The Wake County Board ofEducation gave up a lot as they put together a budget that fit the dollars the county commission allotted to the schools in May.

But they hung on to a nearly half-million-dollar item— the expansion of the office of equity affairs—because they thought it was crucial to address the problems of race and inequity in the system.

“It was a huge statement,” said Monika Johnson-Hostler, chairwoman of the school board. “It spoke to some of the experiences we’ve had, and it spoke to Charlottesville. To be silent is to be complicit.”

Racially charged incidents in Wake County high schools in the past schools year led the system to propose an expansion of the role of Rodney Trice, who was hired in 2013 to head the office of equity affairs. The budget to which the board gave tentative approval at a Tuesday work session includes $487,813 to hire two new employees in the office and to pay contractors for training.
Among the cuts made to
achieve a $13.9 million savings included half of the $2.5 million originally meant to provide pay for extra duties such as coaching. Another million came out of $2.3 million planned for new magnet themes.

But the biggest ticket item cast aside was the nearly $10 million for counselors and instructional support, staff members who would help students with behavioral, educational, or social problems.

Members said they put together a budget that met the money they were provided. But some members say they are not giving up on approaching the Board of Commissioners, which parcels out local funding, to get an amount closer to what the school board thinks is needed.

It would be unusual for the Board of Commissioners to make an adjustment in funding of the size some members have in mind. But a wait-til-next-year attitude wasn’t sitting well with Johnson-Hostler and Roxie Cash.

“We’ve been diligent, we’ve been efficient and we’ve been extremely transparent,” Cash said. “I don’t want to wait. I want to ask for the critical thirteen million dollars.”

Johnson-Hostler said she and commission leaders have not arrived at a firm date to talk money, but she said she isn’t giving up.