SMITHFIELD, N.C. — A proposed state funding cut of up to 50% for teacher assistants, many of whom also drive buses, could cause a significant driver shortage for Johnston County Schools, The News & Observer reports.

The district has about 250 teacher assistant positions and currently has 27 vacancies, Brian Vetrano, chief personnel officer for the district, told the newspaper. If the state decides to cut 50% of the funding, the district would need to let go about 100 teacher assistants on top of the hiring freeze that Superintendent Ed Croom implemented for teacher assistants in anticipation of the cuts, according to The News & Observer.

It would be difficult to keep teacher assistants as drivers if the state cut the funding for their classroom work, Vetrano told the newspaper. Driving one of the routes takes about three hours a day and not many employees could afford to work so few hours, he added. Croom told The News & Observer he is concerned that it could be difficult to replace bus drivers quickly if the state cuts funding after school starts, due to all the training they need.

As of this week, state lawmakers have not passed a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, according to the newspaper. Lawmakers have until the end of August under the most recent extension to pass a budget.

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