RALEIGH: Senate budget cuts 693 Wake teacher assistants - WSPA.com

Wake Schools: Senate budget cuts 693 teacher assistants

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Wake Schools Supt. Jim Merrill Wake Schools Supt. Jim Merrill
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The Wake County Public School System says more than 690 teacher assistant positions would be eliminated if the state Senate's budget proposal is passed.

The North Carolina Senate's $21.2 billion plan for the year starting July 1 would give teachers pay raises averaging more than 11 percent in exchange for the teachers relinquishing their tenure or "career status."

A teacher with 20 years' experience, for example, would receive base pay of $50,000 under the new schedule versus $43,633 under the current plan.

But Wake Schools said there is another catch in addition to teachers having to give up career status. The Senate proposal would likely require the declination of 693 teacher assistant positions out of 1,250 allotted for the current school year, the school system said.

"It is a great step in the right direction to address teacher salaries," Wake County School Board Chair Christine Kushner said, "but we have teacher assistant positions that are being cut."

The school system further said it would have to reduce bus services and the number of drivers used to transport students due to a proposed cut of $2.9 million in transportation funding.

There could also be a reduction in the number of drivers education classes offered for students, the school system said.

The raises built in to the Senate budget are for teachers paid with state money. Wake Schools said it would cost the school system $13 million to provide raises to any teachers paid with local funding.

Wake Schools cautioned that providing local raises could mean additional personnel cuts.

Monday night, a spokeswoman with State Senate Leader Phil Berger's office, R-Rockingham, responded to those claims, noting the plan calls for the largest teacher pay raise in state history and increases K-12 funding over last year. The spokeswoman also suggested Wake Schools dip into its own fund balance to fill any gaps.

Via email, School Board Chair Kushner responded, saying much of that fund balance money is restricted and can only be used on certain projects, adding that the money is also non-recurring, "and salaries should be funded from recurring funds, not one time funds."

North Carolina's average teacher pay was last ranked 46th among the states and the District of Columbia.

In announcing the plan last week, Berger said North Carolina's average pay would rise to near the middle of the pack if the schedule was carried out fully. Democratic and Republican majorities have given just one raise to teachers since 2008 in the Great Recession's aftermath.

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