Speakers urge teacher raises at IWCS budget hearing

Published 11:05 am Friday, March 20, 2015

During Wednesday’s public hearing, a handful of Isle of Wight County residents gave their input in Windsor Elementary School to the school board on the proposed $61.5 million budget. Most of the handful of people who spoke urged giving pay raises to teachers.

April Spratley, a Smithfield High School teacher for three years, said she’s feeling stretched thin by having to devote much of her salary to pay for a costly medical issue. She finds the health insurance costs to be “crushing.”

“I have to forego needed medication because I cannot afford it anymore,” she said. “It is not a want. I cannot scrimp anymore. This is a need at this point.”

Spratley’s concern includes to her fellow teachers, adding that as much as they all love their profession, “We simply won’t be able to afford to work here anymore.”

“It’s not a matter of keeping the budget flat,” said Ellen Barker. “It’s a matter of what’s best for our county, schools, students. Take my tax money. Make it [teacher raises] happen.”

Reminding all present that he was once a school board member, Herb DeGroft said, “I commend you for raising the issue of keeping the instruction budget outside of capital improvement. I would urge PTAs to talk to supervisors about the matter. Golly, we know how difficult it’s been to give raises.”

But, Shelly Perry asked the board to “please consider carefully who this budget affects. It might help you as a school, but not the people back here who are living week by week, month by month. Assessments go up, but paychecks don’t.

“You’ve got to weigh your wants and needs.”

A pay raise, in her view, is a want, but repairing a school is a need.

Julie Branch of Windsor, who teaches in Carrollton, said she understands Perry’s argument.

“However, my children are the future of this county. I really see my children coming back to this area. They’re going to be at Virginia Tech soon, hopefully, and they will compete with Northern Virginia children with their technology.

“Scrimping and saving — that will only go so far.”

The school board has scheduled another budget work session for 4 p.m. on Monday, March 30, at the School Board office, 820 W. Main St., Smithfield. More public comment can be given starting at 5 p.m.

A vote on the budget is also anticipated for that day.