Mired in a budget debate between the N.C. House of Representatives and Senate, primary and secondary education teaching assistants are facing the potential of having their positions cut by the legislature.
Two dozen of them recently organized for a protest in Raleigh, demanding the legislature listens to them and their requests. Many in secondary as well as higher education have complained about the lack of funding allocated to education. This was specifically mentioned by Chancellor-Elect Frank Gilliam, who noted that a lot of the pressures pushing up the cost of higher education come as a result of legislative pressures and the “regulatory environment.”
With the school year starting across the state, many TAs in primary and secondary education face uncertainty regarding their jobs. The deadline was extended to August 31 for the legislature to agree on a budget, which is the second time that the budget talks were extended.
Lawmakers recently overcame a large hurdle in deciding on a final budget total of $21.7 billion.
There has been a building distrust between the educational community in North Carolina and the state legislature, with another example of the dischord coming from a public records request that showed conservative members of the UNC Board of Governors cheering the dismissal of UNC System President Tom Ross. The Board of Governors is appointed by the legislature, which has been predominantly conservative in recent years.
The Board of Governors has publicly stated that they felt it was time for a change, but some emails released show prominent state legislators such as Phil Berger expressing their interest in the ousting. Berger also requested to discuss some of the UNC System centers that were closed with the chair of the Board of Governors.
Berger has denied claims that he wanted the centers shut or that he meddled in the affairs of the Board of Governors.
Many have complained about the funding for higher educational teaching assistants as well, but that issue seems to have been left out of this round of budget wrangling.
The House and Senate have wrangled over a variety of topics this year, as well as with Governor McCrory over topics such as executive appointments to a coal ash committee.
Legislators have looked to downplay the role of teaching assistants by criticizing their value, but many disagree with this point of view.
“Teaching assistants are to classrooms like operating room nurse are to operating rooms,” Northside High School Teacher Chris Meeks commented during a rally in Wilmington North Carolina.