As the Orange County Board of Commissioners are preparing to start the budgeting process for the year, questions about how the county will react to the looming class-size mandate have begun to arise.
Republicans in the General Assembly voted in 2016 to reduce class sizes for kindergarten through third-grade classes, which chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners Mark Dorosin said would be a positive, if the state allocated the funds needed to make it work.
“The challenge is that the state is imposing this without any resources available,” said Dorosin. “If they said, ‘We understand this is going to require more teachers and more capacity, and we’re going to give you the resources to do that,’ that would be one reasonable approach.”
Without added funds to support the mandate, school advocates fear that specialty classes like art, music and physical education will be forced to fall by the wayside.
Dorosin said that due to budget cuts, this is already a reality in lower-wealth districts.
“I really don’t know what those districts are going to do,” said Dorosin. “There’s the teachers aspect, where they’ll need to hire more teachers, and there’s also a facilities component.”
While the county has stepped up in the past to fill funding gaps, Dorosin said that it will be difficult to pick up the slack this time.
“The truth is the state is taking money away from education much faster than any county government, even ours which has one of the greatest commitments to education out of any county in the state, can make up,” said Dorosin. “They’re digging it out with a bulldozer, and we’re filling it in with a hand shovel.”
The General Assembly is beginning a special session on Wednesday, which school advocates are using as an opportunity to voice their opinion on the class-size mandate.