Wake County school administrators are looking at how they may be able to fund additional pay raises this year in response to complaints that the state budget didn’t fairly treat veteran teachers and school support staff.
This year’s state budget gives teachers an average actual pay increase of 7.5 percent, according to David Neter, the Wake County school system’s chief business officer. But the budget has drawn criticism for giving some veteran educators increases of 2 percent or less.
School board members have also criticized how the state budget gives school support staff – people such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers and teacher assistants – a $500 increase while state employee are getting a $1,000 increase.
During Tuesday’s school board work session, Neter laid out steps being taken to see if veteran teachers and support staff can get more money this fiscal year.
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Neter said administrators want to use the district’s fund balance to create a special projects reserve that would pay for raises and other items. He said the compensation funded by the reserve would likely be for employees who only got a $500 increase this year and a 1.2-percent increase since 2008-09. He also indicated it might be used for teachers too.
Neter said staff is also reviewing how to recommend using the $3.75 million that the Wake County Board of Commissioners had set aside this year for raises for teachers after balking at the school board’s request for $29.1 million to give all employees a 3.5-percent raise.
If spread out among all teachers, the $3.75 million would work out to average raises of $200 to $300 before taxes. But Neter said they’re looking at using the money for targeted raises.
Neter said they could recommend using some of the money for teachers who are getting smaller raises this year. He said they might also recommend using some of the money to address how the new state teacher pay scale only provides raises every five years instead of annually.
The review drew praise from school board members on Tuesday.
“I hope that we as a board will eventually instruct you to do whatever we can reasonably do to ensure that every licensed person gets a minimum of a 3-percent pay increase for this coming year because I think all of us in education have found it downright offensive the way our experienced teachers have been treated in this budget cycle,” said school board member Tom Benton, a career educator.
“Like that they’re just not pulling their weight or whatever, when we all know those are the very people we rely on for leadership in our schools – whether it’s mentoring younger teachers, chairing committees or whatever. This perception that they’re just sort of waiting ‘till retirement is so totally off base that it’s offensive to people in the profession.”
Neter assured Benton that the idea of a 3-percent minimum raise is being reviewed.
“As it relates to the minimum 3 percent for all teachers, we have heard that loud and clear and that will absolutely be an integral component of our review of both the $3.75 million of recurring funding that the county has reserved and can appropriate based on your action, as well as any other type of one-time funding that may be associated with that special projects reserve,” Neter said.
School board member Zora Felton thanked Neter for also looking at the pay for support staff.
“I applaud Wake County for looking at the inequities of this past legislature in terms of how educators and extra-support personnel such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers were kind of mismanaged, in my opinion, by the legislature,” said Felton, a career educator.
Any recommendations from staff would need to be approved by the school board.