Buncombe County Schools  joins the growing list  of districts across North Carolina eliminating teaching assistant positions to cope with state cutbacks. Faced with a $2 million loss, the system will do away with two dozen TA positions. Others have been told they will face reduced hours and days.
Legislative leaders have defended the state spending plan, but enrollment growth and inflation are leaving many districts struggling to make ends meet, even with the discretion to move some money around.
Black Mountain News  offers this glimpse at how the reduction in hours will be felt in the months ahead:
‘In the Buncombe system, the number of assistant positions will drop from 670 to 636, schools personnel administrator Cynthia Lopez said. Those numbers include part-time positions which equal half a full-time assistant.
All remaining assistants will lose five days of employment, while 25 media assistants will have their daily hours reduced to no more than seven.’
‘A typical instructional assistant earning $22,015 annually will lose $524 with the reduction in days, according to the central office. Those also losing an hour will see a total salary reduction of $3,211.
Jessica Atkins has been an assistant at Black Mountain Primary School for 14 years, working 32 hours a week in the classroom and tutoring students. She has a two-year degree in early childhood development and said including the time running her own daycare, she has 40 years of experience working with children.
To make ends meet, Atkins drives a school bus and works part-time at the Dollar General Store. In the summer she also works part-time at the front desk of Christmount Conference Center.
She said it was a stressful summer watching state officials debate cuts to assistants and wondering if she would have a job. But a bigger concern is the impact on students, she said.
“Teaching assistants are more important now than ever before. They help the teachers provide individual attention to all students. People must be aware that not all children learn at the same rate, and some are not developmentally ready to meet what Raleigh requires in the classroom,” she said.’
Classes resume for the school district August 21st.