The Guilford County School board approved the superintendent's budget recommendation for the new school year on Tuesday night totaling more than $800 million.

The proposed funding includes investments in student mental health and support services, and to help kids who have fallen behind.

There's also a request to county commissioners for more local money that would be used for teacher supplements and providing a minimum $15-an-hour wage for bus drivers and child nutrition workers.

Todd Warren is President of the Guilford County Association of Educators. He was among a group of teachers, cafeteria workers, and community members who gathered for a rally before the meeting. They want all employees in the district to make at least a $15 hourly base rate.

"The workload for all of these employees, school nutrition, custodians, bus drivers just has really been increased and amplified through the pandemic," says Warren. "They are the ones that kept our kids and families fed.”

Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras says the board feels the same way, but it will take more local and state funding to make those changes. 

She says the district is working on a plan that would use additional federal COVID relief money known as ESSER, or Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to temporarily fill in the gaps with a bonus.

“All classified employees would be addressed through that bonus who are not addressed through that request to the county commissioners. We have to be concerned however that it's not a raise. It's a bonus that equates to 15 dollars an hour,” says Contreras.

The district's budget proposal now heads to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners who will have to approve it. The request includes a $25 million increase in local operating funds and a $10 million increase in local funding for capital outlay.

The new budget year begins July 1.

*Editor's Note: A previously broadcast version of this story misidentified the Guilford County Association of Educators as the Forsyth County Association of Educators. 

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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