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Investing in Education

April 16, 2024 – As federal pandemic relief dollars sunset, Guilford County Schools (GCS) has proposed a plan to keep critical programs afloat and increase pay for staff while grappling with mandatory increased funding disbursements to charter schools.  

Superintendent Whitney Oakley presented the proposed 2024-2025 budget to the Guilford County Board of Education on Tuesday. The recommendation includes $23.1m to increase teacher supplements, raise the classified salary schedule, and continue safety and tutoring initiatives.  

As part of the Strategic Direction, Dr. Oakley and district leaders regularly engage with parents, students and licensed and classified staff in a series of Superintendent’s Advisory Council meetings. These meetings helped guide the framework of the budget as district leaders critically analyzed programs and initiatives to ensure the budget reflects district priorities and aligns with the Strategic Direction, which calls for a focus on the following four areas:  

  • Accelerate learning;   
  • Recruit, retain and reward top talent;   
  • Strengthen health, wellness and safety in schools; and   
  • Prepare students for the world.   


ESSER funds, which expire in September, have been used to fund high-dosage tutoring and learning hubs, which have been recognized twice by the White House. To date, nearly 900 GCS tutors have already delivered more than 363,000 tutoring sessions, totaling over 186,000 hours in 115 schools. The district has seen a nearly 60% increase in the number of students attending tutoring sessions this year compared to 2023.  

During the 2022-2023 school year, nearly 8,000 students signed up to accelerate their learning outside of school hours with certified teachers at our learning hubs.  

“We know that students who attend learning hubs have a 25% increased probability of graduating and a 8 percentage point higher graduation rate,” Dr. Oakley said.  


Federal pandemic relief dollars were also used to deploy Evolv touchless screeners in all middle and high schools. Through the dollars and hours put into improving mental health in schools, nearly 2,000 students and staff participated in 10,464 therapy sessions last year.   



While many other districts invested time-limited federal dollars to add new positions and create unsustainable increases in pay, GCS used the money to invest in professional development, staff resources and one-time increases for licensed staff to cover increases state legislators refused to make.  

“GCS and districts across the country are preparing to make tough financial decisions, as we enter the final few months of ESSER funding,” Superintendent Oakley said. “And while that funding has allowed us to make significant progress, we still have a long way to go to recover from the learning loss our students experienced during the pandemic.”   

In addition to increased teacher supplements, tutoring and safety initiatives, the proposed budget includes an increase of more than $8m in state-mandated expenses. The rest of the money is divided among increases for teachers, school administrators, school nutrition, retirement and employee health insurance.  

The 2023-2024 budget included money to enact the first phase of the classified staff compensation study which led to the reduction of salary steps and an increase in pay for employees with more years of experience. The next phase of the study includes:  

  • Paying School Nutrition employees on the same grades as other classified employees; 
  • Creating consistent differences between steps across all salary grades;  
  • Reducing the number of salary grades to create meaningful distinctions between jobs of varying scope and impact; and  
  • Raising pay rates to be more comparable to market values.  

“To truly achieve our mission of being the best place to learn, work and grow, we must increase our ability to recruit, retain and reward top talent. We must bring our compensation in line with the marketplace,” Dr. Oakley said. “We have made progress in this area in recent years, and we appreciate the county commissioners for their efforts, but there is still work to be done. Our employees deserve pay that reflects the caliber of skills they bring and the experience and expertise they give to our students, staff and families.” 

The district has made extraordinary progress on its promise to bring its facilities into the 21st century and be the best place to learn, work, and grow for decades to come. Bond dollars have been used to build five schools that will open in the 2024-2025 school year as well as catch up on decades of deferred maintenance projects. There are dozens of projects that fall outside of bond allocations. As a result, the proposal asks for $17.7 million in capital outlay funds to support HVAC and building repairs, roof repairs, vehicle and equipment replacements and system-wide site work. 

The proposal highlights efforts to modernize operations to run efficiently and reduce long-term costs. The Guilford Enterprise Management System (GEMS) goes live on January 1, 2025, which will replace outdated legacy systems used for human resources, payroll and benefits. The consolidation of central office into the Better Together campus will improve operating efficiencies and close the loop on important dialogues by creating a collaborative atmosphere. Efforts are also being made to improve transportation efficiency as part of the budget considerations. Cost reductions have been made by consolidating schools in alignment with the Facilities Master Plan and ensuring more students and staff are in state-of-the-art learning environments. 

If approved by the Board of County Commissioners, the district’s 2024-25 local current expense fund would be $304,589,218. Federal funding is estimated at $91,557,348 and state funds are projected to be $485,033,601 pending final approval from the North Carolina General Assembly. Combined with the Capital Outlay fund and enterprise funds – which are programs that make their own money, such as School Nutrition, ACES, and the Special Revenue Fund, the district’s proposed budget is $967,676,345. 

“With efficiency in mind, this budget will bring GCS closer to providing a living wage for classified staff and ensure we continue to provide the support for students they need to recover from pandemic learning loss,” Dr. Oakley said. 

Looking ahead, the Board of Education will hear input from the public at its May 7 work session before voting and sending the recommendation to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. Additionally, GCS district leaders and allies will continue to advocate on the state level for representatives to increase funding for teachers and classified staff and sustainable funding for critical programs, services and initiatives outlined in the GCS 2024-2025 legislative agenda.