Cuts Still Likely for Wake County Teacher Assistants

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Teacher assistants in the Wake County Public School System could see their contracts diminished from 10 months to 9.25 months if education funding is reduced to the levels in the current state budget proposal.

The budget, now waiting for Gov. Bev Perdue’s signature or veto, cuts education funding by 6 percent. The budget approved by the Wake County Board of Education in May assumes a 5 percent cut in state money.

Wake schools Chief Financial Officer David Neter said Tuesday the additional cuts could total between $1.4 million and $2.2 million.

Rather than eliminate positions, administrative staff proposed amending contracts.

“This will keep teacher assistants in place all of the days the students are in place,” Neter said. “We have discussed this with principals and they are in support.”

Neter also outlined another change the state budget would require if it were to become law: an increase in the school year from 180 to 185 days. This could eliminate five teacher workdays if the General Assembly does not amend a state statute regarding teacher development.

“That’s five days fewer for staff training and development,” said Board Member Kevin Hill. “We’re running up against research. We have to keep in mind what we’re piling on teachers, keep in mind that we’re pushing teachers to the limit.”

The five additional school days would also amount to about $500,000 in additional transportation costs.

Superintendent Tony Tata and board members were pleased the General Assembly backed down from funding cuts as high as 10 percent. Board members praised Tata for meeting with state representatives and senators to urge them not to cut above 5 percent.

“I’ve been trying to work the budget in the right direction,” said Tata. “We’re closer to five than we are to 10. I’m not happy with it, but I’m happier than I was with 10.”

Board member Keith Sutton offered a motion to draft a letter to the General Assembly thanking members for reducing cuts, but also detailing the impact of a 6 percent cut on the district.

The letter could also ask that the legislative body reduce cuts to 5 percent, in line with those recommended by the state’s Department of Public Instruction.

The motion passed, but some members expressed reservations.

“I have mixed thoughts about it,” said Board Member Deborah Prickett. “I’m going to let the General Assembly do their work and not try to interfere. Whether it’s political or not, it’s political.”

Perdue has until June 16 to sign or veto the General Assembly’s budget before it automatically becomes law. The legislature could override her veto with Democratic support.

Neter will present the proposed teacher assistant cuts to the board for approval at its June 21 work session.

“I have every reason to believe that the state budget that will look like the budget on the governor’s desk on the 21st,” he said.

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