Coaches, parents: Wake schools budget proposal 'a bare minimum'
Posted April 21, 2015
Updated April 22, 2015
Cary, N.C. — Twenty people spoke at a meeting of the Wake County Board of Education Tuesday in support of Superintendent James Merrill's $1.4 billion budget proposal.
"The citizens of Wake County cannot be any more clear," said Lynn Edmonds. "This budget represents the investment that Wake citizens expect for our school system."
Speakers were in broad agreement about the need to spend more on school facilities, salaries for teachers and staff and on programs that support students with special needs.
"This budget is about priorities," said Beverly Clark. "Do we value teachers in this community? If so then we must pay them more."
Many cited budget cuts under previous administrations and praised Merrill's plan, which asks for $48.3 million more from the Wake County Commissioners for a total of $389.8 million, an increase of 14 percent.
The budget attempts to address a number of educational spending gaps, including:
- $16 million to help bring teacher salaries to the national average within five years.
- $5.3 million to open Abbotts Creek and Scotts Ridge elementary schools and Apex Friendship High School.
- $3.7 million to pay for a program to help accelerate learning in 12 schools.
- $2.3 million to expand Pre-K programs
- $1.8 million for increasing extra-duty pay for coaches and others who teach outside the classroom.
Merrill has described his proposal as a response to a backlog of need created by a growing student body and a decrease in state education spending.
"Our school system has been on oxygen as a result of the recession and severe cuts from the state," said Lynn Edmonds. "We're playing catchup."
Angela Scioli, a social studies teacher from Leesville Road High School presented the board with a petition of support signed by 100 of her colleagues.
"We want to let you know that we are informed about the budget," she said. "We support it, and we thank you for proposing it. It has given us hope."
Both the football and basketball coaches from Millbrook High School spoke on behalf of the proposal to increase the "extra-duty" pay allotted for coaches, band directors, club advisors, testing coordinators and others. These employees are compensated on a pay scale approved and last updated in 1987.
Donald Tomlinson, president of the Millbrook booster club, pointed out that the much-discussed teacher salary issue, paired with stagnant extra-duty pay creates a shortage of qualified people.
"As you know we're losing teachers at an alarming rate. We also lose coaches for the same reasons," he said.
Scott McInnes, Millbrook's athletic director and basketball coach, asked board members to think about extra duty as a second classroom.
"From 2:20 until whenever it ends, these extra-duty positions are mentor leaders to these young men and women. We're trying of effect lifetime goals and we're trying to see major changes to make a difference in these kids lives," he said.
The Sanderson High School athletic director addressed the challenge of increasing extra-duty pay at the expense of other priorities.
"I hear people ask very good questions. They ask, 'What would you cut?'" Tony Lewis said.
"I'm not aware of another program that can or has outperformed extracurricular activities," he continued. "I represent the No. 1. dropout prevention program in the country."
The speakers acknowledged the fact that Merrill's budget can't pass without support from the Wake County Board of Commissioners, which controls the purse strings.
"I promise to beg and plead with county commissioners if I must for full funding," McInnes said.
Scioli said she had prepared 100 signatures for when the school board meets with commissioners on June 1.
"We consider this to be a rare opportunity to right some of the wrongs of recent state legislation related to funding and pay," she said.
"We simply can't count on state funding, and we must increase the local supplement," Clark added. She compared the Wake County request for $389.8 million in local funding to Charlotte-Mecklenberg's allotted 428 million.
"They have fewer students, they're expecting less growth. Charlotte does have more teachers and more teacher assistants," she said. "This budget is an essential step forward, but it is a bare minimum for what our thriving community can do."
After about an hour of budget discussion, the board meeting continued with recognition of winners of the district's Stand Up, Speak Out! Bullying Prevention Video Contest.
Elementary School Winners:
- 1st Place: Brentwood Elementary
- 2nd Place: Timber Drive Elementary
- 3rd Place: Poe Magnet Elementary
Middle School Winners
- 1st Place: Fuquay-Varina Middle
- 2nd Place: Holly Grove Middle
- 3rd Place: East Cary Middle
High School Winners
- 1st Place: Garner High
- 2nd Place: Millbrook High
- 3rd Place: Wakefield High
Before going into closed session, the board also voted to approve a bell schedule plan for the 2015-16 school year.