What will the additional $26 million in county funding provide?
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will be able to keep 570 educators, including 406 classroom teachers, because of an additional $26 million in county funding.
The $26 million will be applied to three items in Tier 4 of the district’s proposed budget, which included about $101 million in proposed cuts. The items included teachers related to weighted student staffing, class size and instructional support staff in schools. By design, the fourth tier includes the reductions most likely to affect student achievement. District leadership told the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners during budget talks in June that any additional funding would be applied to Tier 4, starting at the bottom of the tier and working up.
How much money does CMS save by using the four day work week in the summer?
Last summer’s four-day work week saved the district more than $500,000 by limiting utility use on Fridays.
Beginning June 20 through Aug. 11, most schools and offices will once again be closed on Fridays with the exception of the week of July 4-8. All CMS employees working during the summer will be required to work 40 hours (or less if prorated) in four days. This is commonly referred to as a 4-10 work schedule.
How much money does CMS spend per year on the ROTC program?
ROTC is a program to develop knowledge in basic military skills and branches of service. There is no military obligation as a result of participation in JROTC. CMS JROTC students have a 98% on-time graduation rate and average 7.2 million dollars in scholarships and appointments to Service Academies annually. In the 2009-2010 school year, CMS spent $3.3 million on the program.
On May 19, eight of the nine CMS Board of Education members sent an email to the Mecklenburg County Legislative Delegation regarding the 2011-2012 CMS budget. The text of the email is reprinted, below.
Members of the Mecklenburg County Legislative Delegation:
We, the majority of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, seek your urgent assistance on behalf of the public school students of Mecklenburg County. Last week, we approved a budget request for the 2011-12 fiscal year that reflects the anticipated 10% cut ($70mm) in state funding from the previous year’s budget based on guidance from the state. In practical terms, this cut means the loss of employment for over 659 teachers, 328 teacher assistants, 164 facilitators/counselors/media specialists, and the loss of middle school sports, transportation services and other key programs. These destructive cuts are in addition to hundreds of teachers, teacher assistants, and support employees that have already been cut the past three years. In sum, if your budget projection is accurate, then the cumulative effect of these multiple years of cuts will mark 2011-2012 as a fiscal and educational tragedy for Mecklenburg students, teachers, and our entire county.
Out of this dark cloud the good news is that this tragedy is preventable. It is within your power with your peers in the legislature, to rescue our state’s most vulnerable citizens, its children, from the effect of these budget cuts. You have heard from some across the state who have asked and even pleaded with you to avoid this tragedy in a variety of ways. We would not be so bold as to prescribe to you the means by which you support our students, but it is abundantly clear that the damage these cuts will cause must be reduced if not eliminated. You and your compatriots in the legislature are the first and last line of defense.
In our budget request, we also asked for the Mecklenburg County Commission to restore the $50 million it has cut from our budget over the last 2 years. Even if the County Commission restores the full amount, the proposed cut from the state will still be devastating.
We know that you face great challenges as our state’s economy slowly crawls out of the great recession. Notwithstanding the circumstances however, if the legislature does not adequately fund public education, we run the risk of condemning our children to a future that holds far less opportunity than the future our parents left for us. Thank you for your leadership, service and, prospectively, for what you will do to ensure our children’s future.
Eric C. Davis Tom Tate Joe I. White, Jr. Trent Merchant
Chair, District 5 Vice Chair, District4 At Large At Large
Rhonda Lennon Richard A. McElrath, Sr. Joyce D. Waddell Timothy S. Morgan
District 1 District 2 District 3 District 6
Eric C. Davis
Chair, District 5 Representative
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education
How does CMS fund the After-School Enrichment Program (ASEP)?
ASEP is currently offered at 96 elementary schools, 10 middle and five Pre-K centers throughout CMS. The program serves more than 2,000 students each week in before-school programs and more than 5,700 students after school.
ASEP uses a curriculum aligned with the NC Standard Course of Study to supplement what students learn during the school day.
ASEP does not receive any money from the CMS operating budget, but is funded by the money it generates from fees and federal revenues. ASEP operates as an enterprise fund.
What cuts does an additional $50 million in funding from Mecklenburg County spare?
