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State Budget Means Cutbacks For CMS Teacher Assistants

Michael Tomsic

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will cut back the hours its teacher assistants work this year. That's one of several examples Superintendent Heath Morrison gave of how the state budget that passed Wednesday will impact the district.

The budget agreement state House and Senate leaders reached this week cuts funding for teacher assistants by about one-fifth ($120 million) this year.

CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison said that will hurt students.

"Because we're taking some of the hardest working individuals in our schools who bring great value, and they're going to have fewer of them working fewer days and fewer hours," Morrison said.

He said the district hasn't finalized how much it'll cut assistants' hours and days, but it's floated the idea of cutting about three hours a week and about 15 days a year. 

He said CMS asked principals and teacher assistants if they'd prefer something like that or layoffs, and they voted for reduced hours and days. He said the district will eliminate teacher assistant positions, but he thinks there are enough vacant ones that current assistants won't lose their jobs.

Also, Morrison says teachers are frustrated that the budget doesn't give them a pay raise. After all, North Carolina has one of the lowest average salaries in the country for teachers. Plus, the budget gets rid of tenure in favor of a pay-for-performance model. Here's how Morrison says all that sounds to teachers:

"So we're not giving you any more money. We're going to take away something that is important to you," Morrison said. "And oh, by the way, something that makes your job manageable and allows you to teach kids at the level you want to – teacher assistants – we're going to cut across the state."

Morrison said CMS will finalize its plans for the coming year over the next few weeks.