Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday he supports providing schools with sufficient funding to hire teacher assistants and letting them decide how to use the money.
“Many of them feel very strongly teacher assistants are important,” McCrory said. “Let’s give them that flexibility. I happen to agree with them on teacher assistants, but there might be one school that wants more teacher assistants and another school that wants less. Why not let the superintendents and those people closest to the students make that decision, not those here in Raleigh?”
The governor took several questions from reporters in his budget director’s office in Raleigh, following the monthly meeting of the Council of State.
Funding for teacher assistants and driver education has been a difficult issue for budget writers in the General Assembly to agree on. The governor and the House wanted to fund teacher assistants at last year’s level, and the Senate wanted to spend the money on hiring more teachers instead.
Senate negotiators this week have offered to fund both those so long as the House agrees to restrict schools from using teacher assistant money for other purposes, such as classroom teachers. McCrory also said he favors funding driver education.
McCrory said he was confident a budget would be finalized by the new Sept. 18 deadline, although he said the process has taken too long.
“I frankly thought it should have been resolved many months ago,” he said.
McCrory said he has brought budget negotiators to the Executive Mansion weekly to help them find common ground.
“I’ve been involved in, more than anything, facilitating two groups that are, at times, in disagreement,” the governor said, “not only between the two bodies but at times even within the two bodies themselves.”
Besides budget discussions, he said progress is being made on Medicaid and infrastructure bonds.
“Medicaid reform is going extremely well,” he said. “Many didn’t think we’d get it this year. I’m confident we’re having very positive discussions.”
The governor said the bonds proposal is still an important goal of his, and he still would like to see it on the November ballot in order to take advantage of the best interest rates on borrowing. But, he said, he respected the argument that March would be better because more people will be voting in the primary.