An additional $50 million from Mecklenburg County will spare the district from cutting weighted-student staffing, the Bright Beginnings prekindergarten program, teacher assistants and an increase in class size.
What happens after the Board of Education approves the 2011-2012 budget request?
The Board is scheduled to vote on May 10. Unfortunately, because of the way the state structures its budget, CMS has to approve a budget before we know how much we will get from the state and county. The state and the county will approve budgets in the summer. Their funding could affect how many employees CMS will lay off.
Can CMS sell some of the land owned by the Board of Education to help fund the 2011-12 budget?
The district has land we would like to sell but wants to make sure we can get the best price for the property. Developers have expressed interested in buying land but are offering less money than what the district paid for the property. Also, any money received by selling district property must go towards paying off debt service for construction or other capital projects. These funds could not be spent on operating expenses.
Also, state law requires that the county have a right of first refusal to purchase.
How does county funding affect the CMS budget?
County revenues come from several different sources, including property taxes on homes and businesses, county sales taxes and fees. Unfortunately, the economic downturn has resulted in less revenue for the county. That means there are fewer dollars available for local agencies, departments and programs, such as the library system and CMS.
In fact, in 2009-2010, CMS received a 9.7 percent reduction from the county, which amounted to a $33,999,394 loss. The North Carolina school district with the next largest cut was Wake County, with a funding reduction of $2.8 million.
How does Weighted Student Staffing work?
Weighted Student Staffing (WSS) is the initiative that CMS employs to help all students achieve. Some schools have a significant concentration of economically disadvantaged students. Many students in poverty come to school less well-prepared to learn and they need extra help. CMS allots additional resources to schools with economically disadvantaged students so they may have every opportunity to achieve. Not only economically disadvantaged students benefit from WSS. Allocating additional resources to schools enables them to have more flexibility and offer higher-level instruction, such as honors and Advanced Placement courses, as well as remedial courses.
Schools are affected by the “weight” depending on their population of economically disadvantaged students. In the 2010-2011 budget, economically disadvantaged students were weighted as 1.3, while all other students were weighted as 1.
In the 2010-2011 school year, 808 additional teaching positions were allocated to schools based on the Weighted Student Staffing formula. These extra positions provided flexibility to accommodate the needs of their students. For example, they may contribute to smaller class sizes in core subjects or some other type of support to benefit the school.
What happened to the money from the bonds that voters approved in 2007?
In November 2007, voters overwhelming approved a $516 million bond package that contained 40 projects, including 12 new schools. The bond package was intended to provide relief to 25 of the district's most overcrowded schools and about a dozen schools in need of major renovations. CMS has been given less than half of the $516 million.
The county decided not to sell the remaining bonds. As a result, CMS has 19 projects that have not been started, and about $320 million of the 2007 bond package remains unsold. County commissioners have said they want to be careful about incurring any additional debt during the current economic slump. The most recent 2007 bond projects included the two new high schools (Hough and Rocky River) that opened in 2010. It is not clear when the county will decide to sell the bonds for the rest of the 2007 bond package.
As a result of the bond situation and the current economic climate, CMS does not expect to build any more schools in the foreseeable future.
Can CMS cut field trips to eliminate having to use buses through the entire day?
Recent budget cuts resulted in the elimination of district-funded, non-required field trips.
How much does CMS spend per year on Exceptional Children?
For the 2010-2011 school year, CMS will spend $118 million on Exceptional Children to provide programs and services for students with a variety of special needs. Most of this funding comes from both state and federal sources.
Can CMS save money by reducing the amount spent on our zone offices?
Over the past two years, we have reduced the amount of staff in our zone offices and have gotten out of leases for four of the six zone offices. Next year, we plan to be completely out of leased space for our zone offices. These moves have resulted in a significant cost-savings.
Why can't CMS extend classes by two hours per day and go to a four-day school week?
The CMS school calendar is largely controlled by the state. The state legislature sets the earliest day on which schools return, which is Aug. 25; the last day for schools is June 10. The state also requires a certain number of school days (180) and contact hours (1,000) to satisfy the requirements for a full school year.
