Albemarle County’s public school teachers want to see their paychecks grow next year.
During a public hearing on the superintendent’s $166.9 million funding request Thursday, numerous county teachers spoke out against the proposed 2 percent salary increase, which they said they don’t think represents adequate compensation.
“Our teachers need to hear from you that you value them … that you see their profession as one that you want our brightest to aspire to,” said Lisa Jones, principal of Cale Elementary School, noting that her teachers are often in the building on weekends doing extra work for the students.
Diane Espinosa, a French teacher at Albemarle High School, agreed.
“There’s no cable in my house, no going to the movies, no going to restaurants,” Espinosa said. “I shouldn’t have to say ‘no’ to the basic things that are normal things that other professions receive.”
“It’s not fair,” Espinosa added. “I work hard. I’m a professional and I shouldn’t have to be up here begging you to pay us for what we do.”
Shirley Palmer, a math teacher at Albemarle High School, said she’s starting to hear teachers talk openly about leaving for divisions that pay better.
“If we don’t get a respectable raise, and I mean respectable, we will have to move,” said Therese Murphy, a special-education teacher at Albemarle High.
This year’s request to the School Board marks a 4 percent jump from the current year’s adopted budget of $160.4 million. However, with new revenues projected to jump only 2 percent, the School Board is facing a $3.1 million deficit.
There are numerous factors contributing to this year’s funding request increase, schools officials said.
Atop that list is a Board of Supervisors– and School Board-mandated salary increase, which would see teachers and classified staff get 2 percent and 2.3 percent raises, respectively. Currently, the raises — which would come with a $1.3 million price tag — are proposed to start in the middle of fiscal year 2016.
Additionally, a 9.6 percent spike in health insurance premiums is estimated to result in $2.2 million in new costs next year, and the division plans to see spending on the Comprehensive Services Act — which provides services to students with special needs — grow by about $457,000.
What’s more, the school division’s enrollment growth of 2.3 percent this year is outpacing the anticipated 2 percent revenue growth. Albemarle has seen its enrollment rise by 980 students in the last seven years.
Officials also point to growing numbers of English as a Second or Other Language and special-education student populations — both of which require greater investments from the division.
In addition to teacher pay, parents spoke at the public hearing in support of the division’s youngest students learning a second language.
Lena Lewis, a parent at Cale, urged the board to grow the elementary world languages program.
“I love that this opportunity is at a public school,” Lewis said. “In a lot of schools in our country, learning a second language can be seen as a drag on resources.”
Katherine Ludwig, also a Cale parent, agreed, arguing that the program is having a hard time securing the necessary Spanish language resources.
“This program shouldn’t be limping along. It should be thriving,” Ludwig said.
No members of the public spoke out against the funding request.
School Board member Steve Koleszar urged the audience to contact state legislators.
“They’re the main source of the problem for a lack of funding for K-12 education,” he said.
Last year the School Board had to trim $3.9 million from its request in order to balance its budget. To achieve that, the division raised class size averages, cut salary increases in half and reduced discretionary funds for individual schools, among other things.
In other news, School Board member Jason Buyaki announced that he will be seeking a second term. Buyaki, who represents the Rivanna District, began serving on the board in 2011, when he was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Ronnie Price. Buyaki won the election for his seat later that same year.
The School Board will hold another budget work session at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the County Office Building on McIntire Road. The board plans to finalize its request by Feb. 12. The matter then goes to the Board of Supervisors for its consideration.