Calls for Wake to do more to use federal stimulus dollars to reduce class sizes have only increased since traditional-calendar schools opened last week.
As noted in today's article, the reality of many classes with more than 30 students because of fewer teachers on the books has set in. You've got classes of more than 40 students in some rooms.
Gov. Beverly Perdue, State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison and the N.C. Association of Educators is contrasting how Wake used stimulus dollars with districts such as Winston-Salem/Forsyth that jumped all in to use the money to save jobs and keep class sizes the same at Title I schools.
Wake has repeatedly argued that stimulus dollars come with strings in how they can be used.
While critics say that's true, they also point to how districts can creatively use the stimulus money to free up state money to save jobs and hold the line on class sizes.
Sheri Strickland, president of the N.C. Association of Educators, said districts should focus now on using the money to lower class sizes for students and save jobs. She said districts can worry later about the stimulus dollars running out two years from now.
"Why wouldn't you keep the teachers in the classroom for the next two years and provide best education for the children you can?" Strickland said. "Hopefully two years from now we'll be in a better position."
Wake Supt. Del Burns stood by the district's decision to use only part of the stimulus dollars for job preservation. Wake is using a big chunk for job creation, namely 98 new positions in Title I schools for math coaches to work with teachers and for more pre-kinergarten classes.
Burns said they've set it up so that they can gain benefits from having those 98 jobs over the next two years. If they have to let those people go in two years, he said they would have helped "build capacity" from the work done by those new hires.
"We have created a better situation for the kids of 2023-24," Burns said of the pre-K classes being expanded through stimulus dollars.
Burns also said another reason to be cautious is that the state is already using $35 million in stimulus dollars to offset state cuts for non-teaching positions. He's not counting on the state making up that money in two years, which would force Wake to pick up the costs.
Jennifer Lanane, president of Wake NCAE, said she hopes the district will use the stimulus dollars for more job preservation after the 10th day of classes.
"The fact that we have classes with 30 to 35 students is distressing," said Lanane, who previously was an elementary school teacher. "Once you get above 25-30 kid in a class you can't meet the need of all the kids."