CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox is calling for a nearly 8 percent increase in next fiscal year’s school budget. The $1.6 billion proposed budget that Wilcox present to school board members Tuesday night also includes a 15 percent increase in funds from the county.
A large portion of the increased funds, about $32 million, would pay for teacher raises. In a letter to board members, Wilcox said, “We must offer salaries to our educators that are not only adequate but are competitive.”
Under Wilcox’s proposed budget, first-year-teacher pay would increase by $2,400; those with five years of experience would see a $2,600 raise and teachers with 25 years or more of experience would get a $4,000 pay bump. This pleases Erlene Lyde, president of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Association of Educators, especially when it comes to the larger proposed pay increase for veteran teachers.
“Veteran teachers’ pay has just been going up about one percent,” Lyde said. “This budget seeks to recognize that. Not only have veteran teachers been getting the short shrift from the state but it’s also an affirmation that they are important to CMS. I think younger teachers will understand that because they have been horrified by what’s been happening with teacher pay in the state also.”
Under Wilcox’s proposed budget teacher assistants’ hours would increase to 40 hours. They currently work 37.5 hours a week. Lyde says they would also be included in teacher professional development.
“We want them to be respected as the professionals that they are and recognized for their value and how helpful they are in the classrooms,” Lyde said.
In addition to teacher assistants, all other non-certified staff would see a 3 percent raise if Wilcox’s budget is approved.
“We must provide higher wages for the cafeteria workers, assistants, custodians and others who serve our kids,” Wilcox said.
The proposed budget also includes $10 million for new hires, such as 55 emotional support staff—counselors, social workers and psychologists—and 25 school police officers. These requests are part of the district’s efforts to strengthen security at schools since a student was fatally shot in October at Butler High. Another student was arrested in that shooting.
Making schools equitable is a top priority of school officials as they try to close achievement gaps between white students and students of color, as well as disparities between predominately low- and high-income schools.
Wilcox’s budget calls for $9.4 million to address equity issues. Of that amount, $3.7 million would be used to fund cultural professional training for CMS staff and students. Last year, Wilcox asked for $500,000 for cultural sensitivity training from county commissioners, but it was turned down.
“Our kids need investments in equity,” Wilcox said. “Educating all of our kids well, not just some of them will directly improve economic mobility and opportunity.”
Two community meetings on the proposed budget are scheduled for next month and a public hearing during a school board meeting on April 9. The board is expected to approve a budget and send it to the county commission for approval by the end of April.