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Teachers' Assistants, School Custodians And Clerical Workers Jobs In Danger

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The state school superintendent says next year's fiscal forecast looks so bad that it may not be possible to spare the classroom.

Wake County teacher Becky Beech said she needs all the help she can get. Beech teaches first grade at Olive Chapel Elementary School, and it keeps her and her teacher's assistant busy.

"We are stretched now. I have 25 children. There are first-grade classes that have 26 children," she said.

The Department of Public Instruction may have to slice $120 million from this year's budget and hundreds of millions of dollars in 2003, state school Superintendent Mike Ward warned the state board of education Thursday morning.

"We could lose a number of teacher assistants, we could lose a number of custodial and clerical support positions. We now face the possibility of having to increase class size at some grade levels," Ward told the board.

Beech said adding two or three students to a class spreads her focus thinner and losing her assistant would shortchange children.

"That extra teacher is that extra set of eyes that sees something that needs to be done, who is there, and knows when a child is struggling," she said. "Perhaps, I'm with a group and I can't get over there quickly enough. She's right there."

Beech thinks cutting back on custodians means one thing: she would have another job besides teaching.

"I'd be busy wiping tables and cleaning the room instead of thinking (about) the next cool activity that I want to do with my children," she said.

State school leaders are are just starting to look at hard numbers for this fall. No one knows when deep cuts could begin, but Ward said it does not look good for this year or next year.


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