Not the best, but could be worse
On Tuesday, the Rutherford County Schools (RCS) Board of Education took steps to offset the blow dealt by the state's cuts to education.
The decision made during the meeting was to cut the hours of teacher assistants from eight hours to six hours per day.
Realistically, it was the only decision that Superintendent Janet Mason could have recommended sans cutting positions completely
"For the past few years we have weathered budget storms and worked diligently to make cuts as painless as possible in schools. We have exhausted most of those options. We are out of easy choices," Mason told the board.
And she's right.
No manager likes to make the decision of what positions to keep and what positions to let go. That would have been the only other option the Board would of had to offset the 21 percent reduction in teacher assistant funding.
The only question remaining is how will that affect our classrooms?
Simply, that answer is unknown.
Teacher assistants provide an extra layer of education for students primarily in elementary school. That is where they are needed the most.
It is those elementary school students that are rising to the peak of their requirement of knowledge. It is those students that require the necessary attention from teachers and their assistants to ensure they are learning properly and have the best chance for success.
Teacher assistants are a vital piece of the education puzzle.
We have expressed our concern regarding the state's need to shift funds throughout the education spectrum and we continue to believe the damage may not be over.
Mason suggested to the Board that some parts of the complete education funding puzzle are not yet known and the wide-ranging effects on the overall budget is unclear.
It is our thought that tough staffing choices are just getting started for Mason, her staff and the Board.
"Everyone is asked to do more with less and I don't see that changing," Mason said.
Budget cuts can be absorbed by staff attrition and a continued reduction in hours as well as, in the case with drivers education, an increase in fees to overcome a $1.7 million cut to funding for that program statewide.
The last option is eliminating positions necessary to give our children the best hope for the future.
While we are not the least bit envious of Mason and the potential task at hand to "do more with less," we applaud this first step in finding a solution that doesn't include eliminating those staff members vital to helping our children succeed in the classroom.
By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board
The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Kyle Bingham, Tom Padgett, Dr. Shermaine Surratt and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Editor Matthew Clark