- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - School systems say they may have to cut arts and physical education in elementary schools this fall if North Carolina lawmakers do not change plans for reducing class sizes.

Lawmakers voted last year to limit class size for students in kindergarten through third grade, The News & Observer of Raleigh (http://bit.ly/2jMTYSH ) reported.

But school leaders say paying for smaller classes will require them to cut elsewhere, either by reducing programs such as the arts, or by increasing other class sizes or by asking counties to pick up the additional costs.

Some teachers worry they may be laid off.

“Our teachers are scared to death about their jobs and their livelihood,” said James Daugherty, president of the North Carolina Music Educators Association. “It’s unnerving.”

Union Rep. Craig Horn says lawmakers didn’t consider the impact of the class-size changes when the measure was added to the state budget last year. Horn says lawmakers were more focused on teacher pay raises.

“It was not as fully thought through with regard to unintended consequences,” Horn said. “So now we’ve got a chance to straighten it out and still have lower class sizes.”

Lawmakers ordered that in the fall, class sizes for kindergarten through third grade should be reduced from 24 students each to between 19 and 21 students each, depending on the grade level.

Districts have been working to determine many additional teachers will be needed to reduce class sizes while maintaining art, music and physical education programs.

The House passed a bill during last month’s special session to ease the changes in class size, but the Senate did not consider the measure.

Educators are hoping for fast action now.

“This is something that can’t wait until our state budget comes this summer,” said Katherine Joyce, executive director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators. “We need our lawmakers to act now.”

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Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com

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