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State Officials Confirm There Will Be Fewer Teaching Assistants

It’s becoming clear that North Carolina’s state budget is not as advertised by House and Senate leaders. 

Take teacher’s assistants. School districts will have fewer of them next year. 

To say the House and Senate parted ways acrimoniously would be an understatement.

To say the so called “short session” is over, would be false.

Both chambers passed differing recess resolutions. House Minority Leader Larry Hall says that has led to a lot of confusion. "We’re not sure if we’re in session. Or we’re not in session. So I guess we’re in limbo."

Also in limbo? Coal ash regulations, Medicaid reform and a number of other bills that were left unfinished.  They may be dealt with at an expected August session of the General Assembly or one in November after the election.

Hall was joined at the press conference by his counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue. And Blue said even those things settled by the general assembly will leave a lot of teachers and teaching assistants in limbo.

"This budget  plays shell games," said Blue, "and I think that over the last three or four days most people have figured that out."

Blue says one such shell game involves teaching assistants. Despite Republican proclamations that every teacher assistant will keep their job. "I will venture to say that an overwhelming majority of the school districts will tell you that they’re going to have to lay off teacher assistants. Or fire teacher assistants."

That may or not be true.

But there will be fewer teaching assistants in the class room this school year.

And here's why:

The Senate was trying to add more teachers and pay for them by cutting teacher assistants. In the end, the House and Senate compromised by allowing districts to choose between teachers and teacher assistants.  But hiring a bunch of teachers just a few weeks before school starts is hard.

"To have some of these flexibilities this close to school doesn’t really feel like they’re flexibilities," says CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison.

So many districts like CMS may choose to continue to use that money for teacher assistants. However, the NC Department of Public Instruction says because of a complicated funding formula, districts that use that money for teacher assistants will have 20 percent less to work with. In CMS, that could mean 90 fewer teacher assistants this year. That won’t necessarily mean big layoffs since many districts like CMS already have a lot of vacancies.