The Guilford County Board of Commissioners got earfuls of advice on school funding from the many parents, teachers and other education advocates who spoke on Thursday, June 6 at a public hearing on the county’s 2019-2020 budget.
One common theme ran hot and cold – namely, speakers said that many classrooms in the county’s school system were too hot or cold to be conducive to learning. That could only be fixed, they said, with facility repair, and that, they added, would require much more money than was included in the budget proposed last month by Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing.
Alex McMillian, a substitute teacher for Guilford County Schools, told the board that, as a teacher who goes from school to school each day, he never knows how to dress because some schools are way too hot and others are way too cold. He said he keeps several sets of clothes in his car, and, during breaks, he sometimes goes out and gets a change of clothes because of his inability each morning to predict what kind of environment he’ll be teaching in.
“I have never gotten it right,” McMillian told the commissioners in the large second-floor meeting room of the Old Guilford County Court House.
He also commented on the similar stories from others who spoke before him at the public hearing that draws a crowd each year.
“Hearing all these stories makes me worry about staying in a place that I know and love,” McMillian said.
One teacher said that in the classroom that Thursday – when temperatures approached 90 –it was 60 degrees in her classroom. She said some students wear winter hats to class.
“We dress in layers because we never know how hot or cold it’s going to be,” she added.
Others who spoke at the meeting wanted higher teacher pay, better wages for cafeteria workers and bus drivers and funds to repair roof leaks and deterioration issues in schools.
Several parents said they would gladly pay more in taxes to have the schools better funded. One said she and others would even welcome a tax increase.
“I wantmy property taxes raised and I know a lot of other parents do too,” she told the board.
She added that the commissioners who don’t raise taxes think they’re being fiscally responsible but, in reality, are not.
“The whole economy is going to be affected because you’re not doing these basic maintenance things,” she said.
She also said this was “devaluing” to schools and the community in the same way that a house that doesn’t get necessary care loses its value.
Freddy Lewis, a special education teacher for the school system, also said the county was hurting itself by a lack of adequate school funding.
“Right now, Guilford County keeps falling further and further behind,” he said.
Lewis also read a quote he saw on the signage at the NC Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh.
“Nothing except ignorance is more costly than education,” he quoted.
Some speakers pointed to a recent school facilities study that found there were $1.5 billion in school system needs.
Others did acknowledge progress: Some thanked the commissioners for the 10 additional school nurse positions over the last two years as well as for other increases in county money the board has approved.
The commissioners are expected to adopt a 2019-2020 budget at their next regular meeting on Thursday, June 20.