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Durham educators march to call for county to fund school board's budget request

Large sign says "Durham Association of Educators DAE."
Liz Schlemmer
Members of the Durham Association of Educators march through downtown Durham to a public hearing on the county budget, May 28, 2024.

Members of the Durham Association of Educators marched through downtown Durham to a public hearing Tuesday night to call for the Durham County Board of Commissioners to fully fund the school board's budget request.

The Durham Public Schools' board of education has requested a $27.4 million increase in local school funding, up 14.5% from last year.

More than a hundred school employees and their supporters marched to the board of commissioners' public meeting on the budget, chanting, "Education is a right! That is why we have to fight!"

Then they lined up to give public comment on the county's budget.

"I'm here today to strongly urge you to fully fund the board of education's budget request of $27.4 million to slow the bleeding in our public schools," said Daniel Kemp, a science teacher at Riverside High School.

Kemp said his school has lost support staff and has a growing number of vacancies in positions that serve special education students.

The additional funding the school board has requested would largely go toward pay raises for teachers and support staff. This comes after the school district cut pay for about 1,400 support staff in March because district officials implemented a botched salary study that paid staff raises that were over-budget.

The school board's proposed budget would also provide salary supplements for school employees who work in special education or with English language learners and would offer salary supplements to teachers who hold a master's degree relevant to their subject area.

The Durham County manager's budget proposal includes a 3.25 cent property tax rate increase and still falls about $14 million short of what the school board is asking.

The county manager's proposed budget would provide a $13 million increase to Durham Public Schools over the prior year's budget and likely wouldn't cover any of the newly proposed pay raises for Durham Public Schools employees.

The board of commissioners is expected to adopt a county budget in June, and it will be up to the school board to decide how to allocate the funding it provides to schools.

Editor's note: The broadcast version of this story incorrectly stated the Durham County manager's proposed change to the county's property tax rate.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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