There is another factor, as well: state testing. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction sets the testing calendar each year. If we were to go to four-day school weeks, the state would have to approve this alternative calendar.
Four long school days with one weekday off could also create a hardship for families who rely on childcare.
Why can’t CMS charge transportation fees for students to ride the bus?
CMS has been studying the possibility of charging transportation fees for almost two years and the concept has been found to be impractical. The transportation fee would have to be between $500 and $1,000 per student in order to get any type of substantial savings. This would be especially challenging for our families because a majority of our students are classified as economically disadvantaged and those students disproportionately use the district’s transportation services. Further, the district could only charge those students for those transportation costs which the district incurs locally and not for those costs which are covered by the state. Part of the dollars raised would still need to be applied to cover the district’s transportation costs and it is very likely that the state would look at any money we raise locally as an opportunity to further cut our transportation funding, forcing CMS to pour even more money into transportation.
Why doesn't CMS eliminate the driver's education program or charge a fee for participation?
Driver’s education is offered free of charge to all eligible students in North Carolina. This offering is made available by the North Carolina General Assembly and is a legislatively required component of the graduated driver licensing process.
To change that process, it would require action from the North Carolina General Assembly. CMS and all other Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are required by our state government to offer driver’s education. LEAs do not have the option to cut driver’s education. All funds used to support driver’s education at the local level originate from the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Highway Fund ($3.00 is collected at the Department of Motor Vehicles when you purchase a license plate or renew a vehicle registration. No local dollars support CMS driver’s education.) Any unused funds at the end of the fiscal year are reverted to the Highway Fund, therefore neither the LEA nor the Department of Public Instruction would benefit from eliminating driver’s education.
What is the cost of the district's Child Nutrition program?
Child Nutrition serves about 29,000 student breakfasts a day and 97,000 student lunches a day, plus about 8,400 after-school snacks.
It’s not only big, it’s economical. The cost of a school lunch has remained constant -- $2 for kindergarten through grade 12 – for ten years. Keep in mind, too, that Child Nutrition is not funded by our operating budget. Instead, Child Nutrition is an enterprise fund: it is completely self-sustaining. It supports itself on money from the federal government, which reimburses Child Nutrition for the free and reduced-price lunches they serve, and on the money charged for school breakfasts and lunches.
CMS Child Nutrition has an annual budget of just over $63 million. None of that money comes from CMS and any profits made by Child Nutrition stay in the fund and cannot be added to the CMS budget. Child Nutrition receives no money, directly or indirectly, from the CMS operating budget. It pays its employees’ salaries, workers’ comp and benefits in full. It also pays 100 percent of any indirect costs to CMS that it generates. So Child Nutrition does not affect the operating budget for our district in any way.
It’s also important to remember that the costs of subsidizing lunch for students who qualify do not come from the CMS operating budget, either. Free and reduced-price lunches are supported by reimbursements from the USDA. Right now, that reimbursement is slightly more than the cost of a free or reduced-price lunch, although that may change when the new dietary guidelines go into effect. We expect that the cost of a student lunch may see a minimal increase under the new guidelines because of the addition of extra fruits and vegetables.
Why can't CMS use furloughs?
As presently written, the furlough authority given to school districts in North Carolina is too restrictive for our use. In order to use the furlough power granted us by the General Assembly, we would first have to end all bonus and extra payments to teachers. This includes our successful Strategic Staffing Initiative, which pays more to teachers and principals who take on challenging schools. We are not willing to end this program because it is producing results. An additional problem for us is that furloughs cannot be applied to employees who earn less than $32,000 per year. A significant number of our employees would thus be exempted from furloughs, raising the issue of fairness across the district.
What is being cut from central administration?
During the past three years of unprecedented budget reductions, the central support and operations area has absorbed a larger share of the cuts as a percent of their budget available. From 2006-2007 through 2008-2009, CMS reduced central office staffing and reorganization by $9.5 million. This was done through eliminating various positions and reorganizing central office departments. As of Jan. 25, the 2011-2012 recommended budget reduction includes a little over $21 million within central support and operations, which is an 11.4 percent reduction.
How is the NC Education Lottery allocated to schools?
