School leaders await state budget



Local school leaders are awaiting final numbers from North Carolina’s lawmakers and how that will impact teacher’s helpers and driver’s education.

Recently, Gov. Pat McCrory signed off on a spending plan which will keep the state’s government operating for more than six weeks. The approval occurred one day before the beginning of the budget year. According to reports from the Associated Press, the House and the Senate are divided on whether to continue to offer driver’s education to students and whether to slash teacher assistant positions.

Dr. Stuart Blount, superintendent of Clinton City Schools (CCS), said teacher’s assistants are beneficial in the local school system.

“Our teacher’s assistants provide great assistance in lower grades, specifically in pre-K, Kindergarten and first grade,” Blount said about having two adults in the classrooms to help children.

“Teacher assistants are a vital part of the instructional process for our students,” Blount said.

Dr. Eric Bracy, superintendent of Sampson County Schools (SCS), feels the same way about individuals who provide help for teachers in the classroom.

“Teacher assistants are critical to what we do in our schools,” Bracy said.

There’s a $300 million gap regarding teacher assistants when it comes to the conflicting budget plans. The Senate’s goal is to push funding towards hiring more kindergarten through third grade teachers.

Bracy and Blount expressed how they’ll continue to keep an eye on the budget. The temporary spending plan expires at midnight Aug. 14.

“We’re waiting to see how we’re going to be funded in all areas,” Bracy said regarding SCS. “It will have an effect on us and how we function and operate as a school system. Until we get a final budget, we really don’t know what we’re going to look like as a school system.”

CCS is in the same boat.

“Until we get an actual, true final budget, we don’t what impact that will have on the local level,” Blount said about assistants. “We’re going have to continue to monitor the state budget and the impact it will have at the local level.”

According to reports, the stop-gap measure gives school districts the flexibility to move around money and hire teacher assistants if desired. The continuation budget spends $100 million more to pay for expected school growth to hire teachers and staff in August. The legislation also keeps a promise from the governor to increases the minimum teacher salary from $33,000 to $35,000.

Along with aspect of teachers assistants, driver’s education is something the state’s education leaders are crossing their fingers about.

“There’s been quite a bit of conversation at the state level about driver’s education and the funding for it,” Blount said. “I think the driver’s education program does offer a great beginning base for teenagers who will be driving. It’s a worthwhile program.”

Blount said that the program helps reduce teenage-related incidents on the road. But as it is with other school leaders throughout the state, the unfunded mandate can cause frustration locally.

“The burden falls back on the local school systems and county commission,” Blount said. “We have to take that into consideration.”

Lawmakers were urged by McCrory to complete their plans in less than 45 days, so local governments and school districts can make plans.