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Districts Worry Budget May Mean Fewer Teacher Assistants

Flickr/Seth Sawyers

The budget state lawmakers settled on last week looked like it would preserve teacher assistant positions.  But it’s not true, according to some school districts.  Teacher assistants may still be cut.   

Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger praised the budget last week for giving teachers raises and not making cuts to the classroom. 

“The budget will also preserve teacher assistant positions, protect classroom funding, and continue to give superintendents broad flexibility to tailor classroom spending to their district’s needs,” said Berger. 

But on closer inspection school districts are finding they may end up with fewer teacher assistants next year based on how state funding formulas work.  CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison expects CMS will be short $2.6 million for those positions this year.

“We’re trying to verify that we’re correct in that and then we’ll have to make an adjustment to our budget. So that would result in about 90 teacher assistant positions,” says Morrison.

That cut wouldn’t result in lay-offs, since CMS already has about 140 vacancies.  According to the Winston-Salem Journal, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools expects to be short at least $1.2 million in funding for teacher assistants. 

The budget does give districts flexibility to use money initially set aside for teacher assistants to add classroom teachers, but Morrison points out that’s not much of a choice this late in the summer.  

“If you value your employers, you’re not going to say a couple weeks before school, ‘Hey, sorry, but you don’t have a job because we decided now to lower our class sizes,’” says Morrison.

Plus, he says it’s hard to find so many qualified teachers just a few weeks before school begins. 

The budget will raise teacher pay on average 7 percent and gets rid of longevity pay. Some teachers will receive 19 percent raises. Others, including many veteran teachers, will receive only 1 or 2 percent raises. 

If Mecklenburg County voters approve a quarter-cent sales tax in November, Morrison hopes to set aside additional money for those teachers next year.