Post date: Jul 9, 2015 6:11:18 PM

School districts across the state are waiting to see if North Carolina lawmakers will cease to provide funding for as many as 8,500 teacher assistant positions during the next two years.

While the House budget plan proposes to maintain current funding levels for teacher assistants, the Senate proposes to cut teacher assistants, using those funds to pay for teachers to reduce class sizes in lower grades. Under the Senate plan, the equivalent of 5,300 teacher assistant salaries would be cut state-wide this year with an additional 3,200 teacher assistants cut next year.

“It seems like every summer we are in the same place, worrying if the General Assembly will eliminate more teacher assistant positions,” said Yancey County Schools Superintendent Dr. Tony Tipton.

At the school board meeting on July 6th the Yancey County School Board approved a recommendation by Superintendent Tipton for a Reduction In Force (RIF) Plan. This plan is developed in the event the final budget from the state does eliminate teacher assistant positions.

As stated by School Board Chair Mr. Mike Orr, “While no one wants to eliminate any positions, we believe it is prudent to take steps to be prepared in the event teacher assistant funding is cut.”

School Board Vice-Chair Mr. Bill Whiteside agreed, quoting Benjamin Franklin, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." Whiteside continued, “Because of the uncertainty of when the General Assembly will release a budget, we should be ready to take action if needed instead of waiting and having to hurriedly design a plan.”

The RIF Plan that was approved follows the same guidelines the school system used two years ago when it was necessary to reduce the number of teacher assistant positions because of a reduction in state funding.

Yancey County School Board Policy #7921 calls for the superintendent to first reduce staff through normal attrition. As of now, through retirements and other factors, Yancey County Schools will begin the next school year with 5 fewer teacher assistants in the elementary schools than when school ended on June 12th.

If it does become necessary to use the RIF plan, the superintendent must use the following criteria when eliminating positions: 1) job performance, 2) degrees, licenses, and special qualifications, 3) seniority, and 4) other criteria determined to be relevant.

Yancey County Schools encourages all teacher assistants, as well as anyone interested in maintaining teacher assistants in the classroom, to continue to watch and monitor news coming out of Raleigh.

School board member Mr. Norb McKinney noted, “Yancey County has protected the teacher assistant positions better than most school systems around us by funding the eliminated positions over the last few years out of our savings or fund balance.”

Superintendent Tipton added, “We have continued to fund these positions using our fund balance because we believe it is better to have two caring adults in the early grades than just one caring adult. However, paying teacher assistant salaries out of savings cannot continue. Just as with any budget relying on your savings account to pay monthly bills cannot be sustained. Sooner or later you will run out of money and cannot pay for any of your bills.”