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Teacher Assistant FAQ

How have my hours/days worked per school year changed?

Prior to 2013-2014, teacher assistants worked a 7 1/2 hour workday and were paid for 8 hours.

Beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, teacher assistants’ workday hours were reduced from 7 1/2 hours per day to 7 hours per day. Teacher assistants receive their pay based on a 7-hour workday.

What are my daily hours supposed to be?

Start and stop times for the work day are at the discretion of the school principal depending on the needs of their school. The length of time for a “duty-free” lunch break should be included in a teacher assistant’s total hours for the day. For example, if a teacher assistant begins their work day at 8 a.m., takes a 30 minute “duty-free” lunch, the work day should end at 3:30 p.m., in order for the teacher assistant to have worked their 7-hour day. While the teacher assistant is on the job for 7 1/2 hours, please remember the 30-minute “duty-free” lunch is unpaid time. If, in the previous example, the lunch period was a working lunch, then the end time for the workday should be 3 p.m. since it is paid time.

How many days per year am I supposed to work?

Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, teacher assistants’ work days per year were reduced to 203.

Am I entitled to a lunch break?

Breaks for lunch and the length of time for the lunch break are left up to the principal of the employee’s school. Prior to 2013-2014, teacher assistants did not typically receive a “duty-free” lunch period due to being responsible for monitoring students in the cafeteria at lunchtime. Teacher assistants usually ate their lunch during this time.

Principals may grant a “duty-free” lunch break for teacher assistants during which time they should leave their work area/responsibilities. Principals may require that teacher assistants work during their lunch period due to the responsibilities assigned.

“Duty-free” lunch breaks are not “on the clock”. That is, there is no pay earned during this time. However, pay is earned during a working lunch period.

Am I entitled to a 15-minute morning and afternoon break?

Per the NC Dept. of Labor, the NC Wage & Hour Act does not require mandatory rest breaks or meal breaks (at all) for employees 16 years of age or older. However, it is permissible for an employer to provide rest breaks or meal breaks for its employers at its discretion. If breaks are allowed, those under 30 minutes in duration may not be deducted from the employee’s time for payroll purposes. Employees should NOT combine two 15-minute breaks, morning and afternoon, to constitute a paid lunch break.

What does duty-free” lunch mean?

“Duty-free” means that you are given time away from your work area or responsibility to have lunch. The employee should separate themselves from their work area or responsibilities to have time away from work to enjoy their lunch without work-related interruptions.

What does it mean when I am told that I am only 87.5% employed?

In order to accurately calculate teacher assistants’ pay, a percentage of employment has to be entered into the computer for processing. Teacher assistants working 7 hours per day are paid at 87.5% of their annual gross salary. The percentage is calculated by dividing 7 hours per day by 8 hours. For example, a teacher assistant with a gross annual salary of $20,000 would realize an adjusted gross annual salary of $17,500. ($20,000 x .875)

How does the 87.5% employment percentage affect the annual and sick leave days earned per month?

Teacher assistants working 87.5% will continue to earn annual and sick leave days at 100% with no reduction.

How will annual and sick leave days be charged to me when used due to the 87.5% employment percentage?

Annual and sick leave days will be charged as full days with no reduction.

I hear some teacher assistants are still working at 100%. Why?

Some EC teacher assistants’ hours were not reduced due to IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) regulations regarding the teacher/student ratio in self-contained classrooms. Due to the nature of this work, it is required that teacher assistants be available during the entire day to provide care for their special needs students.

Am I supposed to work on teacher workdays when the students are not in school?

No. Teacher assistants are not to work on teacher workdays (mandatory or optional) if the students are not in school. Workdays will be recorded at the school level as a day without pay for payroll purposes. The exception to this is in the EC department where some teacher assistants working with specific populations of special needs students may work on teacher workdays in order to prepare lesson plans for these specific students.

Am I supposed to work on early release days? If so, for how many hours?

Yes. Teacher assistants are supposed to work their usual 7-hour workday on early release days.


Pay Calculation Examples for Teacher Assistants 
For 10-month & 12 -month Installment Pay Using Annual Salary of $20,000 Per Year

General Information:

  • The typical school year is 215 days for 10 month employees, i.e. teachers, teacher assistants, etc.
  • The number of days in a pay period used to calculate an employee’s daily rate of pay is 21.5 (215/10 months).
  • Teacher assistants are paid for a 203-day work year due to not being paid for the 12 teacher work days incorporated into the school year calendar (215-day school year less 12 work days = 203).

Teacher Assistant Receiving Pay Over 10 months:
$20,000 at 87.5%=$17,500/year or $1,750/month.

Daily rate of pay 
would be calculated as: $1,750 divided by 21.5 days in pay period = $81.40/daily rate of pay.

$81.40/day x 21.5 days worked=$1,750.10 gross salary per month

Days without pay (i.e. teacher workdays) would be charged to the teacher assistant using the daily rate of pay shown above. The monthly gross pay will be adjusted to reflect the reduction for each day without pay posted at the school level, if applicable.

Other deductions for insurance, retirement account contributions and taxes will then be taken to arrive at the net pay for the month.

Teacher Assistant Receiving Pay Over 12 months:
A 10-month teacher assistant has the option of receiving their salary over 12 months. This is calculated by taking the 10-month salary and dividing it by 12 months. The difference between the 10-month & 12-month gross pay is set aside in “escrow” to provide funds for salary payments made in June & July.

$20,000/year at 87.5%= $17,500/year or $1,750/month

Daily rate of pay would be calculated as:  $1,750/month divided by 21.5 days in pay period=$81.40/daily rate of pay.
$81.40/day x 21.5 days paid=$1,750.10/month or $17,501.00/year.

Gross pay calculation for installment: $17,501.00/12 months =$1,458.42/month

Monthly escrow calculation: $1,750.10 ‐ $1,458.42 = $291.68/monthly “escrow”

$291.68 x 10 months (# of months escrow deducted) = $2,916.80

$2,916.80 divided by 2 months (June/July) = $1,458.40/month.

Days without pay (i.e. teacher workdays) would be charged to the teacher assistant using the daily rate of pay shown above. The monthly gross pay will be adjusted to reflect the reduction for each day without pay posted at the school level, if applicable.

Other deductions for insurance, retirement account contributions and taxes will then be taken to arrive at the net pay for the month.

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