Teacher assistant makes plea for better pay
Melanie Autry asks County Commissioners to support the school board's budget request, which includes higher pay for teacher assistants. Screen capture
SMITHFIELD — At the start of last school year, Johnston County was short 100 teacher assistants. Since then, another 41 have left the schools.
“We’ve lost them,” said Melanie Autry, president of the Johnston County Association of Teacher Assistants.
“Part of that has to do with the fact that they don’t want to drive a bus,” Autry told County Commissioners last week. “And a large part of that has to do with our pay.”
Commissioners can help with the pay part, Autry said. “I think our school budget is one of major importance,” she said. “It is our future. It is our present.”
This year’s spending request from the Johnston County Board of Education includes $5.2 million to further raise the pay of the school district’s classified employees, who include teacher assistants.
“Unfortunately, teacher assistants are not paid what they need to be,” Autry said. “We are below poverty level.”
Fortunately for her, her husband makes a good wage, Autry said. “If he did not have the job that he has, there’s absolutely no way that we could live,” she said. “I do not make enough bring-home each month to pay the mortgage.”
Not all of her coworkers have a spouse with a good-paying job, so they’re quitting in hopes of finding something better, Autry said. “We’re losing good people every day because they can no longer afford to assist our children,” she said. “The funding not’s there.”
Autry asked commissioners to support the school board’s funding request. “We need the school budget passed ... so that we don’t keep losing our qualified people,” she said. “We have been told that this will happen if funds are available. I’m just asking that funds be available.”
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