Teacher assistants and media assistants in Craven County Schools are being told to prepare for the event that their jobs may be cut after the upcoming 2014-15 school year.
According to Craven County School spokesman Jennifer Wagner, some 250 teacher assistant-type positions are vulnerable. That includes 58 teacher assistants working in Havelock area schools.
“As of right now, based on the allotments that the state will be releasing, we do project to have a 22 percent reduction for our teaching assisting allotment,” Wagner said. “We will be short by an estimated $1.4 million in comparison to what we had last year.”
New hiring and replacement hiring for vacant teacher assistant positions has been frozen since the beginning of 2014.
“This year, they have pulled, by vacancies, people retiring, whatever reasons that have come out of teacher assistant positions, they did not re-staff those and they moved people around to cover them and we were able to capture 35 positions over this last year that way,” said Carr Ipock, chairman of the Craven County Board of Education.
But that is only a short-term solution.
“Now the state has said to go ahead and plan for proposed cuts for next year, so all we can do is continue to communicate the information that the state provides us by preparing employees to make them aware that funding each year continues to be cut and that there are chances that the funding will continue to be cut again,” Wagner said. “I think what has been communicated is that they need to be aware that the state continues to propose more cuts.”
Ipock said the first area of impact will be on the technology assist positions that help teachers with computer and technology-related matters.
“There are no guarantees and the state has even said to plan for proposed cuts for next year,” Wagner said. “We continue to have conversations to prepare all of our employees for the future.”
“They are also people with technology skills that are marketable and while we don’t want to lose a single one of them we want them to be aware that over the course of this next year if they see an opportunity out there that would benefit them that would be guaranteed employment, then consider it,” Ipock said. “There’s no threat that you’re going to be laid off, but in this climate, knowing that we’ve got this reduction this year and the next year there is nothing to show that there is going to be funding at all for that classification.”
At a time when schools are moving away from traditional textbooks and toward computer tablets and laptops, the loss of tech support will have an impact.
Ipock said teachers can’t be expected to excellent educators and computer experts at the same time.
“It’s two different things. You start taking that support out and you’re just amplifying the problem you’re having with your other resource,” Ipock said.
Teacher assistants earn annual salaries ranging from $21,039 for associate’s degree holders and $25,873 for Bachelor of Arts degree holders. Those salaries do not include benefits.
“The majority of our teacher assistants are at the elementary level and they drive busses and assist in the classroom,” Wagner said. “They are a viable resource not only to the classroom teacher but also to the school.”
Wagner said that in the last two years, there has been a growing trend by the state to cut funds for teacher assistants. “Anything that we can do to help the state not continue to make these cuts would be helpful,” Wagner said. “There’s a possibility. Based on information that we’re receiving from the state that there will continue to be reductions in the budget.”
“This specific line item has been cut tremendously over the last two years so there is a pattern there,” Wagner said. “Last year it was a 19 percent reduction and this coming up year is a 22 percent reduction.”
Ipock said the loss of teacher assistants will heavily impact teachers in their effort to teach young students basic skills like reading.
“It is devaluing when you are continually taking resources away because you are sending that message that this isn’t as important. That’s the whole foundation of our society and our work system,” Ipock said. “That’s what schools do. They build good citizens that are employable and have the skills and knowledge. And if you’re killing it at the beginning, the hardest thing to recover from is a poor start. When you fail at the beginning the outcome is incredibly expensive and very detrimental to your society.”