Councilman plans to request more funding for classroom after I-Team investigation

(WSMV file photo)

A Metro Council member says he sees the need for more teachers’ aides and he plans to ask for more money to fund it.

This comes after a recent News 4 I-Team investigation where one teacher’s aide came forward to say students with special needs are not getting the attention they need at school.

The I-Team has been hearing from parents daily since our original investigation aired two weeks ago. They say more needs to be done to keep teachers’ aides in Metro Schools.

One parent said she has even gone as far as to contact her councilman to make sure city officials know just how serious the problem really is.

You’ll usually find 17-year-old Amanda Shofner smiling and giggling, especially at school. The reason, according to her mother, is because of her paraprofessional at Hillsboro High School.

“The one we have right now is Rachel’s best friend, and she loves Rachel and Rachel loves her,” said her mother Carolyn Shofner.

Rachel is autistic and has intellectual disabilities that require a one-on-one paraprofessional in the classroom. While she feels Rachel is in good hands, she worries about the thousands of other students who don't get the kind of attention her daughter does.

Two weeks ago, the I-Team reported how Metro Schools currently has 60 open positions for paraprofessionals. According to one teacher’s aide, not all students with disabilities who need one have one.

“I feel like the kids are being under-served and they're not getting the services that they need,” said the paraprofessional who we are not identifying since she is a current employee of Metro Schools.

"This needs to be a priority. It’s not a whole lot of money to put these employees at a wage rate that will attract,” Shofner said.

The I-Team has learned Metro Schools asked for a $59 million increase in its last budget but only received $36 million. That’s $23 million Metro Schools didn't get.

Shofner emailed her city councilman, Russ Pulley, saying paraprofessionals are a vital part of the education of children with disabilities.

“It seems like we continue to put a lot of money in downtown and entertainment when we cannot fully fund our education budget,” Shofner said.

While Councilman Pulley said it’s not a fair comparison since money spent on things downtown comes from a whole separate budget than money given to schools, he agrees something needs to change.

After the I-Team’s recent investigation, Pulley plans to ask for more money, specifically to hire paraprofessionals in next year’s budget.

"With respect to the $23 million, I think it’s important moving forward we take a good hard look at that in the upcoming budget season,” Pulley said.

“Do you understand where parents like Carolyn are coming from?” reporter Lindsay Bramson asked.

“Absolutely, I’m one of them. I’ve got a kid with a disability and he came through the system, so I certainly understand that,” Pulley said.

“If we are the ‘it city,’ a rich city with all of these vast resources and income coming in, why can’t we fund our children’s education properly?” Shofner asked.

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