Jan 31, 2024 - News

12 schools closed after Durham Public Schools employees protest a looming pay cut

Dozens of protesters marching with signs in front of the Durham Public Schools administrative building

Durham Public Schools' employees protest in front of the school system's administrative building in downtown Durham. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

Durham Public Schools employees' anger over the elimination of pay raises for more than a thousand workers escalated Wednesday with an organized "sick out."

Driving the news: Hundreds of workers, led by the Durham Association of Educators, called out sick from work on Wednesday so that they could protest the school system's handling of employee pay.

  • 12 schools throughout the city did not openas a result.

Why it matters: Around 1,300 classified school system employees — a number that does not include teachers but rather positions like maintenance, grounds staff, cafeteria workers and school nurses — are set to see their pay decrease next month after having their raises revoked.

  • The pay decrease has led to widespread anger and affected the ability of individual schools and bus routes to function.

What happened: In early January, Durham Public Schools told the affected employees that salary raises that had been approved in October and backdated to last July were based on an internal accounting error and needed to be eliminated.

  • The school system has yet to give more details about how the overpayment happened, but many employees had made significant financial decisions based on the salary increases received.
  • Last week, DPS said it would use $4.5 million from its budget to ensure employees wouldn't need to pay back the salary bumps they got through January, but that the wage increase would stop in February.

What's next: The school board will meet on Friday to discuss how to resolve the wage dispute going forward — though it is unclear what the solution could be.

  • The Durham Association of Educators, for its part, demanded on Wednesday that the school system not institute the looming pay cuts and provide the union a seat at the table in forthcoming discussions.
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