New bill could increase NC class size

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.-- A new bill sponsored by Sen. Jerry Tillman of Randolph County would  allow school districts to put as many students in the classroom as they want, and use money earmarked for teaching positions for other purposes.

The legislation, discussed by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, would do away with class size limits after more than a decade of work by state educators to reduce class sizes.

Supporters of the bill say it would allow districts to manage their money anyway they see fit, as long as they are making student improvement.

Opponents of the bill say allowing districts to increase class size would increase teacher stress, decrease student achievement and be unfair for students who depend on a teacher's ability to spend more time with them.

"I've worked in classrooms where we have 30 students and you are not able to give the attention that each boy and girl deserves. To be successful teaching you have to give the kids one on one attention daily,"  said Bonita Vaughan, a 5th grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary.

Educators across the state say test scores have improved along with discipline problems because of smaller classes. Many also say, state guidelines allow each student and teacher the same chance to reap the benefits of smaller classes.

"There are going to be some school systems that say we don't want to put money into lowering class size we want to put it into something over here. We as educators say leave that money alone and make sure that every child gets that right to have as low a class size as possible," said Jefferson Elementary Principal Nora Baker.

Tillman said he thinks districts need more say in the money provided by the state, but also thinks they should be held accountable if there is no improvement in achievement after raising class sizes and used the money elsewhere.

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