Learning from last year’s mistake

Published 5:15 pm Friday, June 3, 2016

The North Carolina General Assembly is in the process of passing a budget for fiscal year 2016-2017, and on Thursday, the Senate passed a $22.225 billion proposal that will now be evaluated by the House of Representatives.

In the Senate’s proposal, one item stood out, and it’s one that hits home for Beaufort County. If this proposal passes, teaching assistants will be funded at the same level as the previous two years.

Many residents can recall the uproar that ensued last year when the Senate suggested slashing teaching assistant funds and using it toward hiring more teachers. This sounded good on paper, but in a county like Beaufort, cutting teaching assistants would’ve dealt a harsh blow, especially considering the lack of physical room and monetary funds to accommodate more teachers. The assistants were — and still are — too vital for Beaufort County Schools.

After a months-long battle, the Senate backed down and fully funded teaching assistant positions at the 2014-2015 level.

Seeing the Senate propose fully funding the teaching assistants again this upcoming fiscal year sparks a glimmer of hope. Although the budget is still privy to modification, maybe, just maybe, the senators finally “get it.”

With its proposal to fund assistants, senators are taking a step in the right direction. Teaching assistants are still a large, irreplaceable part of Beaufort County classrooms. Not only do they deserve the funding, the county needs that funding. It would be impossible to make up for those cuts on the local level.

Legislators should do the right thing and maintain funding for the assistants. They should also learn a lesson from last year. School officials will not — and should not — back down in this matter.

The state’s education system is no stranger to funding woes, and unfortunately, those woes are sure to continue in the next fiscal year. But this particular Senate proposal item deserves strong support.

As for other items — well — that’s another story for another day.