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Durham schools to seek $11 million in added funding

Durham Public Schools will seek an additional $10.8 million from Durham County for the coming school year, in part to make up for decreased state funding. The added funds will also pay for growing local charter schools and salary increases for classified workers and teachers. 

The vote came at the school board’s March 23 meeting, where DPS parents, employees, and board members spoke out in favor of salary increases for teachers and classified workers — employees like bus drivers, custodians, and cafeteria workers.

“We work just as hard as teachers,” said Sunny Geraldo, instructional assistant at Southwest Elementary, and president of the Durham Instructional Assistant Association. “This increase will help so many people quit one, two of their part-time jobs to have time with their families.” 

Elizabeth Jones, former teacher and DPS parent, voiced her support of increased salaries for classified workers. “In a county supposedly committed to ensuring a livable wage, it’s unacceptable that our classified staff who provide such a valuable service to our school communities have to endure such low pay.”

Roughly $4 million of the budget increase will provide salary increases specifically for classified workers. Another $5 million raises funds for all school positions — approximately $1.6 million for teachers, and another $1.5 for classified workers, with the rest going towards health insurance and retirement benefits.

This budget increase will make up for a predicted reduction in state funding, reflecting DPS’ expected decline in enrollment. Total DPS enrollment is projected at 30,772 students in the 2023-2024 school year, 5% less than pre-Covid levels. State funds are based on daily student attendance.

“As you can see, we’re continuing to decline in enrollment, and with that means loss of state funds as well,” said DPS Chief Financial Officer Paul LeSieur.

Even as enrollment in district public schools decreases, enrollment at Durham’s 17 charter schools is on the rise. Charter schools are publicly funded, yet operate independently of local school districts. They also are not bound by all the rules that affect traditional public schools, such as requirements to provide meals and transportation. Enrollment at local charter schools is projected to increase by 568 students, bringing the total to 8,250 for the new school year.

DPS has a legal obligation to provide funding to local charter schools. As a result, the remaining $1.8 million will go towards their programs.