The lottery proceeds designated for K-12 were primarily for two areas: reducing class size and funding construction.
Lottery money became permanent funding for the governor’s class size reduction initiative, which had been in place over the last several years – reducing the state’s allotment for K-3 teacher positions to a ratio of 1:18. This initiative had already been funded in previous years, but the lottery funds provided a permanent funding source. In effect, we are still receiving the same number of teacher positions, but they are being paid for with a different revenue source.
The lottery funds for school construction are distributed to the county. The county elected to use those funds to pay for debt service related to school construction. Use of lottery proceeds to pay debt service on debt incurred since January 2003 is allowed. The lottery proceeds that flow to the county for school construction are considered a capital budget expense. These funds are not available for CMS’ operating budget.
Jan. 19, 2011
Why is some kind of across-the-board pay cut not among staff budget recommendations?
Under state law, pay cuts to certified personnel (e.g. tenured teachers) salaries are regarded as demotions triggering appeal and hearing rights. Further, there have been no salary increases for the past three years, the costs of benefits to employees has risen and job responsibilities have increased, taken altogether there has been an ongoing salary cut that will continue next year.
Jan. 12, 2011
Where does CMS spend the most operating money?
CMS is one of the largest employers in Mecklenburg County, with more than 19,000 full and part-time employees. More than 85 percent of the operating budget is used for salaries and benefits.
About 93 percent of CMS employees work in schools. Of the school-based employees, 87.9 percent are teachers. Administrators, guidance counselors, media specialists, teacher assistants, bus drivers and other support staff comprise the rest of school-based employees.
Thus far, central office staff has been reduced by 8.3 percent, school staff by 7.4 percent and support staff by 6.5 percent.
Jan. 3, 2011
Why was a furlough not among your recommendations?
The furlough law, as currently drafted, is impractical to implement due to a number of conditions and requirements that must be met prior to enacting a furlough. Dec. 27, 2010
Almost all federal funds are earmarked for very specific programs. CMS is expected to receive $185 million in federal funding and grants for the 2010-2011 school year. Some of the federal funds are allocated based on formulas reflecting the makeup of the CMS student population. Bright Beginnings, a Title 1 program (economically disadvantaged students), is a pre-kindergarten program designed to ensure that students enter kindergarten with the skills necessary for them to succeed. Four-year-old children are selected for participation through a screening process that targets children whose language and cognitive development are below the typical for their age. The program has five critical components: a child-centered curriculum with a strong language development, early literacy focus that provides the foundation for reading success, professional development, family involvement and partnerships, and ongoing research and evaluation. During the 2009-2010 school year, 88 percent of its funding (18.7 million) came from federal funds.
Dec. 20, 2010
North Carolina currently ranks 42nd nationally in per-pupil spending. The state average is $8,743 per student.
Factors contributing to per-pupil costs include site specific personnel costs, facility maintenance costs, special student populations, site specific special programs, staff vacancies, teachers and certified staff years of experience, FOCUS school designation, bonus pay and grant funding.
N.C. per-pupil spending
Hyde County - $17, 536
Wake County - $8, 504
CMS - $8, 523
Mooresville City - $7, 744
CMS ranks 68th in per-pupil spending in North Carolina. CMS is the state's second largest district behind Wake County. Other school districts with large numbers of students are also near the bottom of the list, while Hyde County - a district with a small student population - is at the top. Many of the state's formulas provide a base amount of funds to every district, regardless of size. This base amount represents less per-pupil spending in larger districts. Also, some small districts get special funding supplements.
Next budget work session will take place on Jan. 25, 2011.
Dec. 13, 2010
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has reduced spending in a variety of departments, including transportation, during the past two years.
In 2009-2010, CMS had approximately 113,000 students assigned to buses. For 2010-2011, CMS has approximately 114,500 students assigned to buses. Even with a growing student population, CMS reduced the number of buses from 1,155 last year to 1,074 this year. The total number of daily routes has been reduced by 4,745 this year. CMS also reduced the approximate number of stops from 26,000 last year to 24,000 currently. The average daily miles traveled by CMS buses has been reduced by 15,500 miles from last year.
All of these reductions will save CMS about $3.2 million this year.