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State budget includes funds for teacher assistant tuition

Providing everything from instructional support to assistance with classroom management, teacher assistants in Beaufort County Schools play a critical role in creating a productive learning environment for students. A teacher’s right arm, the 103 individuals who serve in this capacity make a tremendous impact through their work.

For local TAs ready to take the next step toward becoming full-fledged teachers, Beaufort County is one of a handful of school systems throughout the state able to offer state-funded tuition assistance as part of its TA to Teachers program. The program, which was instituted for the first time during the 2017-18 school year, will continue into 2018-19, thanks to provisions in the budget passed by the General Assembly last week.

Under the program, five teacher assistants in Beaufort County will be eligible during the coming school year for up to $4,600 in state-funded tuition assistance to pursue their teaching degrees.

One of the teacher assistants seeking to further her education through this program is Irene Smith. Based out of the BCS Central office, Smith provides behavioral support as needed to classes at all 14 of Beaufort County’s Schools.

“It’s very much needed,” Smith said. “It’s good to know that extra help is available to pursue a degree and become a teacher.”

Between financial aid and the $4,500 tuition allotment from the state, Smith says she is able to pursue her education without pinching pennies to cover tuition. Upon graduating from Mt. Olive College in December, she plans to teach exceptional children in a Beaufort County classroom.

From an administrative standpoint, BCS Assistant Superintendent Mark Doane says the program allows the school system to create a “grow your own” teacher program from a pool of individuals who are already involved with the community.

“For those teacher assistants who are interested in going back to school, it gives them an opportunity to help with the financial side of things,” Doane said. “The program allows us to target some of our best employees, and hopefully is one more way to keep them here and move them up through the ranks to fill teaching positions.”
While the budget passed by the North Carolina General Assembly was vetoed by Governor Roy Cooper earlier this week, Republican majorities in both the N.C. Senate and N.C. House of Representatives have the capacity to override that veto.