Wage Increase for School Employees

By: Allison Hurley

For decades school employees across the country have asked for higher wages. On Tuesday, November 2, 2021 the Wake County School Board of Education approved a wage increase for full and part-time employees, but many are asking, is it enough?

Through the COVID-19 pandemic teachers have had more work than previous years. They adjusted to teaching online and connecting with students through computer screens. Custodians’ workload increased with sanitizing and cleaning more than ever before and cafeteria staff are feeding more students now that there are free lunch options. Additionally, a shortage in bus drivers has caused drivers to take on three to four extra routes and teachers often have to sacrifice their planning periods to make up for a shortage in substitute teachers. These challenges have led to many asking for higher wages to compensate for the extra work and even some strikes from underpaid bus drivers. As a result the Wake County School Board unanimously voted to increase wages for staff members.

All full-time employees, which includes anyone making at least $15 an hour, will receive a one-time bonus of $1,250. This will cost the county $25.8 million of its fund balance for bonuses. The board plans to offer more bonuses in 2022, but that money will come from federal funds for coronavirus relief. These bonuses are separate from the 1% increase in local supplement salary the board previously approved for educators costing a total of $1.4 million. This will only increase the money contributed to educators’ salaries from local funds, not from the state, which is the majority of their salaries. 

Part-time employees currently making less than $13 an hour will now make $13 an hour. Previously, some starting salaries were anywhere from $11.11 to $12.44 an hour. Substitute teachers are not eligible for a pay raise, but the Board plans to propose a plan for substitutes in December. 

Many employees have mixed feelings about the wage increases. Some are happy to receive the extra money, while others find it underwhelming. An anonymous Apex staff member pointed out that the 1% increase barely even accounts for last year’s inflation rate which was 1.23%. They also find it odd that in North Carolina teachers must pay for their own substitute teacher when they take a personal day, as this is not normal in most states. 

School employees can expect their bonuses and/or wage increases to start in December and should look out for more bonuses and raises for educators and substitutes in the coming months. 

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