A soundeducationalbudget needed

It shouldn’t be so difficult for our public schools to get the funding they so desperately need, yet year after year stumbling blocks are put in the educational path and education officials seem to always be holding an incomplete budget and wondering how they are going to make the next school year work most effectively.

Everyone says they want academic success for students, but words come far cheaper than actually taking a firm and decisive stand for funding that ensures that success.

This year, legislators appear stuck in fiscal mire and Gov. Pat McCrory has signed off on a spending plan that keeps state government operating while lawmakers wrestle with a spending plan. Among the items of contention seem to be whether to cut teacher assistant positions and eliminate funding for drivers education programs across the state.

Both need to be part of any state budget plan, and the sooner decisions are made the better for all our school administrators who cannot adequately plan for the upcoming school year without knowing about those two all-important aspects of their budgets.

We’ve talked before about the need for a state funded drivers education program. We believe it is greatly needed in our schools, where it has been for decades. We have far too many teen fatalities and serious accidents as it is. Eliminating funding that helps to educate students on the laws of the highway and provides them behind-the-wheel training they so desperately need hardly seems prudent on many levels.

While we know budgets are tight and cuts sometimes have to be made, even to good programs, we don’t believe the axe should fall here.

Nor do we believe it should slice away at teacher assistants who do so much in classrooms across Sampson County and beyond.

We agree with local superintendents Dr. Stuart Blount and Dr. Eric Bracy, both who stressed how important TA’s are in the educational arena.

“Our teacher assistants provide great assistance in lower grades, specifically in pre-K, kindergarten and first grade,” Blount noted in a story we ran in Sunday’s Sampson Independent. “They are a vital part of the instructional process for our students.”

Bracy mirrored those remarks, noting how critical TAs are to public schools.

It’s true. Walk in any elementary school and observe. You’ll quickly see how valuable teacher assistants are. With a classroom filled with active and inquisitive 5-year-olds, having an extra person on hand to read with some students while not holding others back is important. The same is true with helping work math problems or something that seems as simple as getting youngsters to and from the bathroom.

An assistant helps keep educational order, thus preventing students from falling behind while a teacher, alone, has to deal with one youngster’s problem while leaving the 20 or more others waiting. The extra pair of hands helps in many ways. Without them, progress often can be stymied.

We hope legislators, who are far removed from classrooms, take the time to consider the impact lowering the boom on either of these budgetary items would have locally. And we would remind lawmakers, too, that what worked when they were in elementary school decades ago doesn’t work in a 21st century world.

We need a budget sooner than later, and we need one that doesn’t remove more money from our education budget. North Carolina will never be an academic power house if we continue to whittle away at the well from which we expect students to dip.