State may cut teaching assistants

Published 9:45 am Thursday, July 30, 2015

Superintendent Dr. Darrin Hartness shared concerns related to the state’s continuing budget with the school board members at their July 7 meeting.

Topping the list is the proposal that would reduce the allotment for teacher assistants by $24.8 million, a six-percent reduction. The Senate side of the proposal is a reduction of more than 50 percent for K-3 assistants, the equivalent of 8,500 fewer teacher assistants in the state.

He said Andrea Cranfill, local and state teacher assistant of the year, is involved with lobbying legislators and shared with Hartness that Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie) met with her “in the hallway and said he was supportive, and then the Senate delegation, including Mr. Brock, was not very supportive of teacher assistants when they were on the floor, so she was very disappointed in our local representation as well as the rest of the Senate.”

Teacher assistants, he said, transport students in and around, as well as to and from school, as many of them are bus drivers.

“They work in small groups, support instruction and are an integral part of what we do in education, so I really have a lot of concern about them, as employees and as people.”

Another concern, he said, is the reduction in class sizes in grades K-3 to one teacher for every 16 students. Next year, that would drop to one for every 15. While it is good to reduce class size, he said, that creates a need for more classrooms.

Funding for additional teacher positions would be taken from funding for teacher assistants. In addition to that, Hartness said, the best teachers are hired out of colleges and universities in May, June and July. While the Senate and House continue to debate and with the budget in limbo, possibly until October, Hartness said, it puts school systems in a difficult position as they face the beginning of a new school year.

“If I’m a principal at a school right now, I might be thinking about who do I have on my team next year, who is going to be in the classroom, planning where students will be and planning who will do what duties, and that’s all up in the air right now. I wish Raleigh would hear and understand the impact of their decisions and hear the impact of the lack of their decisions,” Hartness said.

No more teacher assistants will be hired here to fill vacant positions, he said. Once a final budget is in place, a reduction in force may be needed.