recommendations to cut $100 million from the district's 2011-2012
operating budget at the Jan. 11 meeting of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Board of Education.
The cuts include reducing by more than half the number of Bright
Beginnings pre-kindergarten classes, eliminating teacher assistants in
first and second grades, and increasing class sizes by two students in
grades four through 12. The proposed cuts include transportation
changes that could also affect some schools' start times.
The changes would shrink the district's work force by 1,516 positions.
Together, the proposed cuts add up to just over $100 million.
Addressing the Board Jan. 11, Gorman said that it had been difficult
to make the recommendation because it could affect student achievement
in CMS. "None of us wants to make these cuts," Gorman said. "But we
have to. So we've approached this challenge by asking ourselves: What
will do the least harm? We can't have larger classes, fewer teachers,
fewer electives and less pre-kindergarten preparation without
affecting student achievement." The cuts come after the district has
reduced or redirected $185 million since the 2007-2008 budget year.
The cuts are necessary because of anticipated declines in state and
local funding – the two primary sources for the CMS operating budget.
In addition, federal funding from the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act, which has sent the states nearly $38 billion since
2008, is ending. Thirty-five states are projecting budget gaps, with
21 – including North Carolina -- anticipating gaps of 10 percent or
more. North Carolina's preliminary budget estimate shows a gap of $3.7
The state has asked all areas, including education, to plan for a
budget reduction ranging from five to 15 percent. For CMS, a five
percent cut in state funding would be $52 million; 10 percent is $93
million and 15 percent is $125 million. If Mecklenburg County offers a
similar reduction, those amounts could increase.
The district's operating budget for 2010-2011 was $1.1 billion.
CMS is making the budget recommendation earlier than usual because
some of the changes will affect students and CMS employees. Gorman
asked the Board to make decisions on those changes by Jan. 25.
Among the cuts requiring an early decision is the district's
recommendation to change the weighted-student staffing formula from
1.3 to 1.25, which would reduce the number of teachers. Weighted-
student staffing assigns a larger weight to students in poverty,
because they require more resources to keep up with other students.
Weighted-student staffing allows the funding to follow the students,
which can mean more resources and more teachers for high-poverty
A second recommendation requiring an early decision is proposed
changes in bell schedules, which would allow the district to use its
buses more effectively. Gorman told the Board that these changes
should be made early so families can make adjustments and the
transportation department can design new bus routes.
A third recommendation would reduce the number of Bright Beginnings
classes to 70 from 175. An early decision would allow affected
families to plan, and would also give other preschool providers time
to expand their programs to address the increased need.
Gorman also told the Board that he and executive staff are looking at
possibly eliminating all transportation for students at magnet
schools. This change would need an early decision, he said, because
more than 12,000 families with students in magnet programs would be
The Board is expected to vote on the proposals at its next meeting,
which is Jan. 25.