Senate education budget could mean fewer TAs, more children in class
EAST SPENCER — According to school system staff, the state Senate’s proposed budget would cut 121 teacher assistants in Rowan County and end the limit on class sizes in early grades.
Chief Financial Officer Tara Trexler gave a presentation to the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on Monday based on the N.C. Senate’s proposal.
The $20.6 billion budget, released Sunday, would spend slightly less than Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposal.
Trexler said she hasn’t yet calculated how all of the education provisions in the budget would affect the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
One of the items that would have a big impact locally, she said, is a drop in funding for teacher assistants.
The state now funds assistants for kindergarten through third grade, but under the Senate proposal, it would fund only kindergarten and first grade teacher assistants.
“If we only allocated for K-1 students, that would cut 121 teacher assistant positions in our district,” Trexler said. “That would be about $3.6 million for us.”
Another provision, she said, would lift the limit on class sizes in first through third grades.
School board members groaned at this news, then laughed at Trexler’s next comment.
“They did say that it would be up to local agencies to ensure that class size was adequate,” she said.
In other policy changes, the state would begin the process of removing tenure or career status, placing new teachers on contracts ranging from one to three years.
The Senate budget also would completely eliminate the LEA adjustment, also known as the discretionary reduction, which currently accounts for $376 million of the budget. For the past few years, the state has asked that school systems return a certain amount of the money they were appropriated by making flexible reductions.
Under the Senate proposal, the state would instead cut $286 million for classroom teachers, $17 million for instructional support personnel and $7 million for instructional supplies.
Trexler said this would be “a wash” financially for the school system, which was expecting about the same amount of reductions. But in the past, it has been able to avoid losses in the classroom by shifting around positions and budgets.
“This was a surprise to us,” Trexler said. “They’re going to take away the flexibility we have to decide where the cuts will come from.”
One bright spot of news, she said, is that the state’s Title I allotment may be a little larger than expected.
Chairman Richard Miller said he finds that ironic in the face of all of the cuts.
“Because we’re getting poorer,” he said, “we’re getting more money.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.