A group of about 50 teachers, parents, and education activists marched toward the Forsyth County Government Building for a budget public hearing Monday evening. 

They were there to advocate for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools' funding request, which includes $4.4 million to increase pay for classified staff like bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teacher assistants, and more.  

Lee Childress, a special education teacher, said higher pay is needed to keep these employees in the district. 

“I have watched these folks work so hard all day long, and at 3:30 when our school dismisses, slip into the restroom to put on their uniform or to freshen up and head straight to their second jobs," Childress said. "Many times they would work till 9, 10, 11 o'clock at night and sacrifice time with their families in order to help and educate our kids.”

He says he’s seen several good employees leave in recent years because they weren’t paid enough. Many speakers made similar comments, like Jenny Easter who said her teacher assistant quit mid-year for that same reason.

“She has her education degree and had planned all that year to take the Praxis to become licensed," Easter said. "She left before she could make that happen.”

Others spoke about the nearly 90 bus driver vacancies in the district. David Vuckovich, a high school math teacher, said several of his students are often more than 15 minutes late to class due to the shortage.  

"Today, we could not start our EOC tests until 9:45 a.m. due to late buses — 50 minutes after the start of school," Vuckovich said. "Not only are students late to school, many students are also late to be picked up from school by buses.”

The proposed Forsyth County budget doesn’t fully fund the school district’s overall request. County Commissioners may adopt this budget at a special meeting on June 8. 

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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