Thursday, April 11, 2013

Teacher assistants at risk -- again

One of the biggest bombshells in Superintendent Heath Morrison's 2013-14 budget was an item beyond his control:  Gov. Pat McCrory's proposed budget would eliminate about 400 teacher assistant jobs in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Morrison and CMS board members say they're working to convince state legislators that cutting second- and third-grade classroom assistants would be a bad idea,  one that could undermine the state's push to make sure students are reading on grade level by third grade.

Pope and McCrory
As Morrison told the board,  normally the governor's budget plan gets a big yawn.  But this year,  with Republicans in control across the board and conservative powerhouse Art Pope serving as McCrory's budget writer,  Morrison and others see the governor's plan as a possible blueprint for legislators.

Assistants have repeatedly been the target of recession-driven budget cuts  --  something of an irony,  given how little they make. CMS leaders say they need to help lawmakers understand how much professional power they're getting for those salaries.  "They bring great value,"  Morrison said at a news conference Wednesday.

But McCrory's press secretary, Crystal Feldman, said the cut is part of a tradeoff that will benefit students:  "The governor’s proposed budget hires 1,800 more full-time teachers. The McCrory administration prioritizes resources on hiring more full-time certified teachers throughout North Carolina over the next two years rather than classroom assistants to help our students succeed in the classroom."
Wake County Schools would lose about the same number of assistants,  and leaders there are also mounting a campaign to fight the cut, the News & Observer reports.

Like CMS,  Wake is also exploring a 2013 bond campaign,  but they're talking much bigger numbers.  On Wednesday,  administrators presented five scenarios ranging from $609 million to $2.3 billion, according to the N&O.  They acknowledged the top number isn't realistic,  but even their lowest package is well above what CMS can hope to get.  Morrison has talked about a package that would cover 21 projects at about $386 million,  but some Mecklenburg commissioners say that's more than the county can afford.


Anonymous said...


Must be that fuzzy Republican math again.

less minus less = more

Anonymous said...

I bet those teacher's assistants would be in no danger if Bev Purdue had left the lottery money alone.

Like she said she would.

Wiley Coyote said...

No CMS bonds of any amount!

Anonymous said...

The assistants are not in all the class rooms anyways and they often end up being used to cover for the teachers that are too lazy to do their jobs while the good teachers have to manage the extra workload.

Anonymous said...

Gee, how did I and my kids learn to read without a "teacher assistant".

Oh, yeah, we had PARENTS.

Schools CANNOT replace parents or parenting.

Unless we're willing to put kids back in orphanages.

Anonymous said...

I was a teacher assistant for a year at a elementary school. The Teachers are so bogged down with lesson plans and paperwork its ridiculous. Assistants help in alot of ways especially at lunch when the teacher gets a whole 15 minutes for a break. The assistants make 10-12 bucks a hour. How about cutting some Staff positions at all the learning zones that were set up, we need less people make 6 figures plus in CMS.

Anonymous said...

How is that most of us got through 12 years of school without any teaching assistants? Are teachers less capable now?

Anonymous said...

Our esteemed governor and legislature don't see education as a priority. They are focused on what really matters - a state religion, voter suppression, and folk's bedrooms.

Anonymous said...

He even looks like the Pope! Pat should show more enthusiasm after kissing the ring in the article's photo

Missouri said...

I have had the priviledge of "shadowing" several teachers in the recent past. This is one of a few things I will agree with Heath on. A dedicated teacher assistant is worth their weight in gold. Public school classroom is so different these days than even 10 to 15 years ago. With increasing federal intrusion and the amount of paperwork required for IEP's, FRL, social workers, school psychologists, etc. and with so many classrooms having so varied of student skill level even a teacher crossed with an octopus would have a challenge by themselves. Dedicated teachers see how behind many of the kids are when they come to class in August. They are motivated to make a differnce in their lives but realize how many have indifferent family units. Students do not show up the next day ready to start at the next step from yesterday. Much time must be spent to go over and over the same material.

To 8:08, while you are correct, the classroom has changed over the years requiring more hands to raise the child because the family unit does not.

Also, like pointed out in the article, for the pay they get, a good one provides much more value. Also, years ago when they started cutting teachers, they cut the retired ones that had returned. Another bad idea. Good value for their classroom experience and knowledge. Especially if the teaching unit, 4th grade or high school math teachers had any new teachers coming on board.

To 8:54, are teachers less capable now? Two parts I would point out. One, there are less higher experienced teachers in the public schools systems than there used to be. And two, more non-teaching work and duties are required of teachers again thanks mostly to the federal government.

Anonymous said...

As to the question:

Are teachers less capable now?

Probably so.

How do I know?

Because there are more opportunities for women today than there were 20, 30, 40, and 50 years ago.

When I was in elementary school, teaching was where most of the brightest women in our society got their jobs.

They weren't doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, business leaders, etc., etc.,

The women "professionals" were mostly teachers.

The same was true for blacks.

The educated blacks had less opportunities before the 1960's and many of their best and brightest became teachers.

And that is just NOT TRUE today.

Also, you are more likely today to be taught by someone with an "education" major, not someone with a degree in a particular subject they happen to know a lot about or love.

I had several teachers with Master degrees in English and History when I was in school.

Today their Masters is more likely to be in education.

I think they should restrict teachers with "education" degrees to elementary schools.

Middle school teachers should have degrees in subjects they teach.

High school teachers should have master degrees in subjects they teach.

Not "education".

Unknown said...


Basically what you are saying is that most schools have become branches of the Department of Social Services and have less to do with actual education than before.

Wiley Coyote said...

Let's look at the overall budget related to education and note the increases in spending:

.Transforming Education

Governor McCrory is following through on his commitment to transform education by empowering North Carolina’s hardworking teachers and expanding opportunities for students to get the necessary skills and knowledge for success. His recommended budget:

•Increases investment in early childhood education. The governor's budget allocates an additional $52.4 million over two years to fund services for an additional 5,000 at-risk four year olds, to serve a total of 30,000 four year olds per year through NC Pre-K.

•Hires 1,800 more full-time teachers. The McCrory administration prioritizes resources on hiring more full-time certified teachers throughout North Carolina over the next two years rather than classroom assistants to help our students succeed in the classroom.

•Dedicates more resources for digital learning. Governor McCrory’s budget follows through on his commitment to expand digital learning initiatives and promote technology in the classroom with $43 million in additional funding over two years. Lottery funds are directed to support the purchase of reading tablets and technology to help address 3rd grade reading achievement and other high priorities.

•Establishes the Center for Safer Schools. Following through on his commitment to protect North Carolina's children, the governor's budget provides $625,000 over two years for the Center for Safer Schools to provide training and technical support to educators, law enforcement agencies, and parents.

•Continues the implementation of the Excellent Public Schools Act. Governor McCrory’s budget provides $28 million in additional funding to help improve third grade reading proficiency. Funds will be used for summer reading camps and reading plans for parents.

•Makes investments to ensure high school graduates are college and career ready. The governor's budget delivers on his vision of strengthening K-12 education and decreasing the need for remedial courses in higher education. $7.5 million is provided for diagnostics in grades 8-12 to identify students in need of assistance and provide individualized student instructional strategies to help ensure students graduate career and college ready.

•Increases funding for high-demand courses in Community Colleges. The governor’s budget provides $32 million in additional funds over two years for resource-intensive community college programs in high demand by employers such as engineering, vocational and technology training.

•Increases funding for technical education in Community Colleges. The governor's budget increases funding by $28 million over two years for technical education equipment and infrastructure in North Carolina's Community College system.

•Supports university system’s effort to align higher education with changing market needs and current economic conditions. The governor's budget follows through on his commitment to promote enrollment in high-demand fields and align educational needs with the marketplace. It provides $63 million over two years to help fund the University of North Carolina’s Strategic Directions Plan, which will prepare students for workforce demands in various high-growth sectors.

Eliminate the $52.4 MILLION additional funding for the pre-K black hole and you can have all the assistants you want.

Ettolrahc said...

So the hen has come to roost and the nest is missing along with hen house, we can blame either the farmer or his wife.

Take your pick folks, it will make you feel better.

And the fact the farm is in foreclosure, should not bother you at all, as the big mean bank or the rich folks who own it will be our next focus for you.

Adolf said...

McCrory is a fool... taking assistants out of the classrooms will diminish the quality of education for all kids. We also need to put all possible resources into starting education as early as possible. It's the best investment we could possibly make as a society.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your one term "Mayor Pat." You will see a marked increase in your opposition voting next election. The canvassing and outreach has begun.

Wiley Coyote said...

Are all 400 assistants in second and third grade classrooms?

If not, how many of the 400 are?

In 2011-2012, there were 88 elementary schools with 68,276 k-5 students.

So how many assistants per student? 170 if they are spread out over 68,276 students.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 11:40

Remind us again how many times Perdue raided the Education lottery?

Anonymous said...

What is often referred to as "The Greatest Generation" (WWII) were primarily taught by women with two year degrees from teacher colleges - sometimes called normal schools. My great grandmother was a school teacher who received her teaching degree from Swarthmore Normal School in PA. My next generation grandmother taught in a one room school house with no electricity and no running water. The building had an outhouse and a coal stove. She attended a two year teacher college. Blacks had teacher colleges also that were typically two year programs.

Woman have a lot more career options today which may or may not be affecting student achievement. There is a severe shortage of African-American teachers because blacks have a lot more options and also because there is a racial "achievement gap" in passing state and national exams required to become a licensed teacher. A lot of blacks who would like to become teachers aren't passing the exams required to become licensed. The research is pretty straight forward on this. Some people think it's important to have a teaching force that reflects student populations. Nationally, the majority of teachers - about 90% - are white females.

Historically, the teaching profession used to be considered a highly sought after and highly respectable profession in families who had children who were first generation college students.

Research suggests middle and high school teachers with degrees in their specialized subject areas perform slightly better on national teacher exams than middle and high school teachers with degrees in education.


Wiley Coyote said...

170 students per assistant.

Unknown said...

I don't understand why these people seem to think teacher assistants are not needed. They are. They serve a valuble service. They are needed. But our leaders seem to put them on The Little Red Caboose.

Anonymous said...


Well, the "Greatest Generation" was in school a long, long time ago and most of them are dead now.

I was trying to keep it in the last half of the 20th century which many of us living folks still remember.

I'm talking about the teachers of the boomer era and afterwards.

Many of them had 4-year degrees from teachers colleges, but a lot just had Bachelors degrees, some probably had less (I remember a few who did) but they did manage to teach most of us to read.

Without assistants.

If you check into some of the black schools, you will find that a few of those even had Ph.D's teaching in high school because there just weren't that many jobs available for black Ph.D's elsewhere.

I remember seeing a documentary about the famous black high school in in Washington, DC called Dunbar.

In it, they talked about how many of the teachers had Ph.D's and how good of a school it was.

What happened is that after de-segregation became the law of the land, many of the teachers just quit or retired soon after.

They figured the problem of black education was solved.

When asked why, one teacher said that as far as they were concerned everything would be fine because blacks would get to go to school with white people and everything would be equal from that point forward.

The history of Dunbar High, especially after de-segregation, is very interesting.

Especially since things didn't turn out quite the way they expected.

Wiley Coyote said...

In 12 years of school, I never had a teacher assistant in any of my classes.

Leonard said...

good for you Wiley Coyote

Anonymous said...

If Heath lets the assistants go then he should consider limiting class size to 18-22 students. The value the assistant provides is when you close schools (Pete) and jam 38 kids in a room. Its a product of numbers do the math figure your savings vs cost. I think at that point CMS would more than value the great job the assistants do. Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

As more and more is expected from schools and teachers then teacher assistants are imperative. Those of you who compare now to when you were young is like comparing little league baseball to today's major leagues. Remember we are still spending less than all but two states. As yourself are we the third worst state. Do you expect our students to perform near the bottom?

Wiley Coyote said...

And what spending are you comparing and to what year? Last year? Year before last?

2010/2011 budget was larger than the 2009/2010 budget even though $79 million was cut from it.

The adopted 2011/2012 operating budget was $1.17 billion, an increase of 1.7 percent over the 2010-2011 budget.

The 2012/2013 budget is $1.2 billion.

CMS states they have "cut" and redirected $212 million over the past 5 years. So? Companies do that every year.

You also have to include Obama's Stimulus Crack that school districts salivated over but didn't look far enough into the future to realize that money would dry up. They thought the state and county would pick up the difference.


Anonymous said...

Does Pat even realize that teacher assistants do more than assist in the classroom? They are also the bus drivers in a lot of school districts. If they lose their jobs, who will no drive the buses? How will they be paid? I think that if someone is going to mess with anything (not just education), they first have to have some experience in what they are trying to mess with.

Anonymous said...

Since McPat has never had a child of his own I doubt very much he is aware of the damage he is proposing to schools. If you recall the famous McMayor would always answer CMS questions while he was in local office with its a county issue not mayors line of business. Idiot knows little and cares less about this. The next 3 years cannot go quickly enough. And yes this is coming from a blue blooded republican that has never voted for the fool.

Wiley Coyote said...


McCrory was correct as Mayor, CMS IS a county issue.

You do realize that Perdue raided the Education lottery - TWICE - don't you?

McCrory is proposing to hire 1,800 more certified teachers to put into classrooms versus assistants.

So, tell us what egregious things McCrory has done to CMS since taking office?

Anonymous said...

Teacher assisatnts are used for every job in school now. They are shared between 2-4 teachers, so it is not like they are "assigned" to a teacher. They have breakfast and lunch duties, in addition to recess and computer lab duties. Most of them drive a bus either in the morning, afternoon, or both. They cover the classroom so the teacher can assess student reading 1 on 1 (new computer technology thanks to Perdue). They also cover the classroom when the teacher has a meeting with the principal or meeting at another school. They hardly know what they are suppose to do from day to day because it is always changing. Sometimes they are used to cover other grade levels: ours are used to take 5th graders outside for recess since there are no TAs in that grade. Or if a teacher is absent or sick, they are used to cover the class until a substitute can be found.

Anonymous said...

Annon 9:37, I wonder if you have visited a school in the past 10-20 years. If you have, have you actually sat in an elementary school classroom? I have, frequently, and on a daily basis. I can tell you that the teaching and learning going on in classrooms is much different than when you or I went to school. Teaching today is more than feeding 30-35 students information while they sit in neat little rows. Today it is much more complicated because society is much more complicated. In the past 20 years think about the changes that have happened that complicate education and distract students from learning- family issues, student anxiety, safety issues, Internet, cell phones, video games, global competition, educationally ignorant polititions creating/changing policies every other year, justified or unjustified scrutiny from the public...I can go on and on. These are all issues education majors learn how to maneuver through internships, practicums, and classwork. It is much much more complicated than just placing an English major in a classroom of 10 year olds because she knows shakespere. I have seen these types of teachers come and go very quickly because they are poorly equiped to deal with the reality of today's education. Please do not pass judgement on something you obviously have no idea about. Instead I challenge you to take on a one day substituting job in an elementary school, talk with teachers, see what education in today's school is about, and I guarantee you will change your tone.

Anonymous said...

Wiley, since you are so into stats, what was the student enrollment in CMS the past three years? What was the per student spending?

Wiley Coyote said...


Per-pupil expenditure (2011-12)$8,473

I have data for the years before 2012 but I don't believe it's apples to apples to 2012. Per pupil those two prior years, 20th day was $5,700 per pupil.

Anonymous said...

I worked as at TA for over 15 years before becoming a teacher. I know first-hand how hard assistants work and how valuable they are.

When I have a student who doesn't grasp a concept I have been teaching, I can send him/her with my TA for practice so I can continue to teach the rest of the class.

When I do center rotations, my TA works with a small group of struggling readers who need more practice while I work with another small group or individual students.

My TA also works with two other classes to support math and literay instruction, so her time is maximized in student-centered activities instead of clerical work. She also tutors struggling students after school.

As for the question of how teachers' roles have chagned: Instruction is much more individualized now than the one-size-fits-all teaching we received as students. Today's educators also must teach more than just the core curriculum--character education and social skills quickly come to mind--all day, every day.

Anonymous said...

AA = Answers Ann

Still none on CTE issues in CMS. Why dont you acutally go into a lab and see 40+ students working on the now reduced number of computers (25).

The state mandates 1 computer per 1 pupil.

Just keep eating the standard lines coming out of the communications department instead of finding out the true facts. Great journalism !

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:54 pm.

As a matter of fact I have a second grader and have checked in on a few classes and spoken with a few teachers recently.

That's why I agreed that "education" majors are useful for ELEMENTARY schools where just learning how to settle down and behave is very important.

But past a point, we expect a little more self-control, don't we?

After all, eventually, misbehavior has more SERIOUS consequences in life than a red frowny face or moving your name from one stack to another (like jail).

That's why I think it is better for older kids to have teachers who are better versed in the actual subject matter (yes, even Shakespeare for English) than just "education".

Because if those "education" majors have DONE THEIR JOBS in elementary school, student behavior shouldn't be as much of a problem.

(Now, maybe the "ghetto" is different, but that's not who I'm concerned about. Get those kids signed up with a parole officer or whatever they need.)

I think the actual subject matter becomes more important as the kids become better accustomed to "sitting in neat little rows".

And it becomes CRITICAL by High School.

I've HAD High School science teachers, for example, who did NOT study science in college and they were WORTHLESS.

They could not teach the material at all and offered nothing.

Many of them could not even understand or explain what was written in the textbooks for Chemistry and Physics.

And that's just sad.

Anonymous said...

I thought our kids were being taught by I-phones and I-pads now?

Anonymous said...

Why do they not start at the county office level of each school system. I mean really they have an assistant for the assistant. So why not cut those assistants first. They are the ones that get paid the 6 figures not us.

Anonymous said...

Some of the people making the decisions need to walk in my shoes for a week. How would you like to come to school in your professional attire to find out it is your turn to change a little boy that is in a wheelchair. Due to no fault of his own he is soaking wet and had a BM. You have to put on gloves, clean him up and change his clothes. That is one of the jobs of a TA. Which one of the two teachers in the is classroom going to do that? Pull a straw? You all don't know the half of the things we do every day.

Anonymous said...

Back in the dinosaur age, schools didn't have differentiated programs for gifted, learning disabled, special needs, etc. children. Most classrooms were multi-aged and didn't have teachers loaded down with paperwork to address little Susie's dust mite and tick allergies. Going on a field trip didn't require a law firm to draw up a two page contract and kids could eat a homemade birthday cupcake without fear of immanent death and dismemberment from food poisoning. Getting sent to the principal's office didn't involve a phone call home followed by a parent meeting and taking away a kid's Boy Scout knife didn't warrant a full-fledged SWAT team.

Thank God for teacher assistants.


Anonymous said...

When a teacher is absent, TA's are not allowed to be in charge of an elementary school classroom without a substitute present - whose only requirement is a high school diploma and a clean marijuana urine sample. Who do you think is running the show on these days? The sub from central office?


Anonymous said...

And one more thing...

TA's routinely deal with things that something called a full-time school NURSE used to take care of.

There, I'm done.


Anonymous said...

Alicia, thanks for your spot on comments.

A nearly fed-up CMS mom

Anonymous said...

There goes the "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND" theory! Let's find out once and for all the details...penny to penny where alllll this so called "EDUCATION" lottery money is reallygoing!!!!Assistants multi-task all day and out of the classroom.

Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher assistant and we are no longer considered that but instructional assistants. We perform just as many duties if not more than the teacher.

Anonymous said...

I find this article and some comments insulting and untrue! Teacher Assistants today are addressed as Instructional Assistants! We teach. We tutor! Every day! We are required to have a 2 year degree! We are required to earn 20 education credit hours per year! This includes workshops, meetings and keeping up on the latest "craze!"
We are in the classroom for the children, not the teachers! We are overworked and underpaid!
I have had a carreer as a Paraprofessional/Instructional Ass't for 29 years, in Florida and North Carolina. This includes positions in ISS, Media Center, Remediation (for small group reading) Special Education, Title I, Tutoring, just to name a few.
I would like to think that I have made a difference in a child's life, even though I am not a "certified" teacher. But, I teach!
Our assistants are some of our most dedicated, best educators!
The dynamics of the Public School System and the expectations of the classroom teacher has changed drastically over the years.
Instructional Assistants are a valuable resource.
To cut them out of the schools will only hurt our children!!

John said...

Here we go again... I'm glad I'm getting to leave because the buoyancy of the issue makes me nauseous. The first thing the new regime goes looking for is job cuts, without looking at new sources of revenue first.