NC teaching assistants once again lobby for jobs

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Thousands of North Carolina teaching assistants on the brink of losing their jobs rallied Tuesday at the General Assembly to show lawmakers that their jobs are important.

This is not the first time that teaching assistants have lobbied for their jobs and they say it won’t be the last as long as 8,500 positions could be eliminated. The state has not settled on a budget yet.

“This is our income. This is what we depend on to live,” said Melinda Zarate of the North Carolina Association of Teacher Assistants.

“We’re on pins and needles,” said Michelle Bailey, a teacher assistant in Onslow County. “We’re waiting. We can’t plan anything. We can’t do anything. My son is in college and I just took out a loan for his college. It’s like, can I pay for that loan?”

Lawmakers say eliminating the teaching assistant positions will allow more money to go to other areas of education funding.

However, teaching assistants say lawmakers don’t understand the importance of a TA’s job.

“I would like a senator to come and follow me one day in the classroom. See the diversity of education we have to deal with and the type of students we deal with,” said Lacy Autry, NC Association of Teaching Assistants.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown said “sometimes these things take time.”

“There are 170 of us up here and we don’t always agree,” he said, referring to the House and Senate. “So you have to work and compromise and work through the process.”

The lawmakers on Tuesday passed a resolution that will keep the current budget another 45 days.

Attempts to restore funding for the positions have been made in the Senate before.

“What this amendment does is that it resorts funds for teacher assistants and pays for it by eliminating corporate tax cuts,” said Sen. Terry Van, a Democrat from Buncombe County.

But some of those attempts have been shot down by Senate Republicans.

“When we look at teaching assistants we have a finite amount of money and we want to spend it the best way we possibly can to educate students in the classroom,” said Sen. Dan Soucek, a Republican from Caldwell County.

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