Why Teacher Assistants are Important

      My mother is a public school teacher. She currently teaches special education at an elementary school. She spends half of her day working with Title I kids, and the other half is spend with autistic students in grades 3-5. Her caseload includes approximately 27 students and her main objectives are to help these kids improve their math and literacy skills to match their grade level. She has had this job for the past five years, four of them with the help of a teacher assistant and one without.  I have experienced firsthand what this can do to a teacher. Now, my mom will be at school past dinnertime trying to finish all her paperwork. If she isn’t working at school, she is working on the stack of unfinished documents that sits permanently next to her favorite chair. I have witnessed her stress-induced breakdowns far too often for me to be able to agree with the increased cutting of teacher assistants that is happening in North Carolina.  

      In Governor McCrory’s proposed budget, 3,000 teacher assistant jobs will be cut and he will add 1,800 full time teacher positions. However, according to Mark Jewell, the Vice President of the North Carolina Education Association, this budget does not take into account the increasing population of North Carolina. Therefore, it actually eliminates 5,184 full time teaching positions and 3,850 assistant teaching jobs. These cuts will not only affect special education teachers, but also will affect normal classroom teachers. These cuts will increase the student to teacher ratio, which will cut down on the amount of individual instruction each student receives.  The No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2002 made it so teacher assistants must have an associates degree as well as pass a standardized test.  This ensured that teacher assistants were qualified and had the necessary qualifications to be in a classroom. This fact makes it even harder for me to understand why North Carolina would want to remove teacher assistants from the classroom when they are only helping students and teachers. 

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