The News & Observer

A legislative deal announced Thursday means North Carolina elementary schools won’t have to reduce class sizes this year that school officials said could potentially threaten art, music and physical education programs.

State Republican legislative leaders said they will phase in the smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade over the next four years instead of lowering them at once this fall. As part of the delay, lawmakers will include $61 million a year to help school districts pay for art, music and physical education teachers.

The deal comes after school officials around the state said they didn’t have the thousands of extra classrooms needed and might have to fire arts and PE teachers to help come up with the money to hire additional K-3 teachers.

“What we have here is a good solution to a problem that I don’t think anybody really anticipated but needed to be solved,” Senate Leader Phil Berger said at a press conference announcing the deal.

The House could vote on the legislation by Tuesday. The class-size change is included in a bill with a potentially controversial proposal that would take $58 million tied to a key permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and distribute it to school districts in eight counties. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper now controls the money, which Republicans called a “slush fund.”