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Districts already have TA budget flexibility

During a recent talk in front of the North Carolina Chamber, Governor Pat McCrory was asked his opinion on teacher assistants. He stated his desire to give school districts a set amount of money for TAs that districts could use for other things if they wanted. 

Here are some quotes from the talk: 

“Each school is different. So what I think we ought to do in the budget, and what I’ve done in my budget…is that I think we ought to give the same set amount of money, with the necessary increases due to the increase in students in North Carolina, and let the schools decide: Do you want student [sic] assistants, do you want more teachers or do you want a combination of both?”

“I think that’s a decision for the superintendent of schools to make or for the principals to make or even for the teachers themselves to make among themselves, and not for Raleigh to make.” 

“I want to give you as much flexibility as possible because each circumstance throughout our state is completely different.”

But school districts already have that flexibility. The General Assembly gave it to them in fiscal year 2013. Districts can, with some exceptions, use funds allocated for one purpose in other areas. 

Here is the authorizing statute that explains the specific flexibility that school districts have.

And here is a chart:

According to the chart, there are no current restrictions on teacher assistants funds. Just to be sure, I checked with the General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division. I was told that teacher assistant funds couldn’t be transferred for use in the Central Office or for capital purposes, but other than that, districts can use that money how they want. 

Flexibility on funds for teacher assistants isn’t a plan or a path forward for the state. It’s what we already have. 

Back in March, during a General Assembly Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, the topic of budget flexibility came up. 

During the meeting, Democrat Rep. Henry Michaux worried about money for textbooks not being actually used to buy textbooks by districts. 

Sen. Jerry Tillman defended the flexible spending, saying that superintendents had been begging for it. 

Then Eric Guckian — who at the time was the governor’s education adviser — also defended the flexibility and stated that the governor stood behind it. 

Clearly the governor still does stand behind budget flexibility, especially for TAs. But it’s nothing new.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.