Legislators need to finalize budget, leave TAs, driver’s ed funding

State legislators still remain undecided on what to do about teacher’s assistant positions with the first days of school looming just a couple of weeks away. This is leaving area school administrators in somewhat of a lurch as they decide whether to fill vacant positions, and it makes it difficult for teachers to begin planning their daily lessons if they don’t know whether they will have help or not.

Local superintendents have decided to go ahead and plan on having teacher’s assistants in classrooms in hopes that either the state will move forward with funding those positions, or they can find funding in local budgets to keep them.

Year to year, the budget process seems to get worse in North Carolina. From elected leaders not deciding on a budget by the deadline all other government agencies in the state have to stick to — June 30 at midnight — to keeping employees and their employment status dangling from a string without any idea of what is going to happen next, the cycle keeps repeating itself.

Elected officials making the decisions on what to do with these positions need to take a few days out of their schedule and visit the people who do these jobs so they can see just how important some of them are. Then they need to go back to the drawing board with a more educated view of what it takes to operate the school systems and other offices funded by state government.

Yes, there is waste in government, but teacher’s assistants are not the problem. Young children need more eyes, more ears, more hands to help teach them. One teacher cannot handle a classroom of 25 first-graders by themselves. The students need one-on-one and small group learning to be successful, and one teacher can’t do that with so many children in a classroom.

Driver’s education funding is another issue caught up in the budget process in Raleigh.

Concerns over the high reports of teenagers critically injured or killed in traffic accidents don’t seem to make waves on legislators who continue to uphold the state law that school systems are mandated to provide driver’s education for students, but then won’t fund the education, leaving the school systems in an awkward position.

In an interview this week, Rep. Sarah Stevens of Surry County said there are still gaping holes between the House, Senate and governor budgets and a lot of negotiating still remains before coming to an agreement. She said legislators could still be meeting for the next couple of months.

This is dismaying. Some decisions need to go ahead and be made. If it is inevitable that the budget process is going to take three or four months longer every year than the June 30 deadline, then state officials need to start on the process three or four months sooner, instead of keeping the whole state in limbo.

As for teacher’s assistants and driver’s ed funding, these are much needed uses of taxpayer money and cuts need to come from somewhere else.

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