ODESSA, Fla. — School districts throughout the state are set to lose some federal funds next school year that were part of the original CARES Act in 2020. In Pasco County, some of that funding was used to employ instructional assistants (IAs).

What You Need To Know

  • CARES Act that paid for Instructional Assistants set to expire next school year

  • Parents are petitioning Pasco County Schools to find the money in the budget to keep IAs

  • Pasco County school district declines to be interviewed on IAs issue

Now, a group of parents say some IAs have already received notice that they will no longer have a job next school year, and they are coming together to petition the district to find more money in its budget to keep them.

Angela Lee is a stay-at-home mom, and it’s a job she takes very seriously. She even launched a podcast, “From Days to Years,” which she describes as an open letter from moms to moms.

Through her work on the podcast, and in her community, Lee stays up on what’s happening at her daughter’s elementary school. Recently, she learned the IAs’ jobs are in jeopardy when the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) federal funds expire.

“That federal grant was for three years to fund instructional assistants, IAs, and it funded kindergarten IAs, social service coordinators, academic tutors and discipline IAs and they knew that funding was going away, and unfortunately they haven’t found funding, or re-configured it so the IAs can go back in the classroom,” she said. 

That is why she launched an online petition for Pasco County Schools to find funding to keep IAs. Lee says IAs support teachers in valuable ways, from helping students who may be struggling so the teacher can focus on the rest of the class, to helping at carline.

“Without these IAs, the onus is going to fall on the teachers. They’re going to get pulled in so many more directions,” she said.

Parents are speaking out. Many, including Lee, attended the school board meeting on Feb. 6, and next, Lee says they’ll start reaching out to lawmakers, letting them know how important IAs are.

“They’re not just wiping noses, these are professionals who care about our students, who love our students, and they don’t get compensated very much to do this job. But they very much want to do this job to make sure our students have a good education,” she said.

Lee says she’ll continue her fight for the IAs, and she hopes Pasco County Schools does too. 

The Pasco County School District declined to do an interview with Spectrum Bay News 9 on the status of the IAs, but did provide a statement, saying in part that “the district continues to evaluate all the programs, services, and staff members currently being funded by the expiring federal ARP/ESSER dollars to determine which of these expenditures would be appropriate for continued funding using alternative funding sources that might be available in 2024/2025. With the district so early in the 2024/2025 budgeting process, it cannot make firm commitments about what ARP/ESSER expenditures can be absorbed after the 2023/2024 school year.”