Commentary, News

Before legislators’ vacay, TAs have their say (Audio)

Today’s must read story comes from NC Policy Watch education reporter Lindsay Wagner, who profiles several of the teaching assistants who stand to lose their jobs if lawmakers adopt the Senate’s budget proposal when they return from a scheduled summer recess.

Here’s an excerpt from Wagner’s story:

As a part of their “Pink Slips Truth” tour that’s made stops in Charlotte, Fayetteville and Greenville, scores of teacher assistants (TAs) joined Hefner at the state capitol Tuesday to draw attention to the Senate’s budget, which proposes eliminating more than 8,500 TAs from state classrooms over the next two years.

“The message the politicians are sending is, ‘Y’all have a happy fourth of July! We’re going to the beach! Maybe we’ll fire you when we get back,’” said Melinda Zarate, state secretary of the North Carolina Association of Teacher Assistants at a press conference.

It’s around this point during the summer break that local school districts must make staffing decisions for the upcoming year based on how the state has decided to fund the classroom.

But as the end of the fiscal year approached, lawmakers still hadn’t reached a budget deal, forcing them to pass a continuing resolution Tuesday that keeps state government running while a final budget is hammered out.

The General Assembly left the fate of teacher assistants’ jobs, however, up in the air. Budget writer Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Cary) said Monday evening that it’s up to local school districts to decided if they would like to draw down a pot of funds intended to accommodate student enrollment growth in order to save TAs’ jobs.

After years of cuts to public education, local school districts may technically have flexibility in how they use state funds, but many school officials have said there are too few dollars to have much real choice in how they divvy up money to keep classrooms up and running now that the state has fallen to 46th nationally in funding schools on a per pupil basis.

To read Wagner’s full story on the teaching assistants, click here. To hear to Melinda Zarate with the North Carolina Association of Teacher Assistants talk about what’s at stake in her own words, click below:

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