CHARLOTTE, NC (Ann Doss Helms/The Charlotte Observer) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools notified more than 500 elementary school teacher assistants Tuesday that their jobs are only guaranteed through Sept. 4.
Less than a week before Monday's opening day, when assistants report to work, the state legislature still hasn't approved a budget. Lawmakers recently voted a second extension, to Aug. 31, for the 2015-16 budget that was supposed to take effect July 1.
The state provides the bulk of personnel money for public schools, and the House and Senate have conflicting plans for assistants, who help young students with everything from reading and math to eating in the cafeteria and boarding the right bus. The Senate's plan would cut more than 500 assistant jobs from CMS, while the House plan would add 90.
Superintendent Ann Clark said CMS has frozen hiring of new K-3 assistants until the matter is resolved. Assistants for prekindergarten and special education are not at risk.
By the end of the first week of school, Clark said she hopes to know how many assistant salaries she can pay, and how much flexibility the state will grant to swap out positions and avoid layoffs.
Also Tuesday, human resources chief Avery Mitchell said CMS still needs 97 classroom teachers, with the biggest gaps in elementary school classrooms, middle and high school math, special education and career-tech classes. That's down from 159 open jobs last week and represents about a 1 percent teacher vacancy rate.