CMS held a news conference the other day, and Superintendent Heath Morrison announced that the district would face the loss of 90 teacher assistant positions as part of the state budget. I didn't realize that it was going to be such a big point of contention.
The office of Gov. Pat McCrory is pushing back hard on assertions by CMS and some other districts that they'll lose TA positions. They're adamant that there will be no TAs lost at all.
Why do districts think they'll lose these positions? It's super complicated but it kind of boils down to this: Before, districts got an allotment of money to pay teacher assistants. Some districts used part of that money to hire more teachers. The new budget recognizes this, and moves about $85 million from the teacher assistant pool to the teacher pool. Districts, however, have the ability to use the new teacher money to hire teacher assistants. Because the salaries of teachers and teacher assistants don't convert perfectly, a funding gap can present itself.
After my story ran, state budget director Art Pope called to walk through the numbers at a state level and say that because CMS was already using some teacher assistant money to hire teachers, they shouldn't have lose anything.
"I can't say why they're coming up with any losses," he said.
Then later, my colleague Ely Portillo spoke with McCrory, who offered up this:
"We are not reducing the number of teacher's assistants," he said. "Any teacher assistant who was working in a classroom last year will be working again this year if the local superintendents and principals set it up that way based on money that we gave them."
UPDATE: Morrison put out a statement at 5 p.m. Friday discussing this disconnect. Here's the key part of it:
Gov. McCrory and his budget director Art Pope made themselves available to a group of district superintendents last week to answer our questions. That constant communication has continued. As recently as this morning, we sought clarification from the governor’s office about teacher-assistant funding and how the state will pay for enrollment growth in the future. Through our conversations, we feel we’re making progress in regards to funding for teacher assistants.