Senators will be expecting lots of phone calls from teachers in the coming days. The Senate has passed a budget which includes provisions to raise class size by two students. The change saves the state approximately $322 million each year for the next two years and is a big step in balancing the budget. The governor – a former teacher – contends this will result in the loss of over 6,000 jobs. Perdue and the state’s major teacher organization, the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) are doing all they can to fight the layoffs.
Before the volume gets turned up, let’s fill in this picture. For one, I’ve never been sold on smaller classes as a way to spur student performance, but that’s already been discussed. True, laying off teachers appeals to no one, however, the reality is North Carolina is still experiencing a severe teacher shortage. A 2006 Department of Public Instruction report states North Carolina has hired 10,000 new teachers a year for most of the past decade. I always thought those numbers were a little high, but the number is out there. Over the last few years provisions (i.e. removing retirement penalties and streamlining alternative certification) have been included in the budget or approved separately to help make it easier to get more teachers or qualified professionals into the classroom – further evidence of a serious teacher shortage. In addition, Teach for America has 160 teachers working in eastern North Carolina in hard-to-fill positions. While increasing class size will reduce the number of vacancies, the scope of the current shortage — coupled with high turnover in the field – benefits teachers who need jobs and will work to significantly reduce the number of long-term layoffs.