A bill passed by the North Carolina General Assembly addressing issues related to a cap on class sizes will become law.
Governor Roy Cooper announced this week that he would not be vetoing the legislation, which passed overwhelmingly in the legislature.
But Cooper and other Democrats are still voicing opposition to portions of the bill unrelated to the class size issue, which had caused concern in school districts across the state.
The original class size legislation called for a cap on some elementary school classrooms but provided no funding to districts in order to meet the new standards.
“The class size chaos that this legislature started caused agony and anger and angst across this state for no reason,” Cooper said at a press conference this week.
Local Democratic House Representative Graig Meyer was one of 12 House lawmakers who ultimately voted against the bill. Meyer said he was pleased the legislature was moving on class-size funding issues, but said – when speaking with WCHL prior to his vote – his concerns were related to provisions unrelated to the class size portion of the bill.
“In this case, school advocates won,” Meyer said. “The massive pressure statewide about making sure that any class size reduction was fully funded resulted in the Republicans in the legislature adding money to pay for class size reductions and rolling out the process over four years.”
In addition to the phasing in of the class size caps, the bill also puts forward funding to eliminate the Pre-K wait list in North Carolina, which Cooper proposed in his recommended budget last year. The bill passed this week also allocates money for school districts specifically to go toward hiring art, music and physical education teachers.
Some local school officials are concerned though that this bill does not go far enough. And Meyer said those concerns are valid.
“The two glaring holes in this fix are that there is no money for capital expenses because reducing class sizes will increase the need for classrooms,” Meyer said. “And we’re going to have to address the teacher supply issue.
“But that’s not only an issue around class sizes. We have a problem with teacher supply writ large in this state. And so those are challenges that we really need legislative leadership to step up on.”
Cooper made clear that he was not happy the class size portion of the bill was tied to other issues.
“The rest of the bill’s bad provisions are political attacks and power grabs,” Cooper said.
Those provisions include efforts by Republican lawmakers to combine the state elections and ethics boards, after the legislature’s previous attempt was ruled unconstitutional by the North Carolina Supreme Court, and targeting a fund Cooper established with $58 million from a company which received permitting to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through parts of eastern North Carolina.
When Cooper announced the fund, he said the money would be used to mitigate any negative impact caused by the pipeline’s construction. Republican lawmakers, in the class-size bill, rerouted those funds to be under the General Assembly’s control and would go to school districts near where the pipeline would run.
Due to his objections to those provisions, Cooper said he will not sign the bill. Which means it will become law next month without his signature.