After about a year of waiting to hear about the future of driver’s education and teacher assistants, local school leaders are close to breathing a sigh of relief.
Currently, the state’s law makers are considering providing education for the mandated program, although original plans called for it to be cut after July 1. The matter was a major holdup when it came to approving the budget, which was expected to be ready in early July. Eric Bracy, superintendent for Sampson County Schools (SCS), said it’s an important and worthwhile program.
“The more we put our kids behind the wheel for driver’s training, I think they’ll become better drivers eventually,” Bracy said.
If approved, the plan may become less of a burden on parents. Previously, students were charged a $65 fee for participating.
According to reports, a $22 spending plan includes money for teaching assistants and teaching student drivers. It also includes $750 bonuses for state employees and teachers.
“As far as teacher’s assistants, I’m glad that there will not be any cuts to that funding,” Bracy said about the assistants who play a critical role in the education process.
He was also glad of seeing the potential of driver’s education being fully funded.
“We simply didn’t have the funds for driver’s ed, but I’m happy that General Assembly decided to fund it for the next two years” Bracy said.
Legislators are set to make a vote on the budget soon , before it’s sent to Gov. Pat McCrory. School districts are getting closer to having final numbers to finalize their budgets.
“At least we’re at this point and we’re pleased that the General Assembly has reached an agreement,” said Stuart Blount, Clinton City Schools (CCS) Superintendent. “Hopefully it’ll pass because it’ll start the next process.”
Blount noted that it may take a few weeks for the money to trickle down to school systems, if approved.
“Today we’re just beginning to get information about the highlight of the budget,” Blount said. “We’re beginning to comb through all of that.”
After the announcement of the possible cut, CCS made a decision to use an outside contractor for their driver’s program. Blount said driver’s education may be funded based on state money from the program, which may eliminate the need to use local dollars. But it’s still uncertain, until CCS knows how much they’re getting.
“We’re going to stay with our contractor for driver’s ed, but when the final numbers come in, we may not have to use any additional monies to pay for that contract,” Blount said while going over figures.
He was also glad that teachers are expected to receive salary increases and according to reports, the minimum salary for early-career teachers may increase from $33,000 to $35,000. Teachers may get experienced-based raises too. Assistants may stay in place also.
“We’re very appreciative of the continuation of teacher assistant funding,” he said. “They provide a great benefit to our schools.”
When it comes to the bonuses, Bracy wishes the proposed amount for teacher increases were larger amounts.
“Our state employees and school personnel deserve all the money because they are so underpaid,” Bracy said. “We applaud them giving our employees a bonus. We wish it was larger but it was a step in the right direction.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.