Durham elementary school students took over Sen. Chad Barefoot’s office on Wednesday for an art lesson and protest designed to urge state lawmakers to increase education funding.
Clipboards, drawing paper, pencils, markers and Lego bricks came out of containers as students parked themselves on Barefoot’s floor to design what they would want to see in a school. When not leading the architecture lesson, art teacher Malcolm Goff of E.K. Powe Elementary School in Durham talked to legislative staffers about how he wants North Carolina to be higher than 43rd in state per-pupil spending.
Barefoot was not in his office inside the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh. His staff said the Wake Forest Republican and co-chairman of the Senate Education Committee was at a meeting.
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“It was really exciting,” said Ben Coleff, 8, a third-grade student at E.K. Powe Elementary. “This was my second political related event. It was fun to go inside this kind of building.”
The protestors are upset that state lawmakers only agreed to a one-year compromise on elementary school class-size cuts that doesn’t provide guaranteed funding for arts and physical education classes.
The House had approved House Bill 13 in February to ease the class-size reductions to provide the flexibility that school districts said was needed. The Senate modified the bill to delay the class-size changes to the 2018-19 school year. It was signed into law last week.
Senate leaders also said they’d study funding arts and PE teachers but did not include the funding guarantee in the legislation. A spokeswoman for Senate leader Phil Berger reiterated the pledge this week.