RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Wake County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators is urging the Wake County School Board to use some of the more than $300 million in federal funds they have to compensate employees.
According to a release from Wake NCAE on Thursday, the group, including staff and teachers, delivered a list of wage, salary and compensation demands to the Wake County School Board today.
The group said in its news release that district employees “are growing increasingly frustrated” that the school board has been “slow to respond to the vacancy crisis and its impact on student and staff well-being.”
According to Wake NCAE, “the Wake County Public School System is currently sitting on more than $300 million in federal public education relief funds that could be used now to immediately raise wages and retain staff during this crisis.”
“For too long transportation staff have been overworked and underpaid. What we are asking for is not too much, just the essentials we need to keep providing quality care for the children of Wake County,” said bus driver Melanie Harris in the release. “It’s not too much to ask for to keep the school transportation system running well. Transportation is a vital part of the school system.”
The group’s demands come two weeks after dozens of Wake County bus drivers took part in a “sick-out” — which severely impacted how students got to school — as a way to highlight how important bus drivers are. The protest was a way for them to highlight their call for higher wages and better compensation for extra work they’ve done during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As many as two-thirds of routes, 400 out of 600, didn’t show up during the driver protest.
At the Nov. 2 school board meeting, Wake NCAE’s protest ended up resulting in the board passing one-time bonuses of $1,250 for all full-time staff members, an increase in the salary supplement for teachers and other certified staff by 1 percent, and a rise in the minimum pay for support staff to $13 an hour.
Although the school board made an effort to better compensate faculty and staff, Wake NCAE said the board failed to meet their demands.
On Wednesday, the Wake County Board of Education proposed an additional $3,750 in retention bonuses and a raise for substitutes.
Wake NCAE called the proposals “positive steps…but not enough to solve the ongoing crisis.”
“We appreciate Wake County Schools’ attention to the staffing crisis and their acknowledgment that they have more resources available than they suggested on Nov. 2,” said Kristin Beller, President of Wake NCAE. “But WCPSS continues to sit on millions of federal dollars that could be put to use today, providing long-awaited raises and compensation for the extra work created by staffing shortages. Our kids can’t wait any longer.”
Wake County School Board Chairman Keith Sutton said after the meeting that more compensation could be on the way.
“Some would say we’re not going far enough, we’re not being bold. I think our decision tonight, to go this alone without the state’s help is a bold move on our part,” he said. “And again, we wish that we could do more and I think more is certainly coming.”
Following that board meeting, Wake NCAE members and other faculty and staff from the county’s schools have been meeting to come up with a list of demands.
According to Wake NCAE, the following demands were collectively agreed to by the members involved in the discussions:
- Increase the bonus to at least $2,000 for each employee.
- Recognize the importance of all WCPSS roles and contributions with raises for all employees: Non-certified staff increase to $17/hour or a 20% increase, whichever is greater; and for Certified staff a 6% increase to the local supplement.
- Honor staff labor with extra compensation for extra duties: Bus drivers to be paid for all routes after the third route paid at $20/hour or a 10% increase to hourly rate whichever is greater; Instructional assistants to receive substitute pay for covering classes; Child nutrition services to extend Cashier and Assistant Manager hours up to 8 hours/day and allow overtime and time-and-a-half on holidays or weekends for Managers; Office Staff, Custodians, and other non-certified employees to be allowed overtime pay; Teachers to be paid an hourly rate for covering classes and extended bus duty before or after school.
Wake NCAE said they have already begun to collect petition signatures from county staff and will start to organize by school building and transportation district for “future actions.”