Last updated: June 05. 2014 5:45PM - 541 Views
By - dbroyles@civitasmedia.com

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While local school officials said they are glad state legislators are talking about pay raises for teachers, the budget approved by the state senate will also force them to cut teacher and teaching assistant positions.

Mount Airy Superintendent Dr. Gregory Little told the city school board this week that the proposed state budget would force the city school system to eliminate one teaching position and four teacher assistants. He did not say where those cuts might take place.

Surry County Schools would be looking at a situation nearly as bleak, according to a statement released by the superintendent’s office. In it, the school system said funding for 39 teaching assistants, or nearly half of those positions countywide, would be cut.

The county was slated to received four additional teacher positions in the upcoming year as a result of changes in the acceptable ratio of students to teachers in second and third grade. The budget would kill off those four positions, the school system said, though no present teaching positions would be touched.

“Raising our teacher salaries back to the national average is extremely important for North Carolina to recruit and retain high quality teachers for our communities and children demand,” Little said when addressing the city school board. “The governor’s budget takes the first steps in addressing teacher pay in North Carolina while restoring other incredibly important areas to support the learning of our students.”

However, the senate’s version of the budget, approved on Saturday, calls for significant cuts “to the detriment of our children.”

He said statewide school systems would lose 7,838 teacher assistants.

“Teacher assistants play a vital role in the academic achievement for all of our students,” said Little. “Reducing these resources while raising standards is counter-intuitive and should be reconsidered.”

He also said costs to students would rise and life could become more inconvenient.

Little predicted the current budget would force the district to increase driver’s education fees from $45 per student to $220 per student and less in transportation funding would result in fewer bus drivers and longer bus routes for students. He said central office funding would result in less teacher support and noted teachers would have to give up their career status and longevity benefits to receive a pay increase.

“Our teachers deserve pay raises because of their experience and expertise. In order to highlight how important teachers are to our state any raises should be given without strings attached,” said Little. “While MACS strongly encourages the General Assembly to invest in teacher salaries, it should look to do so in a responsible manner that does not require significant cuts to the educational budget to provide those raises. This robbing Peter to pay Paul approach does not move us towards our goal of being a national leader in education. I am hopeful our leaders will continue to work to find the best solution for the children of our state.”

Surry County Schools called on the state to improve public school funding and increasing teacher salaries “a major priority” and said that the governor’s budget plan takes “important steps in addressing the short and long-term needs of improving teacher pay in North Carolina.”

Surry County Schools plans to appropriate $1.5 million from fund balance and has requested an additional $416,850 from the county commissioners to balance the 2014-2015 budget, according to Dr. Travis L. Reeves, superintendent.

“Continued cuts from the state level to public education, force local school systems to rely on their county commissioners and local taxpayers to help offset the cuts and meet the needs of their students,” Reeves said. ” Our system strongly encourages improved pay for teachers, but we believe the budget cuts should not be at the expense of services to our children and other school employees’ jobs. The senate’s proposal of taking away other resources and personnel our students need and deserve is disconcerting.”

David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.

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