Thursday June 4 | Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Budget

June 2, 2009 at 10:00 am | Posted in Coming Up | 19 Comments

Join us for a conversation with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman. We’ll discuss the budget woes the system is facing this fiscal year, including the possible loss of hundreds of teaching positions around the county. We’ll talk about how the school system is handling the prospects of such deep funding cuts, and how students, teachers, administrators and staff will be affected.
Dr. Peter Gorman – Superintendent of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

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  1. Mike, good morning…
    I do not know if Dr. Gorman knows anything about this, but, I want to know where the “Education Lottery” billion is being spent. Does CMS get any portion of this? Will ‘stimulus money’ help CMS locally?

    I understand they are laying off teachers and leaving teachers’ aides;
    while that must be a clear saving (counting benefits, etc) are they saying, children can learn just as much from teachers’ aides? Is the classroom teacher being dismissed too out-of-hand?

    Thanks, Mike.

  2. I am a seventh year middle school teacher in CMS. I have a M.Ed. from an outstanding private university, have received excellent performance reviews, have proven high growth in my student’s scores, and intend to get National Board certified. That said, I would like to understand why, with roughly 100 billion dollars in federal stimulus money going toward education, I have had to take a pay cut! This feels like a slap in the face. If anything, I should be receiving a bonus. I’ve chosen to work in this field for the love of children and for learning, and tolerate the salary that I find disgraceful, generally without complaint. I do, however, find this reduction in pay extremely disrespectful to me as a professional.

    Regarding the lay-offs, it is mind-boggling to me that teacher positions have been cut, core classes no less, given the fundamental importance of these subject areas. If not for basic literacy skills in reading and math, what is education for? P.E.? Let the families be responsible for something. It’s high time we hold them accountable as well.

    With regard to our pay cuts, I would like to know who, or what body of officials, elected to take away what amounted to, for me, two car payments. This sizable chunck of change was taken, without any real notice, from the last paycheck I’ll receive before the end of August. That just added insult to injury.

    Thank you for giving me a venue to express my hurt and frustration.

    • I certainly sympathize with your situation, but surely you realize that the downturn in the economy has affected practically everyone. I imagine that nearly every student, in your classroom, has felt the impact of a tighter budget at home.

      I have worked for Michelin Aircraft Tire Corporation for the past 20 years. It is grueling work and most 20 year plus employees suffer from carpel tunel or other work related injuries. We swing shifts and if we bust our a##es to make production and work overtime we can make between $40,000 to $50,000 a year. We are proud of the job we do. We are a main supplier for the military and some folks think that it is pretty important work. Our overtime was cut out when the financial train wreck started and we were cut back to 4 days a week at the first of the year. We are not complaining, just glad to still have jobs. My take home pay has decreased by at least $600 per month, so if you have only been asked to give $250 I would say that you have suffered less than most.

      Mostly I am just surprised that an educated “professional” is so out of touch with her community.

      I am also wondering why somebody hasn’t suggested going back to the 6 period day with teachers only having an hour for planning as opposed to 4 period with 1 and 1/2 hour planning time.

      • Ernie,
        Let me see if I follow you. You seem to be saying that your financial pain right now is worse than mine because you are out the bigger amount of money. Is that right? And, if I read you correctly, you called my professionalism into question because I didn’t validate your, or anyone else’s, financial troubles? It is possible, Ernie, for me to both share my experiences/feelings and still be “in touch” with the community at large. Really.

        To address another point you brought up, unlike what you imagined being true, most of my students come from families that have been struggling financially for years, if not generations. When asked how the recession has impacted them, most of my kids have said there’s been no obvious change. These kids haven’t had anything to lose. I wonder if you’re in touch with that! I talk in-depth with these kids. I know who they are, what they like, how they feel, what they dream about, what scares them, and what they need to get through a rough day. In short, I do my job despite some absolutely insane working conditions.

        This school year alone, I have been yelled at by more students than I could count, like having been told to kiss someone’s black you-know-what, I’ve had items deliberately thrown at me from across the room and outside in the hallway, and I literally had a student aim an imaginary shot gun at my head and gesture pulling the trigger. He looked me dead in the eye. This, from a child with documented gang involvement within the family. For months I’ve had unsupervised, screaming kids kick at my classroom door while I’m trying to teach, I’ve had groups of three and four boys crowd around my doorway, trying to come in and socialize, while physically intimidating me. Within the last few weeks I’ve been slammed up against lockers by kids running around in the halls and I had a full cup of hot coffee splash my entire face because of the same type of nonsense. Within the last week, a student made a direct threat to smash in my car windshield because I told him to go to class. This is what it is like EVERY DAY.

        Many times I’ve felt I should lock myself in the room when other classes are transitioning because of the chaos. At this time of the day, there have been a number of fights, fights that I’ve been expected to handle with however many staff can get there to help. And, last but not least, not only have the toilets been ripped up out of the floor, but a child, just today, urinated on the classroom floor in the room across from me.

        Yea, I don’t get paid enough. And that isn’t about you this time. It’s about me. And the youth who are pushing the limits as all kids do, but it’s also about the adult community who isn’t working in a unified, planned, organized manner to address these issues. And while we try to get it together, kids just keep getting more out of control, and more, and more. Was I surprised when we had daily prank fire drills? No. After several days of that, it then became two prank fire drills in one day. This is not going to change until we MAKE it change.

        Hopefully this isn’t news to you; you seem to be pretty “in touch” with the schools. And if there’s still any question, I actually do have quite a bit of empathy for the community. More so than that of many of my peers. After all, these children are the apples that have fallen from their trees. I do whatever I can to help them. And like I said initially, cutting teachers is pretty much the worst thing you can do for the kids. With this behavior happening with 25 kids in a room, can you imagine what it’s going to be like when we have near 40?

  3. Please fill me in about how the NC Educational Lottery fits into the state’s educational budget. It seems to me that it is a scapegoat for allowing the state to pull existing funds from the educational budget. Should concerned parents mobilize and contact representatives calling for it’s repeal if these cuts continue?

    Kelly Langston

    Also: Should the PTAs get involved in contacted reps to support the schools on the state level? I have already contacted our local PTA president to do this.

  4. We should vow, here and now, to become the paragon of educational excellence, and by paragon, I don’t mean a member of the Charlotte rock band from the 60s.
    Envision the “possible” school system. Create the school system that is not only adequate, and not just satisfies the needs, or even wants, of our citizens. Instead, create a system that everyone involved would LOVE! When you love, you learn.
    We do not need fact-spewing automatons. We need good, caring, thoughtful and wise citizens, and we need to help them in every way we can, to become exemplary citizens…of both Charlotte, and the world. Everyone should be constantly learning and teaching…like breathing.

    Set the standard for 21st century innovation. Make sure our students are such innovators. We’ve got a future to create…


  5. Schools are in the ‘business’ of educating. Why cut the educators??? Are any administrators going to be losing their jobs?????

  6. Question for Dr. Gorman:

    If now isn’t the right time for the reduction of the salaries of those that make over 100k, does that mean there will never be a reduction of those salaries? If so can you ask Dr. Gorman why those employees are paid 3x, 4x, more than classroom teachers? With many friends who are young dedicated teachers (worried about their jobs) who work 10 hours plus a day and do grading at home on top of it all, I have trouble understanding this income disparity in the best of times, much less now when we are facing a budget shortfall.

    Dr. Gorman’s previous avoidance of this question–that the reduction of those salaries would only be a small step towards accomodating the budget shortfall–is a poor and illogical justification.

  7. 2 questions:
    1)Since so many positions are being cut, are administrative positions in HR and other departments going to be cut too – since they will have less to do?
    2)100 guidance counselors are being hired for every elementary school and will replace social workers. Are you moving towards eliminating social workers out of the school system and replacing them with guidance counselors?

  8. Dr Gorman,

    Have any cuts been proposed to cut back on the football, basketball, and baseball trips and all the “stuff” that goes with these practices?

    Dennis Rayfield

  9. I have four children in CMS or recently graduated. I understand that cuts are required not optional but I cannot fathom why a superior teacher would EVER be cut to save the job of an inferior teacher. Teachers such as Mr. Layton and many others who are “mythical” should be protected at all costs because the inspiration they provide is priceless, not only to individual students but to our community, our society! My suggestion: all the mediocre teachers go BEFORE the Mr. Laytons, always. CMS needs to do a much better job of rewarding great teachers–and they are well known!– or we are doomed.

  10. Instead of cutting educators put all inter scolastic sports on a hiatus

  11. It inferiorities me that we are losing teachers. Teachers play one of the most important if not the most critical role in the future of not just our city, but the country in whole. Students are losing the education battle more and more every year, from crowded classrooms to inadequate guidance at school, to no or vague mentor support at home because of social/economic challenges that face almost every mid-class American household today. The amount of trailer classrooms that even a brand new school picks up within it’s first 3-5 years of being built is sickening. Cutting teachers in this critical point in our city’s development is in no way responsible or ethical. With the current budget of our school system declining on a yearly bases, why isn’t the school board and it’s administrators recognizing that they need to step up to the plate. The school system and the board that administers it should offer more pay cuts to teachers (rather than layoffs), accompanied by some other type of other city/state governed benefits, whether it be tax breaks or other fiscally beneficial incentives. KEEP THE CITY EMPLOYEES WORKING – DON’T ALLOW THEM TO LOSE THEIR LIVELYHOOD BY FIRING THEM! If the school board has already cut it’s own salary, exactly how much of the millions of the dollars a year have been cut at the executive/administration level? I heard a report several several months ago of the board of directors office’s administrative staff actually having assistant’s themselves. Why? Has this type of irresponsible spending and unnecessary positions been eliminated before it went to the level of cutting teachers from our schools? I wonder exactly how much money in salaries each year is just for the board and their administration staff while they simply let go of the new innovated teaching staff because there is no money.

  12. One last question from me: How can parents help you face this challenge? Many are willing but do not know how. Can we contact legislators and House/Senate committee members to protect educational funds?

  13. So much being said here, and no substantial answers. Among the non sequiturs, administrative ad-hoc rationalizations, and the repeated use of the corporatespeak term “challenge,” and fallacious reasoning (e.g. “we shouldn’t make cuts in the classroom but that’s where the most available money is so we will make cuts in the classroom”), there is the inevitable conclusion that education really isn’t the priority that the politicians and administrators claim it to be. Administrative salaries are preposterously inflated; so much for “free markets.” Let’s just do that most politicians want to do. Let’s just do away completely with publicly funded education and return education to the realm of the wealthy as it originally was in this country. Problem solved. This will increase the rate of our society’s intellectual collapse and we’ll be able to start over with a more workable system sooner. It’s the best thing that could happen.

    When a teacher signs an employment contract, both parties should be held to the contract’s terms. In reality, though, only the teacher is held accountable because the other party (the school system, the state of North Carolina, etc.) can change the contract’s terms at will and is thus not held accountable to the original terms (e.g. terms of salary). As long as public education is politicized and treated as a business, there is NO HOPE of improving it. The system as it exists is designed to fail and it’s working flawlessly. Why can’t everyone see that?

  14. Mike, I was not able to participate during today’s live broadcast with Peter Gorman, but would like to propose a couple of follow-up program ideas suggested by questions and comments:

    First, by way of disclaimer, while I came up through CMS, and have a niece and nephew in the school system, I have no children, and currently live in an adjacent county. Believing that children are, indeed, the key to our future, I always pay attention to the politics of education (whether I always understand them is another matter). While the issues are complex, there are a few givens: teachers are underpaid; moving backward, by cutting salaries at the administrative level will not balance the scale. Only a renewed commitment to the entire education system, and appreciation of the role of teachers will address that inequity. While I will not presume to know Dr. Gorman’s mind or motives, I agree that voluntary salary cuts undermine the public and political view of the value of those responsible for the education of our children. Additionally, the challenges of curriculum and staff cuts are complex: while I certainly believe too much emphasis is often placed on athletics, it is also true that sports, music and other arts programs are often the key to helping children find their place in the education system, and keeping them in school. The decisions necessary at this time need to be made by cooler, better-informed minds than mine, and I pray they are well-made.

    Today’s discussion raised several issues that lend themselves to further exploration. Hopefully, this challenging time will allow for a retooling of our education system, state wide. I have always feared that the lottery was more of a shell game than a boon to education. Any program that sheds light on exactly what is going on would be a tremendous service to partents and taxpayers. The commercials boasting the success of the lottery are certainly in conflict with the current budget situation.

    Within CMS, the opportunity now existes to step back and look at how and when new school campuses are built. I had the opportunity to be part of a conversation just last week, with CMS representatives, professionals, involved parents and interested individuals , about current school facilities within CMS, and the process of renovating and building new schools. If I understand the situation correctly, schools are not approved until the school whose population will be relieved is 50-70% overcrowded, and because of the nature of planning and development, the new facility is often at capacity when completed. Despite any planning efforts on the part of CMS, this strategy results in a reactionary process, which is ineffecient economically, and in terms of serving the needs of the community. Understanding that process, including the role of CMS and of county commissioners, could lead to substantive discussions around improving the way we educate our children, and perhaps more tolerance for the constraints the current system places on CMS officials.

    Once the process is less reactionary, more attention can be paid to the quality of school facilities. I trust that buildings are being maintained and retrofitted in a responsible manner, but I do not believe CMS is stepping up to opportunities to be more environmentally responsible. This is not just about the external environment, but includes paying attention to the impact of environment on the ability of children to reach their potential. I have not heard of any attempts within CMS to build a facility that is third-party certified under any program. Watauga County has done significant research on the benefits to students of improved indoor envirnonmental quality and daylighting, in terms of health, testing and retention, and are now building the first LEED school building in the county. I attended a forum in April that explained the process and commitment of that school system, and I am more than impressed. The word is, stimulus money is coming for just such projects.

    Which leads to my final programming suggestion, which is the actual availability, distribution and accountability around stimulus funds. As I am in an industry heavily and negatively affected by the current economic environment, I have tried to pay close attention to the announcements and release of stimulus funds. Even within the banking industry, which we know has received funds, there is a great deal of public frustration around how much of that money is actually getting back into the economy. Funds for green technologies and energy efficiency have been announced, but I’ve been unable to find accurate details on where those funds currently are, or how they are being spent. I have been told, by a representative of a company long-involved in grant-funded weatherization programs, that at every level, the administrating entity is “entitled” to 50% of those funds, for program administration. That would be at the federal, state and local level. Math is not my strongest subject, but I believe that translates to, at best, 12.5 cents going into the local economy for every dollar released in Washington. I hope this is not accurate, but it is alarming, nonetheless. What, realistically, is the potential for economic stimulus, and actually putting people back to work, if this money is being funneled into government budgets, perhaps making up other shortfalls? How much control will Governor Perdue actually have over education stimulus money, including the millions supposedly earmarked for modernization of our schools?

    So, in summary:

    What is the truth about the receipt and distribution of funds generated by the education lottery?

    What is the balance between the school system, the state and the county when it comes to planning and building schools in Mecklenburg County?

    Where is CMS, in terms of sustainable construction practices, and having facilities certified by third party verifiers? (This is where I can actually provide some information from Watauga County, and a great deal of information about sustainable building, indoor air quality and building certification, and could recommend possible guests for your show.)

    I realize this is more a treatise than a comment, and appreciate your time and attention, just as I appreciate your show. My mother, brother and I all listen regularly, and often have our own discussions when we get together. Thank you for your time, and the work you put into your program.

    What are the facts about stimulus funds? What funds have been released? How much has been spent? How many people have been put back to work?

  15. The school cut backs are simply the product of an economic house of cards that continues to crumble. There continues to be excess and misappropriation of funds and resources. Their annual budget continues to go up due to a number of reasons one of which is a shift in society. One small example (and there are many) is school security. When I graduated high school in Charlotte in 1978, the only school security we had was a single school resource officer. Now, the budget requires a full staff of school security. We would not need these if there was better discipline within or the troubled youths sent to reform type schools.
    The benefits would be:
    Less disruptions in school
    Better learning environment for students that want to learn
    Reduced cost of school security
    Troubled kids placed would:
    Receive an education rather than dropping out
    Receive much need structure
    Receive much need discipline
    Hold people accountable….they can carry “Their On Weight” if made to

  16. The complete story about the amount of Title I and IDEA funding CMS is to receive is as follows. CMS’s usual and customary Title I and IDEA funding is intact and coming as usual. CMS is also scheduled to receive over 51 million of additional Title I and IDEA monies. These are part of the Stimulus monies. These are not the Fiscal Stimulus monies which the Governor controls. The extra monies can be spent at any Title I or IDEA site. They can replace any local or state funds currently spent in these two programs. Thus, 51 million is freed to save teachers’ positions. The system has yet to publicly admit this 51 million is available.

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