Commentary

Inadequate public ed dollars produce pay cuts in Winston-Salem/Forsyth schools

School busThe latest, maddening real world example of how North Carolina’s chronic under-investment in public education is harming our schools and causing destructive penny-pinching can be found right now in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District. As the lead editorial in this morning’s Winston-Salem Journal explains, the school system is actually imposing a pay cut on certain bus drivers.

According to the editorial, the school system recently slashed the hourly rate paid to school activity bus drivers by a minimum of almost 8%. Many lost a lot more.

“Most of them were being paid a starting rate of $12.94 per hour, moving up according to a salary schedule for each year worked. But the board of education approved a change to pay them all a flat rate of $12.35 an hour on Oct. 27, effective Nov. 1. The district didn’t have a good mechanism in place to differentiate between activity runs and regular school bus runs for drivers who are eligible to drive both until this year, so the activity bus drivers had continued to receive their regular rates. For some, their payment is now significantly lower.

‘I lost $300 a month,’ Jessie Easler, an activity bus driver who works Monday through Friday, told the Journal. She’s a 40-year bus-driving veteran.”

To add insult to injury, the school system announced the cuts clumsily (“over bus radios” and via communiques to school principals and secretaries) so that many drivers weren’t even aware of it until they saw their monthly paychecks.

This is, in a word, outrageous and a classic example of how North Carolina’s disastrous education cuts of recent years are producing real world hardship. It was bad enough that most drivers weren’t even making a living wage to begin with, but to impose large, unannounced pay cuts on top of that in the middle of the school year is a classic example of how far our schools have plummeted under the state’s penny-wise, pound-foolish conservative leadership. Surely we can better than this.

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