to grant waivers in cases where schools don’t have the space needed to reduce class sizes.

Another issue they are concerned about is that the district would not receive any money for its early college programs. It lets students to take college courses for credit, allowing them to graduate from college early, thus saving them money. Marshall says 800 CMS students participate in the program. This year, the district received more than a million dollars from the state for the program, but lawmakers don’t plan to fund early college programs that have been around for at least three years.

“That funding is key and without the additional funds the state gives we don’t know if we can operate these programs,” Marshall said.

Horn says the program has been a success and he thinks house and senate members can come together to support it