Durham parents ready to rally against class-size mandate: 'They can't ignore us forever'

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These parents and students are making signs for a protest in front of the state legislature.

In a Durham living room, armed with markers in every color and even a screen-printing kit in the back room, they made the signs they'll carry at Saturday's protest outside the State Legislature.

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Eric Thomson, a father of a Durham Public Schools elementary student, spelled out "SOS" in yellow marker.

"It stands for Save our Schools," he said. "I just want (the legislature) to fund this mandate that they passed."

He's talking about the decision by Republicans not to delay a GOP-backed law to reduce class sizes across the state in kindergarten through third grade next school year.

The aim of the new rule is to create a better learning environment - fewer students for every one teacher. But school districts warn that without more state money to fund additional teachers - the class size mandate will create class size chaos.

Specialty classes such as music, gym, and art - which is 6-year old Alexander Kerr-Ritchie's favorite class at his Durham elementary school - could be on the chopping block.

"I'm very good at art and I really don't want it to stop," Kerr-Ritchie said holding the protest sign he plans to hold at Saturday's rally.

He will join what's expected to be hundreds of parents, children, and teachers demonstrating outside the legislature, demanding lawmakers take action now to delay the mandate.

"Teachers' jobs are on the line, administrators are scrambling to figure out if they have to add trailers and if they have to lay people off. Why put it off another day?" said Paige Welch, a Durham mom who helped organize local parents.

A spokesperson for Sen. Phil Berger, the top Republican in the State Senate, told ABC11 on Friday, "Senate Republicans will continue working with our schools to provide parents certainty about what will happen next school year ... We need to review (the data on how districts are spending state funds given for teachers) before determining any next steps."

The moms and dads making these signs don't buy it.

"When they've done studies, they've actually found that almost 100 percent of that money has been spent on teachers, exactly what it was supposed to be spent on, across the state. That's every district," said Elizabeth Lindquist, Alexander's mother. "I just don't believe that argument."

The Save Our Schools rally begins at 1 p.m. Saturday on Halifax Mall, right outside the General Assembly. Temperatures will be in the 20s, but on the online invitations to the event, organizers told parents and kids to "suck it up, bundle up, and show up!"
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educationstate politicseducationdurham public schoolsprotestDurham CountyDurhamRaleighWake